Estonian startup Werk, a platform that enables companies to hire skilled and vetted migrant construction workers, handling everything from recruitment, verification and relocation, has raised a USD1.3 million pre-seed round led by Change Ventures, one of the leading early-stage funds in the Baltics.
The company says it brings transparency to the “often exploitative world of cross-border blue collar contracting; supporting workers relocating to other countries by automating paperwork and visa documentation, and only works with companies that guarantee they will provide workers with the same payment terms, treatment, and protection conditions as they would if they were a local”.
“For contractors, once they input the skills they require on-site, the platform uses AI to match them with suitable, high-skilled workers who have been vetted by industry experts. Once the worker has been hired, Werk handles HR and payroll too,” the company said.
With recent 20% month-on-month growth, the startup has already reached over 2,000 verified and vetted construction workers and has customers within Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark.
The company is developing and testing its cross-border relocation functionality that automates visa and residence permit processes, the opening of bank accounts, flight tickets, accommodation, access to safe financial services and support for their families back home. In addition, it is testing a social feature that allows workers to speak with one another, receive advice, ask questions about living and working within different countries and consume relevant construction-related content such as tips and tricks, the company said in a statement.
The pandemic and the war in Ukraine disrupted the construction sector
“Labour shortages have been a major problem for construction companies for years, with the process of hiring blue-collars internationally being extremely time consuming and complicated due to increased regulation, while the limited pool of middlemen can be unreliable and sometimes even operate illegally.”
“Demonstrative of the size of the problem is that 30% of workers on construction sites in European cities are foreign. The labour shortage issue was exacerbated by the pandemic’s travel and work restrictions. With Ukraine, Belarus and Russia supplying the majority of blue-collar workers for other European countries, the recent war has further disrupted Europe’s construction sector, which Werk is now helping rebuild by providing skilled and vetted workers from countries such as Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the Philippines.”
Participants in the round include Foundamental VC and angel investors Anthony Danon and Carmen Alfonso-Rico (Cocoa VC), Declan Kelly (Foreword VC), Gonzalo Manrique (Ironhack), and Andreas Klinger (On Deck CTO and Head of Remote at AngelList).
Founded in Tallinn, Estonia, in 2020 by Martin Kalamees (CEO), Marion Kallakas (COO), and Markus Tarn (CTO), Werk will use the investment to further expand its team, focus on product development and marketing.