Estonia-based Werk, a platform that enables companies to hire skilled migrant construction workers, has raised $1.3 million in pre-seed funding. This is among the biggest ever pre-seeds in European HR and construction tech.
Who invested in Werk?
The financing round was led by Change Ventures (that invested in Eurora) one of the leading early-stage funds in the Baltics. Other 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).
How will Werk use the funds?
Werk will use the investment to further expand its team, focus on product development and marketing.
Martin Kalamees, Co-founder and CEO of Werk, commented: “Our platform solves two major, and growing, global problems. Firstly, skilled blue-collar migrant workers are being taken advantage of by unregulated agencies and contractors, which sometimes operate illegally. Secondly, construction companies face labour shortages because of the difficulties in sourcing workers from abroad, and of course the devastating situation in Ukraine. We are helping to connect skilled workers with contractors in a legal, transparent, and safe way. We’re excited to welcome Change Ventures, Foundamental and our angel investors onto this journey, with this first injection of capital enabling us to grow our team and enhance our technology.”
“From travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, to the war in Ukraine cutting off labour supply networks, there are a number of uncontrollable elements affecting skilled migrant workers looking for construction jobs,” added Rait Ojasaar, Investment Partner at Change Ventures. “Werk is providing a valuable service for businesses that need labourers, as well as a safe platform for those looking for jobs outside of their native countries. We are delighted to lead this first round of investment.”
Patric Hellermann, General Partner at Foundamental, added, “Werk is solving a huge opportunity in Europe – discovering a steady supply of skilled craftsmen, and making them mobile across borders. The kicker is that we do it compliantly and bring transparency and lower administrative burden.”
What does Werk do?
Notably, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia supply the majority of blue-collar labour workers to other European countries. The European construction sector was affected by the Russia-Ukraine war and COVID-19 pandemic.
Founded by Martin Kalamees, Marion Kallakas, and Markus Tarn in Tallinn in 2020, Werk is helping to rebuild the sector by providing skilled and vetted workers from countries such as Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and the Philippines.
Werk brings transparency to cross-border blue collar contracting. It supports 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 onsite, 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.
Furthermore, Werk is developing and testing its cross-border relocation functionality, which 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. The startup is also testing a social feature, which allows workers to speak with one another, receive advice, ask questions about living and working within different countries, and consume relevant construction-related content.