WorkChew, a startup looking to connect remote workers with restaurants and hotels that need to make use of their space, has raised $2.5 million in a seed round of funding, the company announced Wednesday.
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Harlem Capital led the seed round, which included participation from Wilshire Lane, Invictus Advisory Group, Relish Works and Techstars Ventures. Kabbage co-founder Kathryn Petralia and Etsy co-founder Chris Maguire were among the angel investors who participated in the round.
CEO Maisha Burt started the company in late 2018 after having worked remotely for around five years. Burt said she sometimes turned to coffee shops to work in order to get out of the house, but found that working out of coffee shops could be an inconsistent experience. The other alternative was paying for a co-working space.
“I thought there has to be a better way,” Burt said in an interview. “There has to be something in between having to pay $250 for a WeWork membership and a free coffee shop where you never know what you’re going to get.”
Burt, a third-generation entrepreneur, started WorkChew after meeting with restaurateurs and hearing about the gaps in the day when no one was coming in to eat. They were open to the idea of having people drop in to work. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, hotels were reaching out to WorkChew to partner with the company and make use of space.
“The interest and the demand is definitely there,” COO Allyson McDougal said in an interview. “We really dug in and did our due diligence on how the industry was impacted.”
McDougal joined the company as COO after coming across an ad for WorkChew on Instagram while working out of a restaurant. McDougal has a background in enterprise sales, and understands how workers often need a flexible place to work, especially while out and about and between meetings.
WorkChew is focused on the B2B side of the business, signing up enterprises looking for flexible work options for their remote employees. The company also has a self-serve option, where remote workers can sign in, see the space options and all the amenities offered near their locations, and book a seat for up to four hours. For hotels on the WorkChew platform, users can also book a conference room or guest room.
Restaurants and hotels on the WorkChew platform keep 100 percent of any money they make on food or beverage sales. With hotels, WorkChew makes a commission off conference room bookings, but the hotels keep everything they make off everything else.
The funding will be used to hire more employees, build out the tech platform, and sign up more enterprises.
The company is preparing for an April or May timeline when more locations and activities begin opening up around the United States, and more workers look for places to work besides their homes. WorkChew has been building out its pipeline of hotels and restaurants on the platform, and has a presence in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago, and is slated to be in 20 markets by the end of the year.
While many co-working spaces focus on urban areas, WorkChew wants to be in both suburban and urban areas.
“One of the reasons is the fact that a lot of people don’t know that 70 to 80 percent of a company’s employees actually live in the suburbs,” Burt said. “So we want to literally be where the employees are.”
Besides the convenience factor, it also makes it easier for WorkChew to expand, according to Harlem Capital managing partner Jarrid Tingle. Large co-working spaces often sign long-term leases, so they have to be in high foot-traffic areas to attract members.
“This model is capital light. You’re not signing leases. So you can go anywhere,” Tingle said in an interview. “Because it’s capital light, you can have a lot more locations, you can be in urban areas, you can be in suburban areas. Think about hotels and restaurants, they’re everywhere people are.”
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias
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