Never was there a sector more reliant on top-notch service than hospitality – and don’t Cody Barbo and his Industry co-founders just know it.
“Getting a job in the service and hospitality industry – restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and hotels – is a major pain and an archaic process,” says the affable entrepreneur, and once “quiet kid” from Huntington Beach, California. “The service and hospitality industry unfortunately still relies on paper resumes and sites like Craigslist to handle the majority of hiring. Even with the rise of other job posting sites, the problem is that they only provide the quantity, not the quality of applicants. And the prospective job seeker only uses the site once, until they need another job.”
Enter Industry, the hospitality-centric job platform that, since its 2015 inception in San Diego, has raised a fat US$2.3 million in seed funding, has spread to nine cities and is used to staff the gigantic likes of Disney and MGM and cast reality TV shows Hell’s Kitchen and Top Chef.
We were itching to grill Cody on how Industry got cooking.
What makes Industry special?
Our platform allows users to create visually engaging profiles where they can highlight their personality in a video resume, and highlight their culinary and cocktail creations in the photo portfolio. With Industry, your profile is your resume. For businesses we have created a simple hiring solution that allows operators to quickly filter through applicants and contact them for interviews and to be hired. The bonus for businesses is that they too have visual-based profiles. Industry is the first platform for restaurants, bars, clubs, and hotels to really highlight their company culture, and showcase their people.
What was the biggest obstacle you came up against in developing the platform?
People assume that the service and hospitality industry is a job or stepping stone before their real career. The reality is that 17 million people in the US, and hundreds of millions worldwide make this their career, and can find lots of money and success through the pursuit of their passion. The other objection is, ‘Why not LinkedIn?’ LinkedIn is a massive professional network with over 400 million global users. Unfortunately they do not target the service and hospitality industry. In fact, they don’t target many industries, which is why we’ve seen the rise of other vertical networks like Doximity (for doctor/medical professionals) and RallyPoint (for the military).
How did you secure funding, and what advice would you give on getting investors on board?
We raised an Angel round of US$200,000 last year, and a Seed round of US$2.3 million in October 2016. Raising capital is one of the hardest things you will do as an entrepreneur. You have to go into these meetings with an answer to every question. And you better know your numbers. Angel investors and VCs can detect your bullsh*t, so don’t fluff. You want to get to the point where you are so confident (and truthful with your business) that they know that you are the real reason for making the investment. The other thing to keep in mind is that you are building a relationship with your investor. The right investor is more important than how much money they have. Do as much research on them and their investments as possible. Oh, and don’t forget to put as much FOMO in their minds as possible if they are leaning towards a no.
What impact has honing in on a smaller market – only hospitality jobs – had on your growth?
It keeps us focused on our mission of making service and hospitality professionals more successful in their careers. Over half of our team (of 15) has worked in the industry, and it allows us to build the best experience for them, versus a more mainstream, mass-market solution. Plus it feels amazing knowing we are helping people get jobs.
How did you capture the attention of big-name clients like Disney and MGM?
Knocking on the right doors at the right time. We knew we had to prove our platform worked with other clients before we stepped up to the plate with big name clients like Disney and MGM. [Co-founder] Matt [Cecil] actually spent three full days in Las Vegas with them last week. Again, it’s not the hard sell, but building the relationship that makes us stand out from the competition. You could say that it’s our secret sauce.
What’s next for Industry?
Our newest app, StaffNow, which is our on-demand staffing app, best for music festivals, food and beverage festivals and private events. The app is designed for the event organizers in mind, and we tap into our talent pool of candidates as soon as a request comes in. We think StaffNow is going to be huge!
What advice would you give to other start-ups wanting to shake things up in a specific industry?
Find amazing mentors and surround yourself with motivated individuals. There are so many people who are willing to lend a hand or help guide you in the right direction. We would be lying if we didn’t share our success with our advisors, investors, team, friends, family, and of course, our industry.