Startup Wonolo Gives Ecommerce Firms On-Demand Staffing

ecommerce, ecommerce fulfillment, Coca-Cola, Wonolo, Operations and FulfillmentWonolo, a San Francisco startup with an app that matches workers with available temp positions, has based much of its growth on the booming ecommerce sector, especially fulfillment and delivery operations. It’s part of the growing “gig economy” fueled by companies like Uber and Task Rabbit who are riding a growing trend toward just-in-time, project-based and temp work.

“The number one type of job we’re seeing is fulfillment and delivery in ecommerce,” said Wonolo co-founder AJ Brustein. “We’re certainly getting to see trends in both of those functions. Our business moves broadly with ecommerce operations, so it’s a slower season right now.”

The company services several hundred customers in the Bay Area and New York City, with plans to expand to new markets as demand increases. Started in January 2014, Wonolo – which stands for “work now locally” – spun out last fall from the Coca-Cola Co., which funded it through an angel investment program. Brustein himself was a brand manager at Coke when he and his partner, Yong Kim, pitched the idea for Wonolo to his employer.

“We have a unique background, having started inside Coke, and we were used to help fill jobs like restocking Coke in supermarkets which is unpredictable in terms of labor needs,” Brustein said. “Then we found a bunch of ecommerce startups who also realized they face a lot of unpredictability in labor supply and demand. So we saw an opportunity and decided to focus on that, while still working in merchandising.”

Here’s how it works: If your company has an immediate need for five people in fulfillment positions, you log into Wonolo either by app or desktop, fill out the information (job description, when it start and ends, location, wage, etc.) and post it. The job is then shot out to 8,000 “Wonolers” and the system keeps processing submissions until the best five matches have turned up and accepted the offer. Customers can then rate Wonolo on how the process went and the quality of the candidates.

Brustein said Wonolo gives HR teams a chance to take a “try before you buy” approach, vetting how Wonoloers perform on a specific job; many are hired to fill permanent positions. “A lot of them are tired of Indeed and Craigslist, where they can go through the whole hiring process and find there’s very little correlation (between position and worker). They may bring on 10 people with Wonolo, and find five of them are a good fit. Also the candidates get to try out the company. So there’s a mutual fit.”

While Coca-Cola is still a client of Wonolo, Brustein said the company’s sweet spot is ecommerce firms with 100 to 500 employees, like online consignment shop Threadflip and designer jewelry rental service Rocksbox.

“We focus on SMB clients who may have worked with staffing agencies in the past, and are on some sort of growth trajectory but don’t have enough funding to overstaff,” he said. “We deal with that issue a lot.”

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