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Service industry workers unite! Shiftgig has a professional network just for you

LinkedIn may be the go-to networking service for executives, but one Chicago startup is emerging as a swiftly growing space for a largely untapped working demographic. With a focus on employees in the service industry, Shiftgig is looking to grab the valuable younger audience that LinkedIn and other professional networking sites have largely ignored.

Currently operating out of Catapult, Chicago’s River North startup incubator, Shiftgig provides a space for service industry professionals to build an online reputation and connect with employers who will appreciate their experience. Shiftgig enables job seekers to stand out and easily share their work history, employment preferences, and even recommendations from past employers in a streamlined profile.

We talked with Shiftgig co-founder and CTO Sean Casey, who detailed how working as a caddie gave him the entrepreneurial drive he has today, the inspiration he finds in his family, and why he’s happy he has yet to discover his personal kryptonite.

What’s the backstory behind Shiftgig?

Jeff (Pieta) and I have known each other for a while and we were kind of looking for other things to do together. There was a lot of mutual respect between us and we wanted to find a way to work together.

Jeff and I have been working together for 10 years and were looking for something new to involve Eddie (Lou) in. I think Eddie was the first one to bring up the idea of Shiftgig or what it would become.

He saw a stat about LinkedIn usage in the younger demographic and why it was ignored. We started to look into that more and realized that this is an area that a lot of people do ignore. I don’t know if it’s something where businesses don’t like or don’t want to build something for this service industry community.

We had all done something in the service industry. I had worked in retail and Eddie and Jeff had both worked in food service. It was something that we’d had experience with and we looked at the solutions out there for this demographic, for this workforce, and it was really just Craigslist. There weren’t many good jobs to find on any other site than that.

When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I think it probably goes back to my first retail job and what that was like actually having a boss. I was probably 16 or 17, but before that I was a caddie at a couple of country clubs. You’re kind of your own boss there; you have a caddie master but when you’re a caddie you’re somewhat of an independent contractor.

I started doing that when I was 13 and made some business cards so I could get repeat people and wanted to try to do things without sitting around. I quickly learned what it was like to have repeat customers, people that could get a hold of you and then you didn’t have to sit around the caddie shack for hours, wasting your time.

I realized you could build up a business like that. It’s always been something that’s just been part of me.

Who are some people that inspire you?

This probably comes off as cheesy, but probably everyone in my immediate family. My parents are very hardworking middle class people that always tried to teach us the value of a dollar and what it’s like to work hard and what you get out of that.

My sister’s one of the hardest working people I know; she’s in law school right now. My brother is one of the smartest people that I know. He’s very intelligent, he’s a captain in the military and that’s something that inspires me.

Outside of family it’d be Elon Musk. He’s a pretty young guy and he’s shown that he can succeed in very different markets and business types: from banking with PayPal-type stuff to the automotive industry and space exploration. It seems like he’s doing well in very different areas. I think I’d like to be able to one day live up to that diversity and success.

What tends to be your daily soundtrack around the office?

We’re in Catapult so if you want to get development work done you need to have headphones because there’s just so much going on and there are so many distractions. I have headphones that I wear whenever I’m digging in and doing development.

It’s a broad range. It’ll be top 40 on Pandora or on my iTunes I have a lot of things back from the high school days -- things like Alkaline Trio or Coheed & Cambria. It kind of depends on the mood and what I’m doing. I also have a thunderstorm track that I can put on repeat, which is just background thunderstorm and it’s something that I enjoy.

If you could have one super power which would you choose? What is your kryptonite?

That’s one of those questions where I never know how to answer. Strictly from a fun standpoint, I think it might be flying. I say flying because I love to travel and I love to be in other places, but I hate the process of traveling. I’m not afraid of airplanes, but I hate airports -- going through security and all that, so I’d have to say I would love flying just for the sake of travel.

Obviously everybody has kryptonite. I’m not sure what mine is. I wish I had an answer for you. It’s one of those things where you don’t know what your kryptonite is until you’ve been taken down and I’ve been fortunate enough to be successful so far.

What is your idea of happiness?

Being surrounded by good people. I’m very big on relationships and having those good people in your life, both with business and with family or friends. It’s always important to have some good people around you and as long as you have that, for me, nothing else really matters.

I don’t care what we do as long as the people I’m with are great people. That extends into business with the partners I have and the employees that we have. We’re always working to build a team.

What does 2013 have in store for Shiftgig?

It’s really just continuing growth. We still want to continue to make improvements and improve the experience that we have. We’re starting to look towards monetization and growing out features around monetizing the site as we expand the user base and feel like we get to a point where we have the right size.

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Advisors Related to the Post

Corey Cummings
Sean Casey