Author: Yitzi Weiner and Casmin Wisner
“Jitjatjo’s mantra is ‘It’s about time.’ Every decision our company makes revolves around creating a time-saving, frictionless, and compelling experience for our clients and talent.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Chatfield, co-founder and CEO of Jitjatjo. He is also known as the “micro and macro manager of the unmanageable”. For instance, he moved halfway around the world (with a pregnant wife and a 3-year-old) to launch his startup in the cut-throat New York market, and personally delivered his second child on the bathroom floor of his Tribeca loft just weeks before his company’s public launch event.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?
Growing up on the northern beaches of Sydney, Australia, I was always looking for ways to maximize the time I spent surfing. I also had a keen interest in business and entrepreneurship, and I started my first business at the age of ten. I would acquire unsold pop magazines from the newsagent’s trash can before they were returned to the publisher. I’d then tear out the pop-band posters and sell them to other children in my neighborhood for $0.50-$1.00 each at a 100% gross profit margin! My first “real” job, however, was as a cashier at Australia’s largest supermarket chain. I tried to start working at 14 but was told to come back when I was 14 years and nine months, the minimum age permitted by Australian regulations to be employed. I came back and got the job, and by the time I had turned 16, I
was promoted to supervisor and was managing people five times my age.
My first office job was in a call center for a telecommunications company. After six weeks on the phone I became a team leader, and six weeks after that I was managing all of the team leaders. By the time I was 21-years-old, I was managing two call centers and 60 staff members. After two and a half years, and with a strong desire to develop my sales and marketing skills, I left my job and transitioned to recruitment and temporary staffing. I hit the ground running and timed the move well. Three months after joining, I secured a contract to staff the Sydney Olympics ticket hotline, and was delivering my annual revenue budget every month. This led me to be promoted to the national sales and marketing team where I developed an assessment center product for volume recruitment which was introduced nationwide.
I then pursued my interest in the technology sector and started selling an online CRM in competition with Salesforce — I clearly backed the wrong horse in that race. So I went back to surfing daily and launched a hospitality events company which is how I met Ron McCulloch, co-founder of Jitjatjo. We worked together in another tech company for ten years, building and commercializing that business. Now we’ve set our sights on a much bigger global opportunity: solving the problems of the $3 trillion contingent staffing market.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
I moved to New York City in mid-2016 with my 3-year-old daughter and wife—who was seven months pregnant at the time—to launch my company Jitjatjo. If you think about that for a second, I was combining some of the most stressful life experiences into a compressed time period. Moving to a new house, traveling long-haul with an infant (a 24-hour flight), starting a new business, and doing all of this in a foreign country without an established network or support structure created an extremely stressful environment. Things got very interesting in late August 2016. We were temporarily living in a Tribeca apartment, and the owner of the building had offered to move out for the summer to help us while our soon-to-be-apartment a floor above was being renovated. Our Jitjatjo app was nearing completion in the beta phase, and my wife was full-term on her pregnancy.
Late one evening she went into labor and by the time Ron, my business partner, had arrived to look after our 3-year- old, my wife’s water broke. We cancelled the Uber that was waiting downstairs and asked Ron to call 911. The baby wasn’t waiting for anyone. Within 15 minutes of my wife’s water
breaking, I had delivered my daughter on the bathroom floor. While attempting to let the paramedics in, I found Ron locked in the building’s elevator, where he was seeking a quieter place to talk with 911 as they were having issues understanding his thick Scottish accent. Everything worked out fine, thank goodness. It was an amazing experience to be the first person my baby saw — we certainly have a special bond as a result.
A few weeks later, we publicly launched Jitjatjo. That launch was a HUGE success as well.
So what does your company do?
Jitjatjo is a mobile marketplace for real-time temporary staffing that is currently focused on the hospitality sector in New York City. We provide hospitality businesses (restaurants, bars, cafes, caterers, hotels, and corporate hospitality) with on-demand staffing in as little as an hour’s notice.
All Jitjatjo talent are W-2 employees of Jitjatjo who undergo a rigorous vetting process. This includes skills assessments, multi-round interviews, and background checks. We provide our talent with unlimited gigs, flexible work, and instant pay.
What makes your business stand out? Can you share a story?
It’s widely known that the hospitality sector has been slower than other industries to adopt technology in a meaningful way. It’s also common knowledge within the industry that staffing issues are a daily occurrence. Whether that’s with no-shows, punctuality, or a business’s inability to align
resources with the hourly peaks and troughs in their own client demand, staffing is a major pain-point in hospitality.
While there are an increasing number of apps in this space, none of them are properly leveraging the powers of technology and artificial intelligence. Most apps in this vertical use a “push” model, where they broadcast a temp’s shifts and gigs to a large group, and the fastest person to claim the opportunity gets it. However, businesses do not want the fastest or most desperate person seeking work — they want the best person available for the job, and that’s what Jitjatjo provides.
MA, Jitjatjo’s Matchmaking Algorithm, automatically analyzes the skills, experience, ratings, availability, and a multitude of additional factors pertaining to our talent pool to identify the “best talent available” for every shift and exclusively invites that person. If the worker does not accept the invitation within a specified time period, the offer is extended to the next best talent, and so on.
Not only is this highly beneficial for the business, but it also saves the talent a tremendous amount of time and annoyance. Our talent simply sets their availability, then they receive invitations to gigs that match their profile, and the rest is magic! We now have over twelve months of data that reinforces
that our model works, which is also seen in our 90% positive ratings and 90% repeat bookings! As Jitjatjo’s platform is powered by machine learning, the talent-client matching will continue to get better and better. Every shift increases the power of the platform and improves the experience for each client and talent.
Jitjatjo’s mantra is “it’s about time”. Every decision our company makes revolves around creating a time-saving, frictionless, and compelling experience for our clients and talent.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
When we created Jitjatjo, one of our founding principles focused on the empowerment and betterment of our workers. We offer talent true flexibility — they set their availability and only work where and when they want.
Additionally, our talent has the ability to receive instant pay at the
completion of a gig. They aren’t forced to wait for a paycheck weeks later. We’ve also created a best-in-class training program to strengthen the skill sets of our talent and help increase their earning potential.
Our talent come from all different paths of life and they each have their own unique set of characteristics. Some use Jitjatjo as their primary source of income, while others use the platform to supplement their income and work multiple jobs or gigs. We’ve also received tremendous feedback from our talent that we’ve enabled and assisted them to pursue their passions and goals. For many, we’ve provided them with a sense of stability and an environment that caters (pun intended) to their needs. A core principal of ours, which we believe will ultimately bring goodness to the world, is that
we are connecting great people with great opportunities each and every day.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my business,” and why?
- Start with your brand. Defining your brand identity and values before recruiting any staff makes a huge difference in focus, client acquisition, and service delivery.
- Get your accounting system operational from the very start. It’s much harder to sift through shoe boxes of receipts months after the fact than it is to take photos of them and categorize them as you go.
- A strong network is a big advantage. Fortunately, despite being from the other side of the world and not having a local network, we found friendly clients quickly and have experienced rapid growth through referrals.
- Most startups—97 percent—fail. I knew it was high, just not that high. Thankfully our future looks bright and we are laser-focused on remaining on the right side of that equation.
- Don’t try to do too much at once. Moving to a new country with a 3-year-old and pregnant wife at the same time as starting a business was hard—and not recommended.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Shervin Pishevar of Sherpa Capital. I hear he is a big believer in moonshots, and we are shooting for the stars. I’d like his guidance on the telemetry of our rocket ship.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!