Workbnb Puts Blue-Collar Workers in a Better Place

Proptech startup provides rental housing for transient employees, including those at Super Bowl LVIII

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Transient blue-collar workers at on-site projects often have to settle for shabby rental housing in motels and the like for weeks or months at a time while on assignment away from home.

Now, though, Workbnb, a Las Vegas-based software platform for booking workforce rental homes near project sites, is attempting to improve housing conditions for construction, infrastructure, communications and other on-site workers, including a number of those working on and at this Sunday’s Super Bowl LVIII.

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Founded in 2021 with pre-seed funding from Techstars, Workbnb got its inspiration from Airbnb, said Yeves Perez, co-founder and CEO of Workbnb.

“What we realized was that there was a gap in the travel market that was not focusing on blue-collar workers and the tech wasn’t supportive of that particular category of travel,” said Perez. “So we set out and built a marketplace for companies to get access to inventory for their traveling workforces.”

To get buy-in from corporations willing to spend the money to better house their on-site workers, Workbnb set up an alpha test with large construction firms on multiple projects and in multiple regions, said Perez. “Basically, we got them the access they really wanted for the first time at scale. That was a really big challenge for us, but we did it, so we’re excited.”

Property owners were also excited by the concept, he said, as Workbnb’s value proposition attracted landlords not only because of the corporate money involved, but also because longer-term stays mean less turnover. The result has been more than 9,000 rental properties in 39 states on the startup’s platform.

Currently, small rental landlords make up 80 percent of Workbnb’s supply side, said Perez, adding that some 60 percent of those property owners have at least 10 units. Large corporate operators or developers that have 250 units or at least 1,000 single-family homes in their portfolios make up the rest.

Lucky timing also played a big role in the company’s growth, said Perez.

“At the time that we started to build a product, we didn’t know that the government was going to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure investment act that was going to cause 12 million construction workers to start traveling over the next 10 years,” he said. “That’s called the infrastructure decade.

“So, as an early startup founder, I began to tell the stories of these workers and the complications that they have to go through to find housing. And we started to literally attract project managers and CEOs to that narrative. And they said ‘We want to sign up for your alpha tests.’ ”

One such alpha tester was Clayco Construction, a Chicago-based turnkey real estate development, planning, architecture, engineering and construction firm, which has about 2,800 employees who travel across the U.S.

The most recent step forward for Workbnb came from its being a part of Techstars, said Perez, whose company is 100 percent minority-owned, with women of color making up 50 percent of the board.

“Techstars networks into a lot of different programs,” he said. “And when a company can get into programs such as minority enterprise certifications because they’re minority owned, the NFL has a DEI supplier program called Business Connect. TechStars made that connection for us.”

Workbnb usually averages six- to nine-month stays for construction workers, but with the NFL’s championship game this weekend, the startup has for more than 30 days been housing film and event production crews, as well as marketing teams, for sponsors like Nike and Google, said Perez. The workers are being housed in more than 50 properties in and around Super Bowl host Las Vegas.

Quite the kickoff for the proptech startup.

Philip Russo can be reached at prusso@commercialobserver.com.