Allan Jones's first startup was Fourth and Grand, a Trunk Club-like service backed by the venture studio and accelerator, Science, out of Santa Monica.
While the business didn't work out, it put the budding young entrepreneur (and college dropout) on a path that would lead him to launch the Los Angeles-based startup Bambee, a company that lets small businesses give their employees access to the same kinds of human resources services that large companies have.
What sets Bambee apart from companies like Zenefits and other companies looking to provide human resources services is its focus on the needs of employees as well as employers. Many tools are focused on recruitment, talent management and benefits management from the employer perspective. Bambee bills itself as handling the softer, human side of human resources, rather than the business processes that surround it.
Jones said that the inspiration for the business goes back to watching his own father, who owned a local minimarket in Upland, Calif., deal with a nuisance wrongful termination lawsuit from a disgruntled employee.
"Every small business in the country should have access to a human resources professional," Jones said. "When I was a kid my dad owned a small minimarket and got sued for wrongful termination and he had to dip into my college education fund."
Over the course of working with LA startups including Docstoc and ZipRecruiter, Jones realized that the precarity he had witnessed in his father's situation as an employer carried over to employees as well. "Vulnerability existed for both sides," Jones said.
Observers need look no further than the situations of employees at startups like WeWork, Uber, Zenefits, or even Away, to know that a lack of human resources early in a company's existence can snowball into larger and larger problems later.
"This is a pervasive thing across 5.6 million companies," Jones said. "Once you realize that notion … and that there's no solution … We thought that was insane."
Bambee, Jones claims, offers 80% of what a full-time human resources professional can offer at a much smaller fraction of the price.
For $99 a month, Bambee provides its clients with their own dedicated HR manager -- from creating and implementing the right HR policies, collecting electronic signatures in its app, and navigating the complex regulatory world of compliance, the company said. These managers can lead internal investigations, hires, onboarding, furloughs and implementation of return to work procedures.
Human resources professionals can be wellsprings of information beyond simply ensuring that management misbehavior doesn't metastasize into a company-wide debacle. They also provide information on how to furlough employees, how to rehire staff and how to account for both situations. In the response to the COVID-19 pandemic that information became critical.
That's why companies like Stojo Projects, Knife Aid and Hank's Bagels all use the company's service. Bambee has around 10,000 customers just like them nationwide and has raised $32 million to date. In October, the company closed a $15 million round led by QED Investors with participation from previous investors including AlphaEdison.
And Jones thinks there's lots of room to grow. Once the company has locked in the soft services of actually managing human resources, the more commoditized tools of employee benefits management, salaries and the rest should be easy. Other financial instruments could come off the back end as well, Jones said.
"Part of my ambition here is to better equitize the relationship between employee and employer," Jone said. "Start at the basics and better define those relationships. Once we saw how pervasively undefined and disrespected the relationships between employee and employer world. The HR service component where the trust equity is built … how much can you expand what you can get these companies to do?"