‘LinkedIn alternative’ startup launches with almost $1 million in funding from Sequoia


Sample founders Elliott Gibb and Jascha Zittel. Source: supplied.

An Aussie startup has launched the ‘LinkedIn for essential professionals’, and banked $920,000 in pre-seed funding from Sequoia Capital India to get the platform off the ground.

Founded by Elliott Gibb and Jascha Zittel, a former product manager for DevOps at Atlassian, Sample is a professional network geared towards people in hospitality, retail, beauty, warehousing and logistics, for example.

The pair coined the term ‘essential professionals’, Zittel tells SmartCompany, as it felt more empowering than blue-collar or grey-collar workers. It also highlights the real career opportunities in these sectors.

Many people consider these professions as temporary, or a stepping stone to something perceived as ‘better’, Gibb adds.

Connecting people in the earlier stages of their careers with those who have been — and continue to be — highly successful can show off the sector “and therefore bring people back into the industry”, he says.

Sample is also intended to help people on the route to upskilling or switching careers. Being able to connect with other people in various industries can help individuals get a better understanding of what is required in particular roles, and how they can utilise their existing skill sets.

Tackling the Aussie skills gap

All of this comes against the backdrop of the so-called Great Resignation, and at a time when businesses in all kinds of sectors are struggling to find skilled staff.

Many of the industries Sample caters to have been particularly badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In retail and hospitality, for example, long lockdowns meant people left the profession to find other work, while a lack of international students and temporary visa holders has left a hole in the workforce.

Both workers and businesses in these sectors are typically limited to those they know first hand, Zittel explains. Where office-based businesses are able to make connections and find new recruits online, that hasn’t always been an option for other SMEs.

“Bringing that access to a network, beyond the people you already know, at this point is something we believe will really, really help people,” Zittel adds.

Opportunities beyond Australia

For an Aussie startup that was, until today, pre-launch, securing backing from a global firm like Sequoia is “a privilege”, Gibb says.

“It’s great validation that we are looking at a problem space that has been neglected,” he adds.

Founders from a tech background can be blinkered, to an extent, he explains. It can feel easier to leave and build a new tech product geared towards tech workers.

The funding also allows Gibb and Zittel to tap into a global network of experts and advisors to help them build out and expand their business.

Sample is now rolling out in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide. But the founders have global ambitions.

Australia is a launchpad, Zittel says. Next the founders are targeting the US and Europe.

In the future, the are opportunities to provide advice, career support and even financial products for people in these industries.

These workers account for about a third of the global workforce, Gibb adds.

“There are massive opportunities and problems that we probably haven’t yet uncovered.”


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