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The way Diego Montemayor talks about Chamba, his Denver startup, makes one wonder why it didn’t exist before. Chamba is another job app, but, as with most startups, there’s a twist. 

The Chamba app helps connect workers to available restaurant jobs. But uniquely, it helps connect Spanish-speaking workers to English-speaking restaurant owners and managers in need of employees. (Provided by Chamba)

Chamba launched a bilingual app in April 2020 that connects Spanish-speaking workers with the employers who need them. In late July, Chamba narrowed its focus to the restaurant industry. That seems like good timing if you’ve been paying attention to the restaurant staffing woes and how hard it’s been to find people, especially for jobs busing tables, in the kitchen and other nontipped “back-of-the-house” work.

But Montemayor has a different perspective.

“There’s not a labor shortage. There’s a connectivity problem,” said Montemayor, Chamba’s co-founder and CEO. “And that’s what we’re solving here. We’re connecting restaurants to the talent that wants these kinds of jobs.”

Employers, he said, are “looking for talent in the same talent pool. They have not diversified where they search for talent and are looking in the same, common places.”

A number of companies are already promoting Chamba’s service on the app’s site, including Brothers BBQ. Within two days of using the app, the Aaron Nelsen, the general manager for two of the Denver-based chain’s locations, arranged three interviews and made a hire. “We picked the best candidate out of those three interviews,” he said in a video testimony on Chamba’s site. The Spanish-speaking employee started work the next day.

Chamba service really just helps employers look in a place they probably weren’t looking before. In a few short months, it’s helped 187 clients connect to workers in Denver and New York City, the only two cities covered so far. The app’s been downloaded more than 172,000 times from the Apple App store and 50,000 jobs have been posted, said Corina Hierro, Chamba’s community manager and a founding member. Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer David Ruiz oversaw the development of the app and led the team of developers in Colombia.

Chamba founders Diego Montemayor, left, and Corina Hierro with a job seeker. The Chamba app helps connect workers to available restaurant jobs. But uniquely, it helps connect Spanish-speaking workers to English-speaking restaurant owners and managers in need of employees. (Provided by Chamba)

Chamba looks beyond the audience that typically relies on Indeed, LinkedIn and other English-heavy job sites. The app, available in Spanish and English, is marketed to the Latino community and helps job seekers create online resumes. 

It also vets the employers by checking online reviews first. If the company passes muster, Chamba will talk to the owners or hiring managers to see how much investment they’re putting into workers. Employers that don’t seem to care can cause job seekers to feel lost, like they don’t matter, Montemayor said.  

“If they’re spending a little bit of time with the talent, then that’s a good fit for Chamba,” he said.

Chamba is offering Denver restaurants free access to the app to advertise their job openings. 

Chamba, which employs about 15 people, has big plans for growth. It’s a venture-backed startup with more than $1.1 million in seed funding so far, with some of it coming from local accelerator program Techstars last year. “Techstars became our megaphone,” he said. “It put us in front of people who were actually going to listen (to) the social impact that we were having on the community.” 

To kick off the company’s Denver Startup Week presence, Montemayor was one of five newer founders getting a place on stage to grill — and be grilled — by a Colorado unicorn, or a company that has raised so much investment, its valuation tops $1 billion.

Mark Frank, cofounder of SonderMind, which helps people with mental health issues connect to therapists, was that unicorn founder. And the founders’ conversation focused on community, which is important to both companies. SonderMind, which employs 300 people, has raised more than $180 million, according to equity-tracking site Crunchbase.

Chamber cofounder Diego Montemayor, right, interviews SonderMind founder Mark Frank at Denver Startup Week . (Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun)

“So, how did you get to 300 employees,” Montemayor asked Frank.

“Well, it wasn’t that long ago that we were a team of 15. Actually, it was three years ago at this time, we were a team of 18,” Frank said. “For us, what the bigger challenge has been how do we maintain our culture, which has been a real driver of our success. … I would encourage everyone to find ways to get together in person and do things virtually as well that can really home in on that community aspect.”

Montemayor said he considers Chamba a synonym for community.

“Everything we do is around community,” he said. “We build community by building trust and that’s by showing who is behind the product. We get people that look like the people that we are helping and people who are going through the same experience as us.”

To catch more of Denver Startup Week, which runs through Friday, register for free at denverstartupweek.org.

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Tamara Chuang

The Colorado Sun — tamara@coloradosun.com Tech+Business+Economy Email: tamara@coloradosun.com...