Healthcare Staffing Startup Valued at $2B


A nurse stands ready with a full plastic mask and cap | Image by UH Hilo

The DFW-based healthcare startup, ShiftKey, has joined the coveted unicorn club. Twice over.

ShiftKey, founded in 2016 to shake up how hospitals fill nursing shifts, is a platform that efficiently matches healthcare professionals with open positions at nearby facilities.

CEO Tom Ellis said that he got the idea for the software after overhearing a friend struggling to fill nursing shifts over the phone.

“It was literally, ‘Can you take this 10 AM? What about this 11 AM?’ and I said, ‘Let’s move this online,'” according to Ellis.

Privately held start-ups valued at $1 billion and above are known as unicorns.

According to Ellis, ShiftKey raised $300 million in a recent round of funding, bringing the company’s valuation to over $2 billion, easily meeting the definition.

An existing majority investor, Michigan-based Lorient Capital, sponsored the funding campaign.

Ellis explained that the platform permits certified medical assistants, registered nurses, and other medical professionals to “work on their own terms.”

“Our vision is to empower nurses and other licensed professionals through the combination of our core marketplace product along with additional technology and tools such as scheduling, payments, education, and credentialing. We’re appreciative for the support of our investors who share in this objective,” he said in a statement.

According to Ellis, ShiftKey differs from other platforms that function more like a traditional staffing agency. Instead of workers being plugged into shifts, they are empowered to choose shifts for themselves, giving them “freedom of shopping for exactly what [they] want, where [they] want it,” he explained.

According to the company, over 10,000 healthcare facilities across the United States use the platform to access a pool of hundreds of thousands of licensed professionals.

Medical professionals, just like drivers for Uber, can open the app and view a list of nearby opportunities. Should a listing be of interest, the nurse can bid as little or as much as they would like.

According to the company, this flexibility is helping to bring more medical professionals back into the workforce of a struggling industry.

In September 2022, Texas Health and Human Services warned that the state could see demand for nurses exceed supply by 2024.

Ellis is not stopping with nurses, either. According to the ambitious CEO, they already started working on expansion into dentistry and certain therapies.

Lorient Capital managing partner David Berman agrees, believing the technology to be “portable across other industries.”

Steven Wardell, a digital health consultant with Wardell Advisors, believes tech like ShiftKey will be successful since it allows worker credentials to be verified rapidly and is attractive to younger medical professionals.

“Younger nurses also probably think this is how staffing should and will be run. They’re on their phones a lot,” said Wardell. “They don’t think they’re going to get their shift by talking to someone or visiting somewhere.”

Ellis, for his part, did not hold back his excitement for news of the successful funding round, taking to LinkedIn to proclaim, “What a way to kick off 2023! Growth — not for the sake of growth, but IMPACT.”

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