Singapore-based on-demand staffing platform startup Workmate, formerly known as Helpster, announced that it has secured US$5.2 million in a Series A funding round led by Atlas Ventures, an early stage VC fund based in Singapore. The funding round also saw the participation of Beacon Venture Capital, the corporate venture capital arm of Thailand’s Kasikornbank PLC, and Gobi Partners, a Shanghai-headquartered venture capital firm. Existing investors also participated in the round.
Co-founded by Mathew Ward and John Srivorakul in early 2016, the end-to-end staffing platform startup’s latest investment from its Series A funding round brings the startup’s total funding to US$10 million since it first launched some 3 years ago. The company plans to use the freshly acquired funds to ramp up investment in sales, expand to new cities, and accelerate the growth of the technology team.
Workmate’s headquarters are in Singapore, but it has a presence in several Southeast Asian countries, with offices in Jakarta, Bangkok and Bali. The staffing platform startup’s list of customers include ride-hailing app unicorn Grab, NinjaVan, Ismaya Group and Kopi Kenangan in Indonesia, while it supports JD Central, e-commerce unicorn Lazada, fast food chain Taco Bell and Chilindo in Thailand. Moving forward, the startup plans to further expand its reach in 2020 to other cities.
In Southeast Asia, the informal labor sector makes up more than half of the region’s workforce, with around US$200 billion in wages paid to informal workers annually. The informal labor staffing market for the region is expected to grow tremendously in just a few years, doubling to US$8 billion by 2025. Even though the region’s market holds a lot of promise, it is still very much conventional and traditional in the way it finds work and workers, meaning to say that it still heavily relies on word-of-mouth. The result is that securing consistent, reliable employment is oftentimes difficult.
Enter: end-to-end staffing platform startup Workmate. Chief executive officer and co-founder Mathew Ward intends to transform the way the market operates, and he and his partners have the experience derived from building and exiting multiple tech startups in the region – examples include Ensogo, Ardent Capital and Admax Network – to do so.
Ward explained: “We are automating what traditional manpower agencies would typically offer – by allowing businesses to go directly to workers versus going through a middleman agency that charges up to 30% in fees – and we’re doing it at scale. The traditional staffing model is very manual and has very little technology adoption, it hasn’t changed much in 40 years. It’s a big market which is ripe for disruption. This model is gaining traction internationally – even Uber has just announced it launched a staffing solution called Uber Works in the US.”
Even though more and more service-oriented informal jobs are being created in the region, both businesses and workers are in reality currently being underserved by tech solutions because they are more focused on the professional “white collar” workforce. Sensing a massive untapped opportunity, Workmate decided to focus on the informal labor staffing market because it represents a larger portion of the workforce, and it is a space where technology can provide real, lasting impact by bringing massive efficiency at scale.
For example, businesses that want to find reliable, consistent workers will often have to go through a demanding, time-consuming process because there is a lack of available data and information about the workers themselves. Workers, meanwhile, may find themselves without a job for weeks at a time because they cannot find the right employer. This is where Workmate intends to improve the process. By pre-screening all workers that join their platform, the startup ensures a level of quality and performance that helps allay the concerns of businesses, and as for the workers themselves, once they pass the screening process, they are shown multiple job openings every day on the platform that match their skills, and they can then choose which ones to go for.
The staffing platform startup Workmate is building something unique in Southeast Asia, providing services to an important underserved market in the region. As Ward put it, the company is an end-to-end staffing solution that empowers and protects workers in the region while also helping businesses find the right manpower to fulfill their needs.