Workmate secures US$5.2mil in Series A funding
By Digital News Asia November 13, 2019
- The informal labor staffing market is expected to double to US$8 billion by 2025
- Company provides workers with a way to earn consistent and trustworthy income
SINGAPORE-based end-to-end staffing platform Workmate (formerly Helpster) announced that it closed a Series A funding round of US$5.2 million (RM21.52 million), led by Atlas Ventures with participation by Gobi Partners and Beacon Venture Capital (Kasikorn Bank), with existing investors also participating in the round.
The fresh funds will be used to increase investment in sales, grow the technology team, and expand to new cities. The investment brings Workmate’s total funding to US$10 million (RM41.39 million) since its launch in January 2016. Workmate aims to organise the informal workforce at scale in Southeast Asia.
In Southeast Asia, the informal labor sector accounts for more than 50% of the region’s workforce, with approximately US$200 billion (RM827.8 billion) in wages paid to informal workers annually.
The staffing market for informal labor in the region is expected to double to US$8 billion (RM33.1 billion) by 2025. But despite the market’s huge potential, it is still bound to the traditional method of finding work and workers – usually through word of mouth – which means that securing reliable and consistent employment is difficult.
Workmate chief executive officer and co-founder Mathew Ward is on a mission to change how this market operates. Ward, along with his founding partners, are known for their track record of building and exiting multiple tech startups in Southeast Asia, including Admax Network, Ardent Capital, Ensogo, and aCommerce.
“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,” explains Ward.
“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.”
Workmate aims to fill the same gap in emerging markets like Southeast Asia. Increasingly, more service-oriented, informal jobs are being created in the region, but both workers and businesses are currently underserved by tech solutions which mostly focus on building tools for the professional “white collar” workforce.
However, Workmate sees a much bigger opportunity in the informal market as it’s a larger sector of the workforce, and a space where technology can provide real impact by bringing massive efficiency at scale.
For businesses, sourcing consistent, reliable workers can be immensely time-consuming, especially given the lack of data and information available about the workers themselves. On the other hand, workers find themselves without a job, sometimes for weeks at a time, because they can’t find the right match, making it even harder to make ends meet.
This is where Workmate’s end-to-end solutions come into play. All workers in the platform are pre-screened by Workmate before being made available to hire on the platform, ensuring a level of quality not found via a job board.
Businesses then request staff through the platform and are instantly matched to workers nearby who have the required experience. They can view each workers’ experience, ratings, and performance history, before confirming which workers they want.
The platform also manages contracts, attendance, time sheets and worker payments to provide a seamless end-to-end solution.
For workers, once they pass Workmate’s screening process, they are shown multiple job offers to choose from every day via the Workmate App. These jobs are tailored to match their skills so they no longer have to go looking for work, as the work comes to them.
Workmate also offers workers protection from wage fraud, provides social security, and has upcoming plans to offer insurance and access to financial support. This not only fulfils the basic needs of informal workers; it makes the entire industry more attractive as a viable livelihood pathway for more people than ever before.
“Workmate is building something unique in this region. We are not a job board or simply a connector – we are an end-to-end staffing solution that empowers and protects workers in the region while helping businesses ensure a steady flow of manpower to keep their engines running at full capacity,” said Ward.
Workmate is headquartered in Singapore, with offices in Bangkok, Jakarta and Bali, and has plans to expand further in 2020.