Workmate (formerly Helpster), an on-demand and end-to-end staffing platform for Southeast Asia has raised US$5.2 million after growing 10x since January 2018. The company is on a mission to organize the informal workforce an industry valued at $200 billion annually.

Platform Workmate (formerly Helpster) announced that it closed a Series A funding round of US$5.2 million, led by Atlas Ventures with participation by Gobi Partners and Beacon Venture Capital (Beacon VC), the corporate venture capital arm of Kasikornbank PLC. (SET: KBANK), 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 since its launch in January 2016. Workmate aims to organize 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 in wages paid to informal workers annually. The staffing market for informal labor in the region is expected to double to US$8 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.

Mathew Ward, CEO and Co-founder of Workmate, is on a mission to change how this market operates. Ward, along with his founding partners, are known for their successful 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.

Maxim Shkvaruk, Director at Atlas Ventures said, "We believe there is latent demand for a better staffing solution in the blue collar space, and Workmate is the answer. We have been very impressed with Mat and his team as well as the company’s growth, and we are very excited to support the team in their journey to help millions of workers in Southeast Asia gain economic freedom by providing them with access to jobs with better pay and maximum flexibility"

Mr. Thanapong Na Ranong, Managing Director of Beacon VC, added: “Helping Kasikornbank provide better financial services to the underserved population is among our core focuses. We are impressed by Workmate's insights and strong commitment to push for betterment of informal workers, as well as the strong growth Workmate has had in Thailand and Indonesia. We want to ensure KBank can understand and serve these workers better as they work towards achieving life aspirations and financial health.”

Workmate is headquartered in Singapore, with offices in Bangkok, Jakarta and Bali, and has plans to expand further in 2020. Some of the platform’s key early customers include aCommerce, Flash Express, JD Central, Taco Bell, Lazada and Chilindo in Thailand, while in Indonesia it supports Ismaya Group, Grab, NinjaVan, Kopi Kenangan, and STOQO. In 2018, the platform also delivered more than 1,000 workers to the Asian Games held in Jakarta and Palembang.

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