Helpster, a two-year-old startup that connects blue-collar workers with employers in Southeast Asia, has closed $2.5 million in new funding.
The startup operates in Thailand and Indonesia with around 50 staff split between Bangkok and Jakarta. It aims to disrupt the temporary worker industry, which is dominated by giants like Adecco and Manpower, by vetting its workers closely and using technology — principally its mobile app — to improve the temp worker-employer relationship.
The company estimates that 40 percent of the 100 million semi-skilled workers across Southeast Asia take casual work.
The Helpster approach lets workers choose their own schedule and types of jobs via the app, which will automatically offer them gigs around their specified times. Financially, they keep their full wage since it charges clients separately rather than taking a cut of their salary. Workers can also accrue bonuses and earn health insurance and social security when they work for certain numbers of days.
For employers, aside from vetted staff, the focus is on simplicity. Helpster handles hiring, allocating work, employee attendance and payment in one place.
“We really want to differentiate ourself from portal or job app,” CEO and co-founder Matthew Ward told TechCrunch in an interview. “We screen and vet all the workers and do background checks.”
Larger clients aside, Ward said Helpster brings the traditional recruitment consultant model to SMEs, which traditional players “won’t touch” because of the lower revenue on offer.
Helpster has served over 500 clients mostly in the F&B and hospitality industries, although it also has ongoing clients in warehousing, logistics and more, Ward said.
This new funding is a pre-Series A round that sees existing investors including Convergence Ventures and Wavemaker Partners return with additional backing. Mojo Partners, a Singapore-based fund founded by the billionaire family behind Hotel Properties, is a new arrival that co-led the round. The startup previously raised $2.5 million in November 2016.
Ward said the new money will be used to double down on technology, in particular to help improve machine learning and data services that glean information about worker reliability and best fits between workers and clients.
Helpster isn’t planning to expand to other parts in Southeast Asia, which now has over 300 million internet users, but, according to Ward, it might launch in new cities inside Thailand and Indonesia. Hotel-centric locations like Bali and Phuket could be on the list for next year.
“We want to make sure we really gain strong marketshare in the two countries we’re in first,” he explained.
Ward and fellow Helpster co-founder John Srivorakul (CTO) previously worked together at digital media startup Admax, which was sold to Komli. Srivorakul was also a co-founder of Ensogo, which was acquired by LivingSocial, and he had been involved with now-defunct investment firm Ardent Capital and logistics startup aCommerce, where his brother Paul is CEO.