“Talent is everywhere, but opportunities are definitely not,” says Sundeep Sahi, the founder of Skuad, the Singapore-based global employment and payroll platform, which has just completed a $15 million Series A funding round.
As Sahi points out, while smart people with valuable skills are to be found in every country worldwide, not all of those countries have jobs to offer them. Equally, in many countries, an acute shortage of labour is holding many organisations back, particularly in knowledge economy industries, ranging from technology to sales and marketing.
Skuad’s mission is to resolve this market inefficiency, matching the growing number of people who can work anywhere with employers who are in need of their services. “We see a shift to a flat world where you can hire talent in a completely borderless economy,” Sahi explains.
To do that, the start-up’s proposition is essentially twofold. First, it helps clients to find and vet talent, wherever it may be found, much like a traditional recruitment agency. Second, it manages the employment for the organisation so that it doesn’t have to worry about regulation, tax, payroll and other local nuances.
An American company looking for a software engineer, for example, can use Skuad to hire the right person – discovering a perfect fit with a candidate in India, say. It can also use Skuad to manage the employment, handling the engineer’s tax and payroll, and ensuring the contract complies with all relevant laws in India.
It’s a business proposition that relies on two structural drivers in the global labour market. First, points out Sahi, “employees have realised they can work anywhere and employers are becoming more comfortable with this”. The distributed team model, where large numbers of an organisation’s workforce work remotely – wherever they happen to be based – was gathering pace even before the pandemic, Sahi says, but “that experience has definitely made the conversation easier”.
The second driver is the uneven distribution of talent. In simple terms, developed economies have too few people to fill too many roles requiring specialist skills; in developing economies, the problem is reversed. In which case, developed economy employers need to be building distributed teams with talented people living and working in developing economies.
Skuad, then, aims to turn theory into reality for employers, making it straightforward to find the best people in the first place, and simple to employ them. The company now has entities or relationships with local partners in 100 countries worldwide, so that it can provide employers with access to talent almost wherever it is to be found.
The model is working well. Since its launch almost two years ago, Skuad has worked with clients based in 34 different countries, with more than half its business coming from employers in North America and Europe. Over the same period it has supported individual employees in more than 90 countries; 80% of that talent lives and works in an emerging economy.
Now Skuad’s challenge is to broaden its range of services and extend its reach. For example, it is in the process of finalising the acquisition of Codejudge, a data-driven talent assessment platform that automates interview processes – and will therefore strengthen Skuad’s hiring and onboarding capabilities.
The Series A round is also important – not so much because of the additional capital it is providing, says Sahi, but more because of the new partners the company is gaining. The round was led by a Southeast Asian venture capital fund working with a US strategic investor that specialises in staffing, and two leading global payments platforms (Squadis not making the names of the backers public for now at least). These new partners will help Skuad drive further into the US market and strengthen its cross-border payments capabilities.
The round also drew support from Skuad’s existing investors, including Beenext, Anthemis and a number of angel investors. The $15 million raised takes the total funding raised by the company to $19 million.
Skuad itself is keen to practice what it preaches, Sahi points out. “We are fully remote and our talent is based in 17 different countries,” he says. “The mission to be more diverse is something we take very seriously ourselves.”
The company operates a pricing model that starts at $199 per employee per month for payroll and $499 per employee per month for talent discovered through the integrated platform. With Squad now processing $120 million of payroll and other payments in 50 currencies worldwide, revenues have trebled since the beginning of the year. “Talent is everywhere and when you give people the opportunity, they really grab it,” Sahi says.