“Talent is everywhere, but opportunities are certainly not,” said Sundeep Sahi, the founder of skuadthe Singapore-based global employment and payroll platform, which has just completed a $15 million Series A funding round.
As Sahi points out, while there are smart people with valuable skills in every country in the world, not all of those countries have a job to offer them. Similarly, in many countries, an acute labor shortage is holding many organizations back, particularly in the knowledge economy sectors ranging from technology to sales and marketing.
Skuad’s mission is to solve this market inefficiency by matching the growing number of people who can work anywhere with employers who need their services. “We are seeing a shift towards a flat world where you can hire talent in an economy without borders,” explains Sahi.
For this, the proposition of the start-up is essentially twofold. First, it helps clients find and screen talent wherever they can be found, just like a traditional recruiting agency. Second, it manages employment for the organization so it doesn’t have to worry about regulations, taxes, payroll, and other local nuances.
For example, an American company looking for a software engineer can use Skuad to hire the right person, for example by discovering a perfect match with a candidate in India. It can also use Skuad to manage the employment, handle the engineer’s tax and payroll, and ensure that the contract complies with all relevant laws in India.
It is a business proposition based on two structural drivers in the global labor market. First, Sahi says, “employees have realized they can work anywhere and employers are increasingly comfortable doing this.” The distributed team model, where large numbers of employees of an organization work remotely – wherever they are located – gained momentum before the pandemic, Sahi says, but “that experience certainly made the conversation easier”.
The second driver is the unequal distribution of talent. Simply put, developed economies have too few people to fill too many positions that require specialist skills; in emerging economies, the problem is reversed. In that case, employers in the developed economy need to build distributed teams with talented people living and working in emerging economies.
So Skuad wants to turn theory into reality for employers, making it easy to find and hire the best people. The company now has entities or relationships with local partners in 100 countries worldwide, enabling employers to access talent almost anywhere.
The model works well. Since its launch nearly two years ago, Skuad has worked with clients in 34 different countries, with more than half of its revenue coming from employers in North America and Europe. Over the same period, it has supported individual workers in more than 90 countries; 80% of that talent lives and works in an emerging economy.
The challenge for Skuad now is to broaden the range of services and increase the reach. For example, it is in the process of finalizing the acquisition of Codejudge, a data-driven talent assessment platform that will automate application processes and thereby strengthen Skuad’s recruiting and onboarding capabilities.
The Series A round is also important — not so much because of the additional capital it brings in, Sahi says, but more because of the new partners the company is bringing in. The round was led by a Southeast Asian venture capital fund that partnered with a US strategic investor specializing in personnel, and two leading global payment platforms (Squadis is not releasing the names of the lenders for now). These new partners will help Skuad further enter the US market and strengthen its capabilities for cross-border payments.
The round also received support from Skuad’s existing investors, including Beenext, Anthemis and a number of angel investors. The $15 million raised brings the total funding the company has raised to $19 million.
Skuad himself is eager to put into practice what it preaches, Sahi emphasizes. “We are completely remote and our talent is based in 17 different countries,” he says. “We take the mission of being more diverse ourselves very seriously.”
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 in payroll and other payments in 50 currencies worldwide, revenue has tripled since the beginning of the year. “Talent is everywhere and if you give people the opportunity, they really grab it,” says Sahi.