SINGAPORE-BASED Sama, which runs a digital platform to match migrant workers to jobs, has raised US$1.15 million in seed funding.
The round was led by US-based Collaborative Fund, a backer of Impossible Foods and Lyft, and Singapore-based 3T Venture Capital Partners (3tvcp). Startup builder Antler and PropertyGuru co-founder Steve Melhuish also participated in the round.
The funds will mainly be used to grow the team in Singapore and build the technology platform to match workers to jobs more efficiently.
Co-founder Kirtan Patel was inspired to start Sama last April after his conversations with migrant workers uncovered the recurring burden of high fees paid by workers in order to secure a job. The matter was also close to home for fellow co-founder Nemanja Grujicic, whose family dealt with similar employment situations in Eastern Europe.
Investor Mr Melhuish said: "(Migrant workers) and their families are at the bottom of the pyramid. Despite this, many pay up to nine months' salary in commissions to middlemen to secure their jobs. Sama aims to stop this and ensure they get a fair deal."
Using data points collected and analysed on the platform, workers are matched with jobs that are a good fit based on their skill level and experience. Workers can start the sign-up process by sending a message to Sama on WhatsApp. They then start uploading identification documents, training certificates and prior work history.
Currently, workers pay up to S$10,000 in agent fees to secure a job in Singapore.
"The S$10,000 is the highest we've seen in the market and is the result of multiple middlemen that are all taking their cut in the fee structure," Mr Patel told The Business Times.
"This would also include the agency fee back in the home country such as India and Bangladesh. We streamline this by having a licence on both sides of the recruitment, thus drastically lowering the price."
Sama takes a fee of one month per year of the confirmed contract. This means that if a worker is placed into a job that pays S$800 a month for a two-year contract, the fee would be S$1,600.
The platform is fully licensed by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). The startup, which is currently a team of five, aims to focus initial launch efforts on the construction work demographic in Singapore. As at June 2019, there are 284,300 workers holding construction work permits, according to MOM.