SINGAPORE-BASED Quest Ventures has led a US$750,000 Series A investment round into Clockster, a Kazakhstan human resources (HR) tech startup, the venture capital (VC) firm announced on Wednesday.
The round was joined by HR&ED-tech accelerator, a Russian accelerator that aims to build scalable HR tech ventures in Central Asia and Europe. Clockster's other early investors are the ABC-I2BF Seed Fund and angel investor Olzhas Zhiyenkulov.
The startup specialises in HR tools designed for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), which can automate payroll and time sheets, manage staff scheduling and facilitate communication between employees and their employers, independent of time zones.
Clockster says that it has more than 160 clients, of whom 85 per cent are located in Kazakhstan. It is stepping up client acquisitions from Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the Philippines, India and Singapore.
Jeffrey Seah, managing partner at Quest Ventures, said: "With Covid-19, the importance of multilateralism in global trade has taken on greater significance. We like that Clockster's products and services are well-positioned to liberate MSME and MNC businesses from the challenge of multi-location talent management, performance calibration and timely communication.
"They are an excellent team of technology entrepreneur-operators and have our full support in realising their global potential."
Mr Seah will join Clockster's board of directors. The startup will use the fresh funding for digital and geographic market expansion, hiring go-to-market talent and developing its SaaS (software as a service) offerings.
Yerzhan Ryskaliyev, chief executive and co-founder of Clockster, said that he was introduced to Quest Ventures by QazTech Ventures.
"Besides the monetary investment from Quest Ventures, we now have market access via the established Quest Ventures ecosystem into South-east Asia and beyond. We plan to use the investment to expand into the 700 million potential South-east Asia markets, as well as the CIS in Central Asia," he said.
He added: "Such co-ordinated support by QazTech Ventures is necessary for Kazakhstan startups in critical growth phases, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic slowing down the expansion plans of many startups."
Oksana Pogodaeva, managing partner at HR&ED-tech accelerator, said: "Clockster has shown visible traction with the first clients in the Asia-Pacific market. They're also good at solving market problems …We believe that Clockster is about to fly."
Diaz Beksoltan, deputy chairman of the board at Qaztech, said that he awaits Clockster's "transformation from an Astana startup into a full-fledged multi-market unicorn business".
Quest Ventures' key backers include Pavilion Capital, a unit of Singapore's Temasek, as well as QazTech Ventures, which is owned by Kazakhstan's sovereign wealth fund Baiterek. QazTech became a cornerstone investor of Quest Ventures in March 2020, with a goal to open up a new "economic corridor" for Kazakhstan and Central Asia startups to expand into South-east Asia.
Earlier this year, QazTech Ventures launched a startup acceleration programme in partnership with Quest Ventures. Called the Kazakhstan Digital Accelerator (KDA), it aims to increase the go-to-market speed of Kazakhstani startups and develop Central Asia tech talent.