SmartWage, an innovative HR and communications technology startup, has raised a $2 million seed funding round that was oversubscribed to support its vision of transforming Africa’s workforce through digital inclusion, particularly for frontline employees such as cashiers, restaurant staff, security personnel, and healthcare workers.
SmartWage provides businesses with a simple yet efficient approach to digitize their most time-consuming HR activities, allowing them to focus on what matters most – their people.
Employees who do not have access to email can use WhatsApp to receive company-wide communication, view payslips, request leave, and access financial wellness products.
90 percent of frontline employees don’t have or don’t use email, while 97 percent of formally employed people in South Africa use WhatsApp. In a country where most people have less than five apps on their phone, engagement is best when using an existing distribution channel like WhatsApp to reach employees.
Simon Ellis, CEO, SmartWage: “There is a communication gap. Frontline employees don’t feel part of a company’s brand and its promise. Payslips and leave are still done manually with paper printouts, while employee communication is done using notice boards or apps, which have huge usage drop-offs. Onboarding and disciplinary procedures are still paper-based, costing businesses precious time, money and resources”.
But it’s not only about driving efficiencies for employers. SmartWage has developed a host of financial wellness products that give employees the financial lifeline they need. These include access to free financial education and on-demand pay.
“We have learnt through our process that employees need access to cash more than ever before. 80% of South Africans struggle to make it to the end of the month without relying on some form of short term debt, and the payday loan industry is booming. If we can save employers time and money through digitisation, we can bridge the gap between South African enterprises and their frontline employees, helping enterprises connect clearly and dynamically with their employees, whilst offering financial wellness tools at the same time. By offering tools that benefit both employers and employees, we have a powerful value proposition,” says Ellis.
The company was founded in May 2020 and offers enterprises a simple yet effective way to digitise HR processes, helping them save time and money by giving employees without email the ability to receive company-wide communication, access their payslips, request leave and get access to financial wellness products, all via WhatsApp.
The seed funding was accessed via several influential investors. One of those investors is Idris Bello, founding partner of LoftyInc Capital, a pan-African VC fund headquartered in Nigeria, and an early investor in Flutterwave and Andela, two of Africa’s tech unicorns.
Bello said he was excited by the scalability of the SmartWage product set and the impact it could have, in both Africa and beyond the continent.
Retail, quick service restaurants (QSRs), manufacturing, construction, and hospitality are among SmartWage’s clients.
Edgars, KFC, Debonairs, Seattle Coffee, Truda, and Twizza are among the companies that have increased their monthly active user base 14 times in the last 12 months.