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Localyze raises $12M for a SaaS that supports cross-border hiring and relocation

·8-min read

Y-Combinator-backed Localyze has nabbed $12 million in Series A funding led by Blossom Capital for a SaaS that supports staff relocations and hiring across borders.

Previous investor Frontline Ventures also participated, with a number of angel investors joining the round -- including Andrew Robb (ex-Farfetch); Des Traynor, co-founder and CSO at Intercom; Hanno Renner, co-founder and CEO at Personio; David Clarke, former CTO at Workday; and Michael Wax, CEO of Forto.

In the first quarter of 2021, the Hamburg, Germany-based startup -- which was founded in 2018 by a trio of women: CEO Hanna Asmussen, COO Lisa Dahlke and CTO Franzi Löw -- saw a record 300% revenue bump.

Localyze's current roster of customers include the likes of Free Now, Trade Republic, Babbel, Thoughtworks, Tier Mobility, DeepL, Forto and Personio.

The startup suggests the pandemic-triggered rise in remote working is helping to drive demand for relocations as employees reassess where they want to be physically based. Its SaaS aims to streamline immigration-related admin tasks like visa applications; work and residence permits and registration; as well as providing help with housing and banking in the destination country.

"It was very interesting, we did of course see a negative impact from COVID-19 in 2020 but the main reason why we never worried about our business model is that we knew the businesses have never been the only driver of relocations," Asmussen tells TechCrunch.

"We did a survey among the internationals we relocated and 98% stated that they wanted to relocate and weren’t forced by the company. I of course believe that some people will choose not to relocate but at the same time, the increased flexibility [of remote working] opens many more doors for other people to relocate -- and also for different time frames."

To date, Localyze says it's helped more than 2,000 people from over 100 countries relocate internationally. But it reckons that's just the start.

"Relocation is becoming a benefit at some companies, and the overall number of people moving across borders during their working life is increasing drastically," argues Asmussen.

Before COVID-19 hit and reconfigured so much of how we live, almost two million people relocated for work within Europe each year. But Localyze cites a PwC study on mobility in the global skilled workforce that suggests employee relocation is set to increase by 50% as we emerge from the pandemic.

"While the percentage of the global skilled workforce that is mobile -- meaning that they work or worked abroad -- is currently still very low, around 20% I think, it is expected to grow to up to 80% in the next decade," she suggests.

Localyze's SaaS is designed to simplify and support staff relocations or cross-border hiring, offering digital tools to automate admin and case tracking, helping companies and employees navigate what can be complex, bureaucratic and even stressful immigration requirements.

"We developed a software that automates large parts of the relevant processes around global mobility," explains Asmussen. "The core of our technology is a pipeline system that maps out all possibilities of how the employee can enter a country and matches the pipeline with the characteristics of that employee (e.g., nationality, family status or education). This guarantees that the employee gets all the relevant information throughout their process and that our case managers can focus on more individual questions.

"One big advantage of this pipeline system is that we built a no-code solution to manage it. Together with our CMS to edit the content of the steps, we are able to quickly expand the usability of our software to new countries and use cases.

"On the HR side our software helps to manage and track the process of all employees with the ease of mind that we notify them about changes or required actions. The HR manager can simply add a case, or transfer information over through our integration with their HRIS and we take it from there."

Asmussen says the core of the platform is the automation of the paperwork with the startup supplementing that by providing a level of (human) support -- in the form of case workers, who can field users' questions and/or troubleshoot issues.

Case types its platform handles -- such as obtaining a new visa, getting an extension, etc. -- get broken down into a series of individual tasks that need to be carried out (and checked off), with the individual set of '"do's" determined by the characteristics of the person (origin, family, salary, etc.).

So essentially it's built a decision tree with 30-50 variations per country, based on the specificity of each set of rules.

"The employee is seeing this as a personalized set of to-do’s in [their] dashboard and can then go through them," notes Asmussen, adding: "The case managers are there for questions and to give additional guidance when problems occur.

"Thanks to the automation engine, we can operate at 80% gross margin today."

Localyze also offers a "pre-check" feature that give companies the opportunity to get information on a case that's being considered -- such as showing information on applicable conditions like the salary limits associated with a role when it comes to the visa of a new hire and the timeline that may be involved -- to make it easier for them to understand the complexity of a case. (Which may in turn help them make an informed decision on a start date for a particular hire.)

The startup says it's been seeing growth rates hitting, on average, more than 30% month on month, as employer demand for its services accelerates.

The Series A funding will be used to capitalize on growing demand by expanding into new regions -- with Localyze saying it will start by focusing on "major hubs" for international talent in Ireland, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and the U.K., so it can target more high-growth companies with offices across Europe.

Currently it has over 120 customers -- and it's expecting that to double by the end of the year.

It also predicts existing accounts will expand in value -- with Asmussen saying it's closing larger ACVs (annual contract value), and seeing existing accounts "grow strongly" over time. (It offers tiered pricing for the SaaS, based on usage.)

Europe remains the primary focus for its business currently -- with all cases it supports entailing helping customers relocate staff to the region ("from all over the world") and within Europe itself.

"The predominant destinations are Germany, Ireland, Spain and the U.K.," says Asmussen. "With the funding, we want to accelerate our expansion in the U.K., Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, besides our core market Germany. We’ve been operating in these markets for a while and now look at strengthening our go-to-market across Europe."

She says Localyze's 25-strong team will at least double by the end of the year, with the startup planning to hire across all teams -- with a particular focus on expanding engineering and product to keep pace with the scaling business; and beefing up sales and customer support capacity to support its continued growth.

On the competitor front, Asmussen names Estonia-headquartered Jobbatical as its closest rival for relocation support with the same digital focus.

She also points to Topia as providing some competing services -- but says it has more of a focus on software for HR professionals and integrating partners versus Localyze providing both an HR and an employee portal plus the "glue" of its "automation engine."

Localyze also argues it differentiates versus "more traditional" relocation agencies (e.g., Cartus and Graebel), per Asmussen, because it offers "end-to-end support" in a fully digital form -- giving users "full visibility and transparency at all times," as she tells it, and helping to streamline and simplify processes in "what has previously been a complex and confusing space."

Increased flexibility of work and mobility of the global workforce looks set to be one firm (and typically welcome) legacy of the pandemic -- one that Localyze already had a handle on supporting, putting it in a strong position to scale its SaaS as demand steps up in the coming years.

Rising levels of employee mobility may, in turn, make subscribing to a software service that assists relocations and cross-border hiring more of a "must have" than a "nice to have" for more types of businesses -- especially as competition for talent heats up given the rising opportunities of remote work.

"In 2021, companies will need to define how they are going to operate post-COVID-19, and many companies keep locations as part of their people strategy. Yet they try to offer more flexibility in terms of location choices, which in many cases results in the creation of different talent hubs and a mix of remote with in-person hubs/offices. This means increased operations across borders and more employee mobility, both long and short term, because people will make use of these options," Asmussen predicts.

Commenting on the Series A in a statement, Blossom Capital's Ophelia Brown added: “Access to the very best talent is a huge consideration for businesses of all sizes, but for high-growth enterprises, it’s absolutely crucial that nothing gets in the way of being able to tap into the skills and abilities of staff anywhere in Europe. Localyze removes all of these barriers. Instead of being bogged down by the costly and lengthy relocation processes, enterprises can concentrate on the job at hand and their employees can feel confident and secure that their relocation — often one of the biggest decisions they’ll have to make in their career — is dealt with efficiently and without a hitch.”

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