Australian Startup Aims to Build UK’s First ‘Super App’

Published 6 months ago

Australian co-founder of HR tech unicorn, Employment Hero, Ben Thompson, is determined to make his firm the UK’s first ‘super app’. The company, which raised €158m in its Series F, now boasts a valuation of €1.2bn.

Employment Hero’s Expansion to the UK

Employment Hero officially entered the UK market last year, following its successful expansion into New Zealand, Malaysia, and Singapore. The firm plans to double its London workforce to 180 within a year and aims to expand its existing 20k-strong SME client base in the UK. It also aspires for the UK to become its largest market within three years.

Thompson has a personal connection with the UK, having spent three years working in London during the dotcom boom from 1999 to 2003.

The Vision for Employment Hero in Europe

Thompson envisions more for Employment Hero than just being another HR tech platform in the UK market. By controlling payroll, the company can dictate when employees get paid. For instance, if an employee wishes to be paid for eight days of work on the eighth day, that’s possible. If they prefer daily payments over weekly or monthly ones, that’s also an option.

Thompson believes this shift in payment methods positions Employment Hero at the core of a transformation in finance which he sees as highly valuable.

Launching a Payment Solution and Super App Ambitions

While other startups in Europe, such as Wagestream, offer real-time payments, Employment Hero has launched its own payment solution named Instapay. This offers a digital Visa debit card and a spending account within the firm’s app, Swag, for a fee of around £1.

Thompson clarifies that this service is not analogous to a payday loan, as employees are not borrowing money with an interest rate or late fees, which might encourage a cycle of debt.

In the UK, Employment Hero has collaborated with embedded finance company Weavr, and is leveraging its regulatory framework. The firm has recently submitted its payroll processing for earned wage access to HMRC and anticipates being regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on the payment side of the business.

Furthermore, Thompson plans to use Employment Hero’s data to launch a recruitment portal. This will use AI to match individuals with jobs, onboard new employees, set up their payroll, pay them, and assist them in spending their money.

Thompson’s ambition to create a super app is clear. The app, Swag, aims to help users find work, manage work, get paid, and save. Thompson contends that the anticipated fintech super app has surprisingly emerged from an employment platform.

However, Muz Ashraf, a general partner at TCV (one of the Series F investors), is more hesitant to label Employment Hero as a super app. He views it more as an employee’s communication mechanism, allowing users to manage their employment details such as approving payroll, viewing leave, and managing benefits.