Written by Counterpart’s Mikey Kailis.
We fortuitously met Nurasyl Serik, the CEO & Founder of Remofirst on a Friday afternoon at one of our Lazy Lunches in San Francisco. We started hosting founder lunches in cities around the US as a way to connect up with a selective audience of entrepreneurs that were running businesses we might like to invest in. Usually around 30–35 founders attend these lunches, we host them on Friday afternoons specifically so founders can take a breath at the end of the working week, enjoy lunch for a few hours and maybe a glass of wine with us so as to see our social side. We talk life, family events and something good that has happened to you recently.
At our last SF Lazy Lunch one founder from a recent YC batch attended, Eunice Wong of Milky Way AI. And although we never invested in her business, we must attribute the source of our investment in Remofirst to Eunice. Because it was Eunice who invited her friend Nurasyl along.
Nurasyl joined as the lunch was concluding, as founders were leaving and heading back to the office. It was while outside having a chat with a few founders that Nurasyl and I got chatting. We started talking about his new business and why he was in town from London. Nurasyl and his co-founder had built a software business that allowed companies to hire remote workers all over the world using local EORs (Employers of Record). Their software allows businesses to follow local employer laws and regulations while making hires in countries they do not currently operate in. Nurasyl was in the SF Bay Area to raise the Seed round for his business which was already on an amazing trajectory despite minimal prior funding ($275k angel round) a lean team of five and zero dollars spent on marketing.
Previously we looked at several other startups in this category and were questionable on their business models. We considered the market to be an wide open space where multiple software solutions can coexist without one clear winner. Remote work had created so many new investment opportunities and we needed to consider the expertise we could bring from Counterpart Ventures to startups that were emerging. After a short chat at our Lazy Lunch and several meetings after, we moved quickly to commit an investment in their $14.1M seed round which was perhaps one of the fastest processes we’ve run. TechCrunch announcement: https://techcrunch.com/2022/09/22/saas-startup-remofirst-raises-14-1m-to-make-it-cheaper-and-easier-for-businesses-to-hire-remote-workers-globally/
Nurasyl had embraced the “remote work” momentum. He saw an opportunity to build a new company, noticing that the stereotypical office setup was changing forever. The COVID-19 pandemic shook up the office space and the typical 9–5 workday.
Remofirst isn’t the first startup to seize this opportunity, there are several others out there. But few (if any) have given the local legacy incumbents the resources to empower their businesses like Remofirst. Local EORs have forever been the sole option when companies hire overseas, in countries that they didn’t previously operate. Their business model was owning the local knowledge and charging a fee for their service, a unit based model (per company, per hire). EORs couldn’t operate at scale because these were typically without the technological resources to grow. Remofirst helps businesses with their complete software stack (payments, payroll, FX, compliance, regulatory, health insurance, PTO logs and more) to onboard employees overseas with no hassle and at the lowest cost.
Remofirst has gone on to adopt a business model with incredible unit economics that allows them to be the most cost-effective solution in market. For any business looking to hire employees in a country they currently do not operate in, Remofirst is the most cost-effective solution out there.
Remofirst provides a cost-efficient solution by empowering local resources that already exist as opposed to displacing them like other tech solutions.
We are excited to invest in Remofirst because the way employees work has changed forever as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sure, employees will go back to the office and already are (here at Counterpart Ventures we have been back at the office as a team since June 2021) but the tools we use and the flexibility to work wherever has altered the stereotypical office setup. We are firm believers in remote work, distributed teams and all the tech tools that empower this industry (Zoom, Slack, Notion, Airtable etc…).
Remote work and distributed teams are not a new revelation either. For instance, another of our portfolio companies, Cloudbeds has been distributed since day #1. Read this 2018 article on why a globally distributed team has been key to their success. We simply acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic was a force multiplier to the remote work industry. Remofirst efficiently on-boards any offshore or remote team in a compliant manner, ensuring proper alignment with local regulations, compliance and payroll tax. An employer can have peace of mind knowing that Remofirst will navigate with ease all the complex requirements of on-boarding a new worker or contractor at a low fee.
Like all Seed stage companies we invest in, we invest in the founders. And there’s few more dogged or relentless than Nurasyl Serik. Born in Kazakhstan and grew up in London, despite his lack of allegiance to a Premier League soccer team, we were immediately impressed by his aptitude for this industry and the progress he had made at such an early stage. Nurasyl impressed when he managed to bring on two of the best in the fintech space as co-investors with us: Mouro Capital, a former CVC fund we’ve had a wonderful relationship with for several years and QED Investors. He has then since managed to surround himself with an all-star senior leadership team.
We consider Remofirst a unique combination of fintech and HR tech. And here at Counterpart Ventures we have made several investments in the HR tech space (Vendition, Velocity Career Labs, V-Comply and others). Our founding GP Joe Saijo was also previously the Managing Director for Recruit Strategic Partners, the CVC arm of Recruit Holdings. So we tend to have a predilection for HR tech deals with Remofirst capitalizing on all the right trends we’ve seen evolve throughout the pandemic.
The timing was right, Remofirst has the opportunity to capitalize on a trend that isn’t going away. Remote work is here to stay and we’re proud to call ourselves investors in this amazing business.
Kudos to Nurasyl and his team. We’re excited to be on the journey with you.