Homage, a Singapore-based startup that connects caregivers with elderly people seeking assistance, has closed a $1.2 million seed round. The money comes from 500 Startups’ Southeast Asia fund, Golden Gate Ventures, and SeedPlus, a fund affiliated with Jungle Ventures.
Launched in May 2016, Homage was founded by Gillian Tee, a Singaporean who has spent time working in the U.S. where, among other things, she started Rocketrip, a startup backed by Y Combinator that has raised nearly $20 million. Tee said she decided to return home to Southeast Asia after 15 years overseas because she wanted to be closer to family and saw the potential for startups.
“More information [about the tech scene] was flowing into the U.S.. I was very curious and spent a year deciding whether I would come back,” she told TechCrunch in an interview. “It really is the right time because there is almost that tipping point about what it means to start tech companies. It’s a smaller ecosystem for sure, but the potential is enormous.”
Tee initially looked into opportunities in healthcare tech and job portals but, after finding both verticals fairly saturated in terms of options, she decided to combine the two and create Homage, which uses the asset light platform model to match supply with demand for care for seniors. Teaming up with healthcare industry exec Lily Phang and former banker Tong Duong, the service went live in Singapore last year.
The primarily goal, Tee said, is to widen the pool of healthcare workers to match increasing demand. Homage actively recruits and vets caregivers, who must hold relevant qualifications to even be considered for the platform. Users can book different kinds of services, whether it be on-demand for an hour, or regular scheduled sessions through the Homage service. Homage itself assigns the right kind of caregiver based on the demand of seniors themselves, or their families.
While the concept of the gig economy is seen as borderline exploitive to many due to slim margins and low pay, Homage aims to improve the conditions that many caregivers face when working with employment agencies to get jobs.
“Many healthcare workers are employed on fixed and rigid schedules first of all, then they get paid terribly,” Tee explained. “In the same way that Uber empowers and widens the number of drivers, we’re thinking we can do similar.’
Homage is initially sticking to Singapore, but the startup is keeping an eye on opportunities to venture overseas to different parts of Southeast Asia. That makes a lot of sense because Singapore, while Westernized in many ways, has a limited pool of just over five million residents, while Southeast Asia as a whole houses more than 600 million consumers.
“We’re not in a rush,” Tee said. “We want to make sure the need is really met in Singapore. We’re thinking to expand to one country in the next two years.”