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HR automation platform Omni wants to be the ‘Rippling of Southeast Asia’

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Omni wants to be the human resources platform to rule them all—or at least all HR-related tasks. The software enables HR teams to digitize employee records, automate administrative tasks like employee onboarding and time-off management, and integrate employee data from different systems. Based in Singapore, it is currently active there and in Indonesia, and plans to roll out in other Southeast Asian markets after localizing for employment regulations.

The startup announced today it is coming out of stealth mode with $2.4 million in an oversubscribed pre-seed round co-led by Alpha JWC Ventures and Picus Capital, with participation from FEBE Ventures, Basis Set Ventures, Ratio Ventures and Frances Kang at Horizons Ventures. It also included investment from angel investors including former executives at U.S. HR software firms Namely and Ultimate Software.

Omni HR had its soft launch in March 2022 and is already used by several companies, including Indonesian investment app Ajaib. The funding will be used to add more features to Omni, including a recruitment module by the third quarter and a performance enhancement module by the end of the year.

The company was founded in 2021 by Brian Ip, a former Goldman Sachs executive, and data engineer YC Chan. Ip told TechCrunch that he had previously worked in software investment at Goldman Sachs Growth Fund and looked at many HR tech deals, which is how he and Chan first learned about the industry.

“Through research and talking to end users, we realized that HR software is a category that requires as lot of localization and there isn’t a winning product for Southeast Asia yet,” Ip said, adding that most local solutions only address limited functions, like payroll.

But most HR teams Chan and Ip spoke to wanted an all-in-one solution. Many were still using spreadsheets or basic payroll software. Examples of work they were doing manually that can be automated by Omni include onboarding new hires, recruiting employees, performance reviews, collecting documentation like employee IDs and preparing HR reports for internal management.

“From a strategic point of view, what we think makes this startup opportunity even more interesting is that, we do not see HR software as a silo-ed tool used only by the HR department,” Chan said. “Instead, we see it as a ‘system of record’ of employee information.”

Almost every app or business function within a company, including software, devices, office admin and finance, can be connected to Omni, turning it into a software infrastructure layer.

In terms of competition, Chan said he sees two categories: local payroll software and imported software from overseas. He added that this disadvantage of payroll software is that they only provide basic admin functions around payroll calculation, and are not scalable. They also don’t have features for performance appraisals, recruitment, onboarding and employee document management.

Imported HR software, on the other hand, is not localized, which means they lack features like payroll modules for Southeast Asian countries, local customer support and “sometimes even modules like time off tracking or attendance management that are not built flexible enough to accommodate policies in one market,” said Ip.

He added that Rippling and other top U.S. HR platform like Gusto and Namely are currently not available outside the United States. “We believe that, even if they do expand internationally at some point, localization requirements and the geo focus will allow us to build a strong moat.”

Localizing for each market can be quite complicated. HR managers in different countries need to collect different employee information. For example, in Singapore, employees provide the birth certificates of their children so companies can use them to apply for government reimbursements when they take childcare leave. On the other hand, companies in Indonesia collect multiple forms of ID information, including KTD (resident’s card), KK (family card) and NPWP (tax ID).

Each country also has different workflows. In Singapore, Ip said, the probation period of permanent staff can be “extended,” but in Indonesia a maximum of only three months is allowed, and it cannot be extended or renewed.

Payroll calculations also differ from country to country, and include factors like tax, pension and other statutory withholdings. Time off rules also vary. For recruitment, Omni can localize by connecting with local job boards instead of US-centered ones.

Singapore and Indonesia were chosen as Omni’s first markets because the startup’s initial customer segment are companies in tech and tech-adjacent verticals, in particular other VC-backed companies, Ip said. He added that “Singapore is possible the most mature market in Southeast Asia Asia in terms of software/cloud adoption and willingness to spend. Indonesia is one of the biggest, and rapidly growing, market opportunities in Southeast Asia.”

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Uber to sunset free loyalty program in favor of subscription membership

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Ride-hailing giant Uber is shutting down its free loyalty program, Uber Rewards, so it can focus on its subscription-based Uber One membership.

Uber first launched the rewards program in 2018 as a sort of frequent flyer scheme that allowed riders to earn points for every dollar spent on rides or Uber Eats deliveries. Those points could then be used to get discounts on future rides or deliveries. In November 2021, Uber began introducing Uber One, which, for $9.99 per month or $99.99 annually, allows members perks like 5% off certain rides or delivery orders and unlimited $0 delivery fees on food orders of over $15 and grocery orders of over $30.

In an email sent to customers that was picked up by The Verge, Uber said users can still earn points via the legacy rewards program until the end of August, and that they can redeem those points until October 31. Uber Rewards will officially shut down on November 1, 2022, according to an update posted by the company.

The Uber Rewards program allowed users to earn 1x point for every Uber Pool dollar spent, 2x for every UberX dollar spent and 3x for every $1 spent on Premium. The number of points accumulated would put members into different castes of loyalty, from Blue to Gold to Platinum to Diamond, the latter of which comes with benefits like access to highly rated drivers, free delivery on three Uber Eats orders, access to better customer service and free upgrades.

While phone support will continue for Diamond users, now the only way to get additional perks with Uber will be to shell out for a subscription. Existing Rewards members will get a free one-month subscription to Uber One, but then will be charged for access. If you’re someone who orders Uber Eats more than twice a month, you can easily break even with the Uber One subscription, but plenty of users might not see the money saving benefits in the switch.

Uber did not respond immediately for clarity as to why it is shutting down the Rewards program in favor of the Uber One membership. Perhaps the company did not see the returns and user loyalty that it would have expected from the program and thinks a subscription offering will provide better returns.

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Twilio gets hacked, teens ditch Facebook, and SpaceX takes South Korea to the moon

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Hi again! Welcome back to Week in Review, the newsletter where we quickly recap the top stories from TechCrunch dot-com this week. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

Is Facebook for old people? If you’ve got a teenager around the house, you’ve probably heard them say as much. The most read story this week is on a Pew study that suggests this generation of teens has largely abandoned the platform in favor of Instagram/YouTube/TikTok/etc.; whereas in 2014 around 71% of teens used Facebook, the study says in 2022 that number has dropped down to 32%.

other stuff

Mark Cuban sued over crypto platform promotion: “A group of Voyager Digital customers filed a class-action suit in Florida federal court against Cuban, as well as the basketball team he owns, the Dallas Mavericks,” writes Anita, “alleging their promotion of the crypto platform resulted in more than 3.5 million investors losing $5 billion collectively.”

A troubling layoff trend: While tech layoffs might, maybe, hopefully be showing signs of slowing, Natasha M points out a troubling trend: some companies are announcing layoffs only to announce another round of layoffs just weeks or months later.

SpaceX launches South Korea’s first moon mission: South Korea has launched its first-ever lunar mission — a lunar orbiter “launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket” ahead of plans to land on the surface some time in 2030.

Twilio gets hacked: While it’s unclear exactly what data was taken, Twilio says the data of at least 125 customers was accessed after some of its employees were tricked “into handing over their corporate login credentials” by an intense SMS phishing attack.

Amazon’s bizarre new show: Think “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” but made up of user-submitted footage from Ring security cameras. By now most people probably realize their every step is recorded on a security camera or three — but doesn’t embracing it as Entertainment™ like this feel kind of…icky?

Haus hits hard times: Haus, a company that ships specialized low-alcohol drinks direct to consumers, is looking for a buyer after a major investor backed out of its Series A. The challenge? Investor diligence for an alcohol company can take months, and Haus just doesn’t “have the cash to support continued operations at this time.”

woman pouring wine

Image Credits: Haus

audio stuff

How clean is the air you breathe every day? Aclima co-founder Davida Herzl wants everyone to be able to answer that question, and sat down with Jordan and Darrell on this week’s Found podcast to explain her mission. Meanwhile on Chain Reaction, Jacquelyn and Anita explain the U.S. gov’s crackdown of the cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash, and the Equity crew spent Wednesday’s show discussing whether the turbulent market conditions of late will mean we see fewer early-stage endeavors in the months ahead.

additional stuff

What lies behind the paywall? A lot of really good stuff! Here’s what TechCrunch+ subscribers were reading most this week…

Building an MVP when you can’t code: Got a great idea but can’t code? You can still get the ball rolling. Magnus Grimeland, founder of the early-stage VC firm Antler, lays out some of the key principles to keep in mind.

Are SaaS valuations staging a recovery?: “…the good news for software startup founders,” writes Alex, “is that the period when the deck was being increasingly stacked against them may now be behind us.”

VCs and AI-powered investment tools: Do VCs want AI-powered tools to help them figure out where to put their money? Kyle Wiggers takes a look at the concept, and why not all VCs are on board with it.

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After the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago, online threats quickly turn into real-world violence

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Threats of violence reached a fever pitch — reminiscent of the days leading up to the Capitol attack — following the news that the FBI raided Trump’s Florida beach club to retrieve classified documents the former president may have unlawfully taken there.

After Trump himself confirmed Monday’s raid at Mar-a-Lago, pro-Trump pundits and politicians rallied around declarations of “war,” and Trump’s ever-fervent supporters called for everything from dismantling the federal law enforcement agency to committing acts of violence against its agents. The situation escalated from there in record time, with online rhetoric boiling over quickly into real-world violence.

By Thursday, an armed man identified as Ricky Shiffer attempted to force his way into an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio, brandishing a rifle before fleeing. Law enforcement pursued Shiffer and he was fatally shot during the ensuing standoff with police.

Analysts with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a nonprofit that researches extremism and disinformation, found evidence that Shiffer was driven to commit violence by “conspiratorial beliefs related to former President Trump and the 2020 election…interest in killing federal law enforcement, and the recent search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago earlier this week.” He was also reportedly present at the January 6 attack — another echo between this week’s escalating online threats and the tensions that culminated in political violence at the Capitol that day.

Shiffer appears to have been active on both Twitter and Truth Social, the platform from Trump’s media company that hosts the former president and his supporters. As Thursday’s attack unfolded, Shiffer appeared to post to Truth Social about how his plan to infiltrate the FBI office by breaking through a ballistic glass barrier with a nail gun had gone awry. “Well, I thought I had a way through bullet proof glass, and I didn’t,” the account posted Thursday morning. “If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I., and it’ll mean either I was taken off the internet, the F.B.I. got me, or they sent the regular cops…”

In posts on Truth Social, the account implored others to “be ready to kill the enemy” and “kill the FBI on sight” in light of Monday’s raid at Mar-a-Lago. It also urged followers to heed a “call to arms” to arm themselves and prepare for combat. “If you know of any protests or attacks, please post here,” the account declared earlier this week.

By Friday, that account was removed from the platform and a search of Shiffer’s name mostly surfaced content denouncing his actions. “Why did you censor #rickyshiffer‘s profile? So much for #truth and #transparency,” one Truth Social user posted on Friday. Still, online conspiracies around the week’s events remain in wide circulation on Truth Social and elsewhere, blaming antifa for the attack on the Ohio FBI office, accusing the agency of planting documents at Mar-a-Lago and sowing unfounded fears that well-armed IRS agents will descend on Americans in light of Friday’s House passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

“‘Violence against law enforcement is not the answer no matter what anybody is upset about or who they’re upset with,’ FBI director Christopher Wray said in light of emerging threats of violence this week. Trump appointed Wray to the role in 2017 after infamously ousting former FBI director James Comey.”

Friday is also the five-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally, which saw white nationalists clad in Nazi imagery marching openly through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. The ensuing events left 32-year-old protester Heather Heyer dead and sent political shockwaves through a nation that had largely grown complacent about the simmering threat of white supremacist violence.

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