Shannon Karaka, Head of Expansion ANZ, at payroll startup Deel.
Payroll software startup Deel has outlined major expansion plans across Australia and New Zealand, with a raft of new customers and several significant local hires. 
It comes as Deel co-founder Alex Bouaziz revealed earlier this month the startup was one of the fastest companies to reach $136 million (US$100 million) in annual recurring revenue (ARR).
ARR measures annual revenue through subscription and contract agreements with customers, relevant to Software-as-a-Service companies (SaaS) led globally by the likes of Intuit, Salesforce and Asana. 
Deel was valued at $7.5 billion (US$5.5 billion) as of October 2021. 
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Founded in 2019 by Bouaziz and Shuo Wang, Deel supplies compliance and payroll platforms that enable businesses to hire and onboard remote staff.
Its technology manages payroll, HR, compliance, benefits and perks for firms with global teams, including independent contractors and full-time employees. Deel’s platform also provides businesses with tools to create compliant localised contracts across 120 currencies. 
The San Francisco-based startup kicked off its growth with a Series A capital raise of US$4.5 million in March 2019. Most recently, the private company raised US$425 million from a Series D round in late 2021. 
As businesses reevaluate workplace policies following two years of working from home — and amid a talent crunch — Bouaziz says employers are using Deel to bring in international hires.
“Australia and New Zealand are priority countries for us,” Bouaziz said. 
“Between their burgeoning startups eager to take on the world, their global reputation for top talent, and the immense natural beauty of the region that attracts the world’s best people, these are key markets for us,” he said. 
The ANZ expansion comes as Deel beefs up the roster of Australian startup and tech clients.
The startup recently signed Queensland unicorn SafetyCulture, which reached a $2.2 billion valuation late last year. 
Other notable firms to join the ranks include Australian tech giant Linktree, which is using Deel to expand into new markets; non-alcoholic spirit beverage company Lyre’s Spirit Co; and Australian e-bike startup Zoomo
Amid this local growth, Deel has also announced a raft of new hires to grow its presence in Australia and New Zealand. 
The startup has hired former Salesforce executive Hugh Rainbow to head up its NZ operations, to increase its Kiwi business customer base. 
Meanwhile, APAC head of communications Antonia Sanda has come on board after almost nine years at Facebook (now Meta), and Blake Trott left employee management startup Deputy to serve as APAC SMB sales manager. 
Shannon Karaka, head of expansion for Deel in the ANZ region, told SmartCompany that while Deel is working with companies across a wide variety of sectors globally, it is focused on solving problems in Australia’s startup ecosystem.
“In Australia and New Zealand, a large part of our customer base is startups that have found success in the local market and want to expand overseas while staying operationally nimble,” Karaka told SmartCompany over email. 
“We’re also working with a number of mid-sized and larger organisations that have needed to hire or retain employees that for one reason or another need to work from overseas.”
With the local talent crunch showing no signs of abating in the short term, local businesses are “facing huge challenges” recruiting tech, marketing and sales talent, Karaka says. 
“Our current visa systems have cost and complexity hurdles which startups often don’t have the resources to overcome,” he says, which makes SaaS-based cross-border hiring solutions an attractive alternative solution. 
By using remote hiring, companies can find highly skilled workers they cannot find locally, hire much faster, with the potential for more cost effective rates. 
“We’ve seen businesses substantially bring down their hiring costs, leading to increased return on investment,” Karaka adds.
These are “valuable business metrics that startups and their backers are focused on”.
Deel’s growth follows moves by a number of companies to expand its global workforce policies. 
In late 2021, Deloitte and KPMG said they would extend the option of remote working in overseas locations to Australian staff in a bid to discourage professionals, and young staffers, from resigning if they wanted to work overseas.
And Australian tech giant Atlassian last year told its 5,700 global staff they could work from any location in the world — as long as it has a base, they have a legal right to work there, and the time zone was broadly aligned with the rest of their team.
Internal research from Deel claims remote workers in Australia enjoyed the biggest salary gains in APAC from June to December 2021.
Karaka says Deel has seen uptake from companies like Zoomo thanks to the platform’s ability to help startups expand into new markets. 
“Deel was the only solution they tried that could help them do this at the speed they needed, seamlessly and with minimal effort,” he says. 
The recent achievement of US$100 million ARR showed there was hunger for tools to help fast-growing companies scale, he adds.
“This shows that there is a genuine need for our platform across the world.”
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