#Asia How quickly can you scale? Not as fast as you need to if you are in the midst of a talent crunch


Bolton Remote makes it easier to quickly scale with a platform to source and manage global remote teams


In this present reality of cheap flights and globally competitive employees, businesses have begun to turn their attention to potential hires overseas. Especially for cities where there is a shortage of talent, like in Singapore or New York City, or a disjoint between the local talent pool and employment opportunities, sourcing employees elsewhere has become a viable option.


It has been very challenging on hiring talent in Singapore. The pool of Singaporeans willing to work as software engineers is very small and most of them are already working for the Government and big companies, so startups and SMEs have always been heavily reliant on foreign talent.

– Ryan Ho, CTO, KWL


Large companies have historically either set up shop directly in countries to tap into additional labour markets, or have partnered with local businesses or outsourcing providers such as BPOs (Business Process Outsourcing companies) to access the talent that they need.
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It is not just companies making the move. Employees have also gone out of their home countries, either accepting relocation packages or striking out on their own, to look for employment opportunities elsewhere.

Most technology startups don’t have a very interesting cost structure. Almost all of it is in one giant fixed-cost bucket: salaries. And all of that cost was caused by one activity: hiring.

– Eric Ries, Author, The Lean Startup


But while startups and large enterprises are going global when it comes to searching for talent, government regulatory policies are quite restrictive for those who want to bring the talent to them. Singapore, for example, has implemented stricter measures for employment passes for foreigners over the recent years. Another example is the United States, with its current “Buy American and Hire American” initiative that proposes to cap H-1b visas – a programme used heavily by tech companies to bring foreign talent into the country, which holds 12-13 per cent of jobs in the country.
Ryan Ho, CTO of  Singapore-based startup KWL and long-time veteran of Singapore’s startup scene shared, “initially, it was relatively easy to have the entire engineering team based in Singapore due to the ease of obtaining the Employment Passes for foreign talent. However, in recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to obtain Employment Passes even for talented and highly paid software engineering professionals. Rejection rates were unacceptably high, and even the approvals sometimes required cumbersome appeal and audit processes.”


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This disjoint in business need and government regulations usually results in either very large expenses or a shortage of talent for companies.

In fact, as of February 2017, 96 per cent of employers in Singapore are still having difficulties in finding the skilled employees they need. And Singapore is not the only one feeling this talent crunch; neighboring Malaysia (97 per cent) and overseas United States (86 per cent) also find it challenging to hire for their technical talent requirements.

Enter the ability to work and collaborate remotely, one of the internet’s greatest gifts to businesses, where companies need not set up a physical office outside their home country or worry about bringing in foreigners to fill jobs.

Caveats to a borderless work setup

Remote working does pose challenges of its own. Foremost of these challenges is the actual process of searching and hiring. For a startup looking for qualified employees, sifting through candidates (or sometimes even just knowing where to start looking for candidates) is a daunting task, and making hiring decisions based on paper and online interviews without vetting from a trusted source can be risky.

And while large companies have the added benefit of brand recognition to attract new hires, startups do not have the same luxury. According to iCrunchData Founder and CEO Todd Nevins, “the two biggest challenges that we see startups facing when competing for talent is their lack of brand recognition and candidate concerns about the stability of the company” – challenges already encountered in the home country, moreso overseas.
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Managing a larger, scaling remote workforce also poses difficulties for businesses. One or two employees working from home on a part-time basis may be manageable, but when that number goes up, risks increase. Compound that with the differences of bringing on people from different cultures and geographies, and it can be a challenge to successful scale efficient operations.
Then there is the matter of the employees themselves. Oftentimes, employees engaging in remote work are freelancers juggling several projects at once. This setup may work for some but for most venture-backed companies focused on growth, full time and dedicated employees are a necessity.
High-growth startups, in particular, may encounter all of the previously mentioned challenges in building a remote team and then some – to keep their momentum going, they need to hire the best talent that will propel their business forward, but the speed of sourcing and hiring may not match the speed in which they need to grow. Building teams, or even just sourcing and hiring talent, takes up resources that a startup cannot afford to expend.

We are solving a talent problem. The problem with getting talent, vetting talent, and scaling talent. We are living in an era of global, remote workforces – companies that can successfully engage remote talent can reap the benefits – like cost savings, access to large pools of specialized people, flexibility and speed. At the end of the day, a startup’s growth is still powered by people.

-Patrick Linton, Co-Founder, Bolton Remote


A platform for expansion

Bolton Remote was founded in 2013 to address the issues businesses face when they need talent faster and more affordably than the local talent market can provide. Initially a remote staffing service, Bolton has evolved into a diverse array of people-oriented services and an online staffing platform with the goal of helping high-growth companies build their teams with quality talent located in emerging, cost-effective talent markets.

When it comes to the rapidly evolving online staffing market, there is a huge gap when it comes to being able to quickly recruit and staff full-time remote positions in developing markets. Bolton fills that gap for some amazing companies, by being locally-relevant to the people we hire, and by taking out much of the risk that companies expose themselves to when they hire part-timers off of the majority of staffing marketplaces. -Jason Bolante, Co-Founder

What makes Bolton interesting is that they are somewhere between an online staffing marketplace and an outsourcing provider – but by being neither they give companies the ability to have the best of both worlds.

With Bolton’s business model, it is ultimately in their commercial interests to help the client hire great staff and retain them for a long time. You won’t find this in mainstream outsourcing business models, where it is in the interest of the outsourcing company to rotate the best engineers out of projects into new ones as quickly as possible. With Bolton Remote we have full-control over the hiring and managing of our team members, we were able to set up a team of close to 20 from scratch.”

– Ryan Ho, CTO, KWL


The key lies in Bolton’s biggest difference from an online marketplace: Bolton attracts people who are looking for a long-time job, not people who want freelance work. This, they say, enables them to hire the best people who have a long-term perspective and who are personally vested in seeing things through. These highly skilled talents in developing markets, like the Philippines where Bolton employees total nearly 200 specialists ranging from techies to marketers, often aren’t able to work directly for a Silicon Valley startup unless they physically move to the United States. Bolton enables them to work remotely in Silicon Valley (or Singapore), all while staying in their home country.


As we grew, we encountered challenges hiring qualified talent quickly and efficiently. Bolton Remote alleviated this problem and more by simplifying the search and interview process, supporting our hires in their office and with HR. I would recommend Bolton Remote as an outsourced staffing solution for any start-up looking to grow a team quickly and methodically.

-Jeffrey Liu, CEO, GuavaPass


With its continuous pipeline of talent and the ability to retain that talent over time, Bolton has solved many startups’ struggles with a local talent crunch.
Bolton Remote was founded by Patrick Linton and Jason Bolante. Based in the United States with a regional headquarters in Singapore and offices in the Philippines and Japan, Bolton employs hundreds of people and supports nearly 80 companies across the United States, Singapore, Australia, and Europe.


Featured image credit: kantver / 123RF Stock Photo

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