3 Startups for Finding Work in Hong Kong

September 27, 2011

9:55 am

Some observers think the way we work is fundamentally changing, and Hong Kong entrepreneur William Liang is one of them.

“We’re strong believers in the new work/labor paradigm – the granularization of labor units,” says Liang. Rather than work 9-5 jobs, many young adults and others are juggling a handful of different gigs – like Liang himself, who cofounded a startup and a hackerspace in Hong Kong and is teaching a course on entrepreneurship.

That startup, Grabbit, is part of this new paradigm. Similar to TaskRabbit in the United States, it connects busy people with “Grabbits” to perform tasks like organizing receipts, moving boxes, or fixing computers. After users post tasks, certified Grabbits (right now, that numbers around 200) can complete them for the stated price. Liang and Andrew Chen conceived Grabbit during a weekend “BootUP” and are targeting the Hong Kong market for now.

If scurrying around doing odd jobs doesn’t interest you, Hong Kong startup EmployMe focuses on freelance work. EmployMe was inspired by the few tedious days Jerry Cheung spent looking for an accountant, searching online and calling agencies one by one.

As on Grabbit, freelancers input their skills on EmployMe and receive alerts about related job posts, like app development or interior design. They then bid on jobs by offering better prices or quality, with the customer making the final decision. EmployMe also has a marketplace to advertise services. Cheung used EmployMe to find a designer for the website’s banner, attracting ten bidders in a few hours. Now, over a thousand freelancers have joined the site and finished around 300 services, Cheung says.

Full-time jobs in Hong Kong are the province of Qbid, which also grew out of a “very painful experience” searching for employees – an experience all too familiar to Hong Kong’s hundreds of thousands of expats, says founder David Lee.

Started in late 2010, Qbid’s marketplace reaches Taiwan as well as Hong Kong. Rather than employers posting jobs, they search rated listings of job seekers like secretaries and maids. Qbid helps those job seekers craft their profiles with better descriptions, photos and videos, and the opportunity to earn a “seal of approval” by submitting references and doing an interview. Employers can also submit a form on the website and get matched with 3 or 4 potential employees.

While Qbid focuses on longer-term jobs, it does overlap with EmployMe in its listings for designers, English-teachers, and movers – and plans to expand into wedding, pet, business, and beauty services. Qbid is currently more friendly to expats, with its English-language website and pre-screening of some job candidates.

Qbid may also end up competing with Grabbit, if they follow through with plans to expand into tasks – like buying flowers for your wife or “anything you need to get done,” says Lee.

But all 3 will have to deal with cultural differences, as Grabbit builds a Chinese version of its site and Qbid considers moving into southern China. According to Lee, Chinese and American people are more open to using the Internet to find help from strangers, while the Taiwanese rely more on neighbors within a trusted community. US startups may bump into these differences, too, if they expand their job platforms overseas.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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