(L-R) EME Myanmar’s Investment Manager Matthew Viner, and Mote Poh CEO Loring Harkness

EME Myanmar, a recently-launched early-stage VC fund, has led a six-digit seed round in Mote Poh, a Yangon-based employee-benefits-as-a-service startup in the country.

Nest Tech, a seed-stage VC fund focusing on technology startups in Myanmar, Vietnam and Singapore, also participated in the round.

Founded in May 2018 by serial entrepreneur Loring Harkness, Mote Poh seeks to transform the HR industry by partnering with companies to recognise and reward employees. Currently based out of the Phandeeyar co-working space in downtown Yangon, Mote Poh is developing a mobile app, and expanding to other types of loyalty programmes.

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According to Founder and CEO Harkness, Mote Poh is a localised version of employee benefits programmes that leading companies in Singapore, the US and other countries have been using for decades. Many companies in Myanmar provide employees with limited compensation packages: salary, personal income tax, social security contributions, and occasional ad hoc benefits like team dinners. At the same time, many companies have difficulty recruiting, recognising and rewarding, and retaining top talent.

“I spoke to dozens of company owners, CEOs and HR Managers. I asked them why they didn’t provide better benefits to their employees. Their answers were nearly all the same: they fear that implementing an employee benefits programme will be time consuming and expensive — and that employees wouldn’t appreciate it,” Harkness said.

“So I created Mote Poh — a small book full of 100 per cent free items and exclusive discounts at favourite shops, restaurants and activities across Myanmar — to help companies surprise and delight their employees every month. Mote Poh makes employee benefits easy — just great benefits employees love, with no hassle and no big price tag,” he added.

Mote Poh claims it has benefits for every taste and budget, and it is an effective tool to surprise and delight employees — which makes it easier and cheaper to recruit, recognise and reward, and retain staff.

Currently, Mote Poh serves over 60 clients, including Yoma Strategic Holdings and MyJobs.com.mm.

“In the years ahead, I see us partnering with leading employers to help them build truly inspiring places to work, which promote health, happiness and productivity, and then recognise and reward employees for great performance,” Harkness added.

Harkness has over eight years experience building, funding and mentoring impactful technology startups in Myanmar and across Southeast Asia. He was formerly Country Director of Building Markets, an international NGO focused on building Myanmar’s startup community. His previous ventures include Ngwe.Su, focusing on prize-linked savings accounts, ROSCAs and other financial inclusion tools for the under-banked, and Next Billion, which connects positive organizations to the next billion mobile consumers via mobile video, apps, and messaging platforms. He was also curator of TEDxYangon (2012) “People, Planet, Profit”.

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He holds a Bachelor of Arts from St. Olaf College in the United States and a Master of Laws from Monash University in Australia.

Based in Yangon, EME focuses on ‘tech-plus’ companies that are layering technology on top of existing networks and industries. Since inception in October 2018, it has made two investments: CarsDB, Myanmar’s leading online car portal, as well as Joosk Studio, an animation studio producing digital content for Myanmar’s emerging consumers.

Nest Tech invests in and nurtures technology entrepreneurs at the seed and early growth stages, focusing on the fast growing markets of Southeast Asia. Its other investments include Trophy Room, a peer-to-peer football gaming app in Singapore; Edu2Review, an education review platform in Vietnam; and Flexible Pass, a health and fitness app in Myanmar.