COVID merely accelerated the shift to remote work already underway, he says
Alex Bouaziz’s educational journey was not restrained by borders. The co-founder and CEO of Deel, the platform for global hiring and payments, grew up in Paris, France. For his Bachelors, he attended Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, Israel. He then crossed the Atlantic to get a Master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering at MIT, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before spending a year working on a PhD at Imperial College London, in the United Kingdom.
“I was always very international,” he says.
Bouaziz dropped out of his PhD program to build his first two companies: Lifeslice and Sarona Ventures, in 2016. Because the businesses were bootstrapped, he could not afford British or Bay-Area engineers and needed to tap other labour markets around the world.
He found that while talent was spread throughout the world, opportunity was not so evenly distributed. His MIT classmates that went back to their home countries sometimes made one-twentieth what those who stayed in the U.S. were paid, even when the former was a better engineer.
Seeing the benefit of recruiting talent internationally, Bouaziz hired his own employees all over the world. But he quickly realized his employment contracts were not legally compliant.
“I was just sending them some money on a basic contract off the internet that didn't work in their jurisdiction, that didn't work in my jurisdiction,” he says.
The experience revealed the gap in the market for a tool providing a streamlined experience. Bouaziz founded Deel in January 2019 and released its initial product that April. This April, the company raised $195 million in Series C funding and Deel is now worth $1.56 billion.
Deel helps businesses hire workers from foreign jurisdictions, either as employees or independent contractors, by handling that location’s specific employment law and HR issues.
For contractors, they produce a localized contract, aligned with the labour laws in both jurisdictions. They help mitigate compliance and misclassification risks and facilitate payment and invoice generation. For their employee model, the company will place their client’s new hire on payroll at one of the many entities Deel operates around the world, taking care of the contract, arranging benefits and everything else associated with the employment agreement.
Deel works with more than 200 lawyers across the world, has opened 45 subsidiaries and plans to launch another 45.
The pandemic has aided the growth of many companies which serve various aspects of the work-from-home model. But COVID merely accelerated the transition to remote work, says Bouaziz. The world was already headed in that direction. But COVID showed companies their people could work together while not being together. Large companies also saw key people relocate to their home countries to be with their families. With Deel’s ability to keep them on payroll, Bouaziz collected some big-name customers he did not expect to attract so early.
“It's been a crazy and wild two years. That's for sure.”
A rise in m&a activity also spurred growth because as companies acquire others, they often take on their subsidiaries in foreign jurisdictions, says Bouaziz.
“We accelerated as a company because we were building a solution that people needed,” he says.
“It’s just the need for it just grew so much faster… A lot of the companies that we thought we'd get to when we had a bigger brand were just a lot more interested in talking to us right away because they had acute needs.”
“There is more potential around the world, and you just want to hire the right person for your company,” says Bouaziz. “… Legal borders are limits… Removing them, taking away that burden is something that really spoke to our customers.”