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We’re on a mission to connect employers with their frontline employees

Frontline employees are massively underserved when it comes to HR and payroll technology. We’re going to change that. 

Our mission

Build the ultimate HR system for frontline employees

80% of the world's workforce does not sit at a desk. They’re referred to as frontline workers, and they’re 2.7 billion strong across industries like private security, cleaning services, manufacturing, agriculture, retail, hospitality, logistics and more. Despite being the majority, they have been overlooked by technology providers, with only 1% of enterprise tech being built for the frontline worker.

These frontline workers demand new technology that recognises their unique needs and, at the very least, equals the experience of their office counterparts.

Their employers desperately need a better way to connect and engage with their frontline workforce. We founded Jem to meet those very specific needs, and built an HR system for the world’s frontline employees.


The story so far

We've come a long way since 2020, and our story is just beginning.

  • Earned wage access

    In May 2020 we set out to break the payday debt cycle and change the way employees accessed their earnings.
  • VivaTech

    In Dec 2020, we won the top start-up in Africa award in the Future Of Work category.
  • Growing ambitions

    In Sep 2021, we realised that there was an opportunity to build products far beyond earned wage access.
  • HR and communications

    In Dec 2021, we took the leap and began building HR and communications products. It was no longer just about earned wage access.
  • Funding our future

    In March 2022, we closed our $2m seed funding round.
  • Payslips

    In June 2022, we formally launched our new payslip distribution product.
  • A whole new brand

    In November 2022, we launched our rebrand with a fresh new name and look, and a renewed focus on our vision. SmartWage was no more: we became Jem.
  • Accepted into 'Google Startups Accelerator'

    In March 2023, Jem was accepted into Google's three-month accelerator program for highest-potential tech startups based in Africa. We were the only South African startup in the cohort.

How did we get our name?

When we started our journey, we had major ambitions. Our business started by focusing on our earned wage access product, which is why we gave ourselves the literal name 'SmartWage'. But our range of products - and ambitions - have grown far beyond wages, and we needed a new name that would reflect that.

We also thought about the brand's greater purpose and our renewed focus on frontline workers. Connecting the office with these faraway frontline employees is really at the heart of what we do, and it's essentially a form of long-distance communication. When you look at recorded human history, one of the oldest forms of long-distance communication is through drums. The most well-known 'talking drum' of them all is the Djembe

Our name, Jem, was taken from the middle of that word. It helps us encapsulate our new direction and commitment to helping employers connect with their faraway teams.


Our offices

Cape Town: Ideas Cartel, 11 Grove Ave, Claremont

Johannesburg: 25 Minerva Ave, Glenadrienne, Sandton

London: 2 Mexfield Road, London, United Kingdom


Meet the team

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Simon Ellis CEO & Co-FounderView LinkedIn
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Caroline van der Merwe CPO & Co-FounderView LinkedIn
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Thamsanqa Moyo Chief Technology OfficerView LinkedIn
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Adam Duxbury Head of StrategyView LinkedIn
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Chris Hellmann Head of GrowthView LinkedIn
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Naledi Dlamini Business Development RepresentativeView LinkedIn
Lefa Mokgatle Business Development Representative
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Evan Anderson Senior Finance ManagerView LinkedIn
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Sinta Reynolds Product ManagerView LinkedIn
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Thandoluhle Dlamini Associate Product OwnerView LinkedIn
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Danielle Lifschitz Talent Acquisition & People Ops AssociateView LinkedIn
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Lauren Matthews Business Operations Associate View LinkedIn
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Richard O'Brien Tech LeadView LinkedIn
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Michael Kyazze Senior Software EngineerView LinkedIn
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Ian Manda Intermediate Software EngineerView LinkedIn
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Gustavo Mendes Intermediate Software EngineerView LinkedIn
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Nonsuku Mthimkhulu Head of CustomerView LinkedIn
Nabeelah Allie Customer Success Manager
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Patrick Makhele Customer Support CoordinatorView LinkedIn
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Abongile Makaula Customer Data CoordinatorView LinkedIn
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Phandulwazi Mredlana Customer Support CoordinatorView LinkedIn
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Katlego Kgolane Customer Support CoordinatorView LinkedIn
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Abigail Sylvester Customer Support CoordinatorView LinkedIn
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Sandisiwe Gxaba Customer Data CoordinatorView LinkedIn

Our team is growing

We’re on a mission to build systems for the
frontline workers of the world, and we’re looking for
brave and bright people to join our team.

Check out the openings below.