Need to get something done, or buy a product online in China, well you’re in luck because two expats have launched a new service that will do just that. And wouldn’t you know it, this Chinese ‘pay-per-task China-based secretary service’ accepts Bitcoin.
The newly founded startup, launched earlier this week, is the brainchild of applied linguistics graduate student, Daniel Worlton, and internet cafe owner, Dave Lancashire. The duo, both of whom are expats, started the service following difficulties they had buying goods and paying bills as foreigners.
“Buying online is often impossible with a foreign credit card (you often need a Chinese ID card too). And there are lots of little things (paying your phone bill, buying water, arranging house-cleaning, replacing air filters) that aren't impossible if you speak Mandarin, but are still a hassle to arrange,”
- Daniel Worlton, Co-Founder WeSecretary
WeSecretary makes buying products off large Chinese e-commerce websites, or paying for a service, as easy for a foreigner as it would be for a Chinese national. And all of the instructions and communications are done through a uniquely Chinese messaging app, WeChat - hence the company’s name.
China is different, and so is Bitcoin
The service started just three days ago, and so far most of WeSecretary’s users have been settling in Bitcoin. The digital currency is a core part of the company’s business model and something they are actively encouraging customers to pay with.
“Just because we accept international credit cards doesn't mean that is the most efficient way to charge our customers. The savings from the lower fees associated with Bitcoin transactions are passed directly on to our customers. Bitcoin also eliminates the risk of chargeback fraud, so we require new users making large purchases to settle in BTC.”
The startup charges per task or good, taking a seemingly steep 10 percent fee for their work. But if customers pay with Bitcoin, or other low cost methods, they will receive a discount. WeSecretary also offers lower prices for those who buy a monthly subscription of their services. According to the company’s founders, the service goes beyond the average virtual assistant and is nearly invaluable for navigating non-foreigner friendly Chinese businesses.
“There are many ‘virtual secretaries’ (often based in India), but they mostly sell things like data entry and factory sourcing, i.e. a way for businesses to outsource. We don't know a single expat who uses them. For the things WeSecretary does most people will ask friends or coworkers for help, or simply live without,”
In the United States, startups like Magic and TaskRabbit have similar models, but Worlton explains that China makes things different, “One of the differences is that those services are really expensive. With us, one of the values is that even though people are paying us a fee, they may often save money by using us because we understand the market.”