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Philippines SME lending startup First Circle raises $26M ahead of regional expansion – TechCrunch

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This year has been a breakout one for micro-financing startups in Southeast Asia, which are becoming among the most funded within the region’s fintech space. Next in line to raise capital is First Circle, an SME-lending service that’s based in the Philippines which has pulled in $26 million as it begins to consider regional expansion options.

The new financing is led by Venturra Capital with participation from Insignia Ventures Partners, Hong Kong’s Silverhorn Investment Advisors, and Tryb Group. First Circle has previously raised $2.5 million, including a $1.3 million seed round 18 months ago.

The company was founded by Irish duo CEO Patrick Lynch, formerly of CompareAsia Group and CTO Tony Ennis, previously with WebSummit, and the goal is to help small businesses scale by offering them short-term loans. The Philippines is an impact market since SMEs account for 99.6 percent of the country’s business, 65 percent of its workforce and a staggering 35 percent of national GDP. Yet, there’s no formal credit scoring system and existing loan coverage is patchy at best.

Most of First Circle’s loans are often transaction or working capital, such as financing to take on a new deal for a client with a guaranteed financial return that requires a fairly brutal wait of 90-120 days, Lynch told TechCrunch in an interview.

“A lack of access to capital is a problem that faces tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of businesses in the Philippines,” he explained. “Emerging markets are not capital developed, and our business model is quite different from the p2p lender model in that we do share risk with the investors.”

First Circle sources capital from third parties, including asset managers and family offices, who take half of the loan book. Unlike the P2P model, which is going through a spectacular crash in China, First Circle is invested in all deals and as such it does thorough due diligence before committing. However, after processing over $100 million in deals to “thousands” of businesses, Lynch said that the company has built up data on a number of suppliers and business partners to the point that a “significant” chunk of applications can be processed without human involvement.

For example, if a loan application is seeking financing in order to do a dealing with Multinational X, First Circle can move quickly if it has dealt with the application before or it has issued loans to other partners who have done business with Multinational X.

“Over time, as we acquire more customers, the degrees of separation are collapsing over time,” Lynch said.

First Circle’s executive team including co-founders Tony Ennis (third from left) and Patrick Lynch (middle)

The fact that there is little data available via a credit bureau makes things challenging. The need to built a solution from the ground up necessitates great time, cost and other resources but it can have major benefits, as First Circle is beginning to enjoy.

“Many new providers of financial services are rating customer for the first time. In 80 percent of the time in our case, it’s the first time our customer will have had a formal relationship” with a financial organization, Lynch explained. “That provides an opportunity, if done correctly, to provide a strong relationship and be a part of their future success for a long time.”

Indeed, the First Circle CEO said that, to date, customers will typically take a loan of around $10,000, but the average will balance is $30,000 — meaning that there are three loans active. That reflects the transactional nature of the loans the startup is issuing, but of course more business means more data, stronger relationships and a higher chance of word-of-mouth recommendations.

First Circle is staying focused on the Philippines for now, but Lynch revealed that there are plans to expand to other parts of Southeast Asia, the region of nearly 650 million consumers. This round may help the company “put a foot in a second market,” Lynch said, but it is likely to go out and raise more money to push its regional expansion plan next year.

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How To Find Reused And Compromised Passwords In Safari

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The macOS version requirement to use this feature is Big Sur or Monterey, but it worked fine in Catalina, as well. To get started:

1. Launch Safari on your Mac.

2. Once a new Safari window opens, click on Safari in the menu bar and select Preferences from the dropdown menu.

3. You should see a popup menu of Safari preferences — you’ll be under the General section by default. Select Passwords from the top menu to manage your saved passwords.

4. At this point, you’ll have to enter your system password to access your saved passwords.

5. Once you’re in, you’ll see a list of all your stored passwords. If you see a yellow warning icon next to any of the passwords, that means Safari has a security recommendation for it.

6. Tap the warning icon on the password to know its security status. If a password has been overused, if it is easy to guess, or if it has been compromised in a data breach, Safari will add a short comment. There’ll also be a link to the appropriate page so you can change your password (via Apple Support).

Whenever Safari is auto-filling your passwords in any field, you may also get a Compromised Password alert notifying you to change a password because it is weak, reused, or leaked.

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This Electric Car Starts At Only $18,500, But You Only Get Three Wheels

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The average commute, according to Electra Meccanica, is 40 miles. The Solo comes with 100 miles of range, which is more than enough to do your commute. Evidently, this car isn’t meant for much more than that, but many people — especially those who live in dense urban areas — don’t drive much further than work on a regular basis. Basic items like a briefcase, a few bags of groceries, and a set of gym clothes fit just fine in the back of the Solo. 

Obviously, this ideal situation ends if you are a family with only one car. It also begins to lose its purpose if you enjoy a sporty feel because while you do get Bluetooth, USB charging, a rear-view camera, AC, and keyless entry, it isn’t exactly riveting to drive. It has a top speed of 80 mph, which is made possible by its 82 horsepower engine with 128 lb-ft of torque. All this power is sent to the singular rear wheel. It goes from 0-60 mph in 10 seconds, which is simply sluggish by any standard. 

The interior of the Solo isn’t draw-dropping, considering the color variety you get is a few different shades of blacks and dark greys. However, the Solo does feature an LCD gauge cluster, which is a nice touch. What’s even nicer is that it comes with a singular heated seat.

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This Tesla-Powered BMW EV Combines Classic Styling With Modern Power

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One of the last produced examples of BMW’s E9 coupe was sold on Bring a Trailer for over $200,000, which is well within the BMW EV’s price range. But the Tesla-powered BMW CSI also has some historical significance, especially in terms of proper maintenance. It belonged to the late Saudi Arabian Prince Mashour bin Saud, who had four keepers tending to the car when it was purchased in 1978. Aside from having a taste of royalty, the BMW EV was also a rare right-hand drive model. Its paper trail reveals how its registration was changed from the prince’s original “2 BAT” to “BAT 9K,” including handwritten letters to Michael Gardiner, who was tasked with selling the car for him.

In 2019, the BMW 3.0 CSI was bought from Gardiner’s widow and was eventually brought over to established electric conversion specialists at Electric Classic Cars. The company, which successfully converted classics like a 1979 Porsche 911 and the original Volkswagen Beetle, did a complete overhaul on the iconic BMW both inside and out. Furthermore, this classic BMW EV even includes the original straight-six engine should its driver ever feel like going back to gas. Although electric conversion has kept this classic up to speed, let’s look at its other improvements.

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