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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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Today’s Wordle Answer #594 – February 3, 2023 Solution And Hints

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If the answer is still a mystery, the word is “tasty.” Apart from describing food as having agreeable flavor, you could say something or someone is tasty if they’re elegant or tasteful. The word is a diminutive of the root noun “taste,” which is from Old French “tast,” which is the term for the sense of touch (now Modern French tât).

In the original context of its usage around the 1400s, “taste” meant a share or a small portion; or the sense by which the flavor of a thing is discerned; and savor or flavor. But by the late 1600s, it had also taken on the sense of “aesthetic judgment,” or “the ability to recognize and appreciate excellence” (via Etymonline). There are more variations of its usage, however, especially in idioms. For example, if you have a taste for something, it means you have a strong preference or desire for it, and if something’s so bad you can taste it, it means that thing is extremely unpleasant (via The Free Dictionary).

This is all based on the fact that the sense of taste is quite adept at perception and discrimination of refinement or finesse. This is the sense on which phrases like “have a good eye/nose” are also based. On average, the human tongue has 2,000–8,000 taste buds, with hundreds of thousands of receptor cells. To keep the sense of taste as keen as possible, each taste bud gets replaced about every two weeks (via Britannica).

We hope you finish your puzzle before you run out of guesses, and if you have a taste for puzzles, here are more like Wordle to keep you busy.

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A New Cybertruck Spotting Just Revealed Two Big Design Changes

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The first clear change to the Cybertruck has to do with the rearview mirrors. As Electrek correctly notes, the Cybertruck was originally meant to lack side mirrors, favoring the more futuristic solution of body-mounted cameras. Assuming the particular prototype that was spotted on the road in Palo Alto represents recent changes, that’s at least one concession to reality from the aggressively conceptual Tesla truck.

The second, arguably more significant change is to the truck bed. Prior to this sighting, the Cybertruck had yet to be shown with a working, retractable tonneau cover. User Flavio Tronz on Instagram seems to have caught the Cybertruck with the cover half-retracted, suggesting that particular challenge has also been conquered.

In short, the Cybertruck seems to be getting the tweaks and flourishes to be expected for a car that is expected to enter full-scale production soon. The implementation of simple, proven solutions, like side mirrors, suggests that Tesla is getting real about putting their vision of the future on actual roads.

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Is It Safe To Charge Your iPhone With Macbook Charger?

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According to Apple, if you own a Mac laptop or an iPad and have immediate access to the USB power adapter that came with it, you can certainly use it to charge your iPhone without the worry of potentially damaging your mobile device’s battery. It can also be used to charge other Apple products like a pair of AirPods or the Apple Watch. The following Apple USB power adapters are some of the options that can be used to charge your iPhone, provided that you have a USB-to-lightning cable:

  • 5W USB power adapter that came with iPhones that preceded the iPhone 11
  • 10W US power adapter that was included with every iPad Air and iPad Air 2, iPad 2, and iPad mini 2,3, and 4
  • 12W USB power adapter that was packaged with several versions of the iPad Pro

If you have a Mac USB-C power adapter or other third-party adapters that fulfill Apple’s safety standards, they can be used to charge your iPhone as well. Certain USB-C power adapters, when used in tandem with Apple’s USB-to-lightning cable, have the ability to fast-charge an iPhone 8 and later iterations up to 50% battery in about half an hour (via Apple). This includes the 29W USB-C power adapter that accompanied older MacBook models that were released in 2015 onwards as well as the 30W, 35W, 61W, 67W, 87W, 96W, and 140W USB-C power adapters that came with certain versions of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. If you own a MacBook laptop and have its Apple-brand power adapter, you should be able to see its wattage printed right on the device itself and determine if it can be used to charge your iPhone.

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