When on the subject of fintech, a lot of the talk revolves around how disruptive it is. Now, I feel “disruption” is one of the most overused words within the startup ecosystem – right up there with “ecosystem,” really. But fintech has jolted the banking industry awake, that’s true enough.
It’s not going to bring banks down, nor is it going to automatically make rich people out of the poor. What it has been able to do is kickstart much-needed innovation and shake up the status quo when it comes to individuals’ relationship with things like remittances, lending, and ecommerce. Viewed through this lens, here are five fintech startups that had a particularly good year. The list is obviously meant to be indicative rather than exhaustive, and the startups are listed in no particular order.
The Singaporean startup makes an API for online payments made within Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and SMS. Fastacash has also worked with banks and credit card companies to enable these kinds of transactions – the results can be seen in products like Singaporean bank DBS’ Paylah app.
If quick and easy ways to transfer money online are to become the norm, successful integration into services we use every day is going to be key.
The startup raised US$15 million in its series B round last July, which makes it the fintech startup with the most funding in Southeast Asia at the moment.
Thailand’s Omise is a payment methods provider for ecommerce websites. Its product allows ecommerce merchants to accept credit card payments via a mobile and web interface and suite of APIs.
As Southeast Asia comes increasingly online and ecommerce becomes a force to be reckoned with, particularly in the region’s developing economies, offerings like this will be especially valuable to newly-minted online merchants.
Omise’s latest funding round came in October. The amount remains undisclosed, but the startup says it’s one of Golden Gate Ventures’ largest investments in Southeast Asia to date.
The Indian online payments service has had a stellar 2015. Not only was One97, the startup that makes Paytm, backed by the likes of Alibaba and Ratan Tata this year, it’s one of Asia’s newly-minted unicorns with a US$2 billion valuation. In fact, it’s the top-funded Indian startup operating in the ecommerce space in 2015, with a total disclosed funding of US$890 million.
Paytm is used by several popular ecommerce sites in India and has also partnered with Uber in the country. One97 announced the service crossed the 100-million-user threshold in August.
Shanghai-based Dianrong is a peer-to-peer lending platform, crowdsourcing loans from individuals to satisfy the lending needs of other individuals and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The space has been exploding in China, as startups are looking to fulfill a market need that banks aren’t interested in. Dianrong, however, has managed to secure by far the most funding in this space in the country, with a series C round worth US$207 million in August, led by Standard Chartered and China Fintech Fund.
The man behind Dianrong, Soul Htite, has plenty of experience in this space as he was a co-founder of US-based Lending Club, the model for a lot of P2P lending startups in Asia.
Moving money around is a huge deal in the Philippines, where a large portion of the population is unbanked – and that’s even without taking into account its millions of workers abroad. Coins.ph uses bitcoin and the blockchain to operate its ewallet service. Your bitcoin ewallet is topped up by other individual users or small retailers who act as bank tellers. They take your cash payment, convert the funds into bitcoin and transfer them into your wallet, and keep a commission. You can then use your ewallet to remit funds to anyone you choose to.
Coins.ph surpassed 1,000 repeat customers in the country in July. While that number sounds small, especially for a market the size of the Philippines, it has to be looked at through the lenses of slow but rising bitcoin adoption – along with steadily increasing smartphone usage.