When the startup community uses the term ‘mafia’, it is a tribute to the most important online payments company in tech history: Paypal.
Having produced Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Reolof Botha and Steve Chen, the company is the preeminent example of a core group of employees building a company before moving on to build other giants.
In 2018, this history has facilitated a culture that allows PayPal to integrate corporate innovation models that other big boys struggle to integrate.
One such example is the PayPal Incubator in Singapore. Alumni of the programme include big names like TenX, Jumper.ai, PolicyPal and Axinan.
The 9-month long programme that only hosts a handful of companies in each cohort. This year, the incubator only has three startups. They are AwanTunai, HitPay and Rate3.
e27 sat down will all three companies and while this article is meant to introduce their businesses, every conversation included a nugget of interesting macro-trends, which we have included in each section.
Also Read: Play nice, be friendly, add value
Let’s begin the virtual tour.
This Indonesian company is trying to change the way people get loans. Calling itself “the most offline fintech company around”, AwanTunai is trying to help Indonesians in far-flung provinces gain t access working capital.
The company, which just raised US$4.3 million, wants to work with large corporations to tap into their distribution network (think suppliers to mom-and-pop shops). The logic behind this strategy is to eventually give banks access to people they would not previously touch.
When it comes to lending, bank distribution is limited to their physical branches and building a full-blown branch in rural Indonesia typically doesn’t provide the best ROI.
Dino Setiawan, the AwanTunai Co-founder and CEO, said he wants his company to become a ‘bank agnostic’ platform much like Go-Pay has turned into Indonesia’s top payments company without any allegiance to one bank.
That is why Setiawan says he is focussed on corporate supply chains and providing them an app that helps people buy their products (think smartphones, motorcycle repairs etc.).
“Our longterm view is to focus on distribution. From there, we invite banks who want a digital lending product but don’t have the technical capability or compliance structure to join. We want to allow banks to deploy the digital products that they want to,” Setiawan said.
Eventually, AwanTunai hopes it can help rural Indonesians break the debt-cycle by providing access to loans from legitimate banks rather than predatory lenders.
As of October, the company has facilitated 300,000 loan applications and issued working capital to over 5,000 merchants.
Learning: One of the issues in Indonesia is that fintech players tend to segment their targetted customers to people who are already online.
A lot of these startups cover financial planning, services for the finance sector or payments for companies who have an online presence.
An example of a successful 020 strategy is the case study of Toast, which leveraged AlfaMarts (an Indonesian convenience store) to build an offline distribution network that gave the company access to offline customers.
HitPay is a mobile commerce solution with two core products.
First, it has built a payments link that facilitates the purchasing of goods on social commerce sites like Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook.
“Currently the checkout solution is incredibly long. It takes about 6-8 steps. Because they usually just have a link to their online store,” said Founder Aditya Haripurkar.
“[We offer] a one tap solution they can integrate into any platform. These are essentially product links,” he said.
The second feature (which has some customer crossover) is a mobile tool to facilitate O2O campaigns. These days, a lot of online-first companies pursue pop-ups, trade fairs or festivals as a way to boost their branding, gain customers and sell goods.
However, the process of buying a credit card terminal is a headache, and for companies pursuing a short-term sales push — or social commerce sellers attending events like an art fair — terminals seem pointless.
HitPay wants to come in as an easy-to-use mobile app that allows these merchants to accept most credit cards. While it may sound like Square, or even PayPal, the difference is the target audience and how they approach the business model.
“It’s important to understand that we are a platform. What we are trying to do is provide solutions for omni-channel. Guys with an active Instagram page,” said Haripurkar.
Haripurkar says he sees an average transaction size of about US$80-US$100 per basket. As its revenue model, the company takes one per cent of every transaction.
Learning: Product discovery is moving from large marketplaces like Lazada or Amazon and onto social media platforms, especially Instagram.
The reason is because social media allows influencers to mix-and-match and highlight the ‘why’. This, in turn, helps consumers visualise how a product fits into their everyday life.
This is particularly useful for fashion, but even items like home appliances, decor or gadgets benefit from social commerce.
In one sentence: Rate3 wants to tokenise the physical world, allowing people to use the blockchain to transfer ownership of big-ticket items.
Its big goal for Rate3 is to tokenise the Singapore Dollar for enterprises. Here is how it works:
Companies complete their know-your-customer and anti-money laundering (KYC/AML) processes. They then create a public ethereum or stellar address before then submitting it to their trust company.
When approved, the user transfers Singapore Dollars to the trust company. The money is then converted into a tokenised Singapore Dollar which is sent back to the users wallet to pay for goods and services.
Project Ubin, from the Monetary Authority of Singapore, is a similar project but is limited to facilitating inter-bank transfers in the financial sector (also, it is still in the building/trial phase).
Other applications of Rate3 include providing someone partial ownership of a home as they pay off the mortgage or verifying a transfer of ownership for rare/expensive items.
“Think gold, think cars. They can have a digital identity online. They can do many different things on behalf of the physical asset that can’t be moved,” said Co-founder and CEO Jake Goh.
The company pitches itself to enterprise clients as a way to offer micropayments, create stablecoins for salaries, e-commerce or loans and ensure the veracity of ownership.
When asked about the next 12 months, Goh had a realistic attitude towards the next year.
“The company is about 18 months old. So, for me 12 months is like [thinking about] another full company,” he said.
Learning: Since the ICO boom of 2017 the market has sophisticated. These days, companies that pitch blockchain without differentiation will be passed by investors.
The industry has learned that blockchain is not the “key to the future” (at least not yet), so the company needs to show growth potential regardless of its blockchain status. In general, this is a good thing as it no longer allows shitcoins to take uneducated consumers for a ride.