Image credit: HomePay

Image credit: HomePay

HomePay is a new mobile social payment and startup targeting mid- to upper-middle families in Singapore (where HomePay is based), Hong Kong and the UAE. The aim is to help families manage their internal budgets and spending with an app connected to prepaid spend cards using payment schemes that include with MasterCard.

Having spent the last nine months developing the product and securing relevant licenses from regulators, HomePay is now on the cusp of launching in Q1 2015. While it has already raised an undisclosed seed round, the team is about to open talks for a seed extension, or pre-Series A.

Examples of potential use-cases include pocket money for the children, with the parents able to top up their cards when needed, as well as to turn any given card in the system on or off with the flick of a toggle button in the app. Alerts can also be set up for every time a card is used. Domestic helpers are another use case, allowing them to have a card for all household expenditure that can be easily monitored.

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A big part of HomePay is helping families go cashless, which is a vision Singapore and other governments have been working on for many years but with little success so far. The startup is looking to reinvent the experience of a financial product through mobile by providing relevant technology with higher adoption potential.

“The way you do that is through relevant mobile experiences. It’s already emerging in Europe and the US, and HomePay will be the first one to deliver it in Asia,” Ravi Patel, Co-founder, HomePay told e27. Patel has a background in the financial and banking industry in London since 2002, having worked in consulting and strategy for Scotia Captal, Accenture, Credit Suisse, and Barclays.

HomePay views itself as comparable to Simple (formerly BankSimple) in the United States, a banking startup founded in 2009 that raised just over US$15 million in rounds up to Series C before being acquired by Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria in February 2014.

The condensed on-boarding process for HomePay takes only two minutes, according to Patel, with cards arriving within two working days. It operates on a subscription model with a low fee and plenty of opportunities for discounts. Say goodbye to complex, never-ending forms that come with setting up a traditional bank account.

“We’ve taken away all the frictions from banking products… and made the process seamless and slick. We’ve looked at some of the best mobile apps, whether they be in consumer finance from the US or Europe, or other institutions such as social media, and we’ve designed a user interface that is clean, visual, colourful and engaging,” Patel said.

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“As a financial product, we want people to come to us and feel compelled to use us on a daily basis. We want to shift the mindset from finance being an ugly thing that people don’t want to look at, to them wanting to check their phones three times a day to see what’s going on in their family,” he added.

HomePay believes that a lot of its success as a service provider will come down to maximising product engagement, and keeping it light and fun for the end user, which in many cases will be a mother or father aged between 30-55. They are, in fact, working closely with several major parenting platforms across the region.

Once the startup hits about 200,000 users, potentially two years down the line, they could approach Apple, PayPal or traditional banks to discuss the potential of working together — or even an exit to maximise the potential of the platform.

“One of the major fintech challenges in Asia is around the regulatory environment and conservatism in innovation. With existing or formal money structures like the banking industry, it’s very difficult to do things differently because the structures are so conservative and unable to innovate,” Patel said.

“I think in the US or Europe, because of the crisis, the banks had to really force themselves to do things differently. But in Asia they haven’t had the [same levels of] crisis so people aren’t crying for change,” he added.

Singapore, Hong Kong and the UAE have the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world, which explains why HomePay is entering these three markets first. But consumers in these markets are still primarily using mobile for games, social media, and entertainment. The opportunities for health, finance and other smart solutions are huge here precisely because they aren’t yet saturated like in the West.

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HomePay is aiming to be used in one million households across their core markets. Use cases could even expand, further down the road, to remittances, corporate solutions for SMEs and beyond. Entering the remittances market later in 2015 is also an opportunity, with HomePay already holding the required licenses.

Meanwhile, the startup is planning a marketing campaign with celebrities and big-name money bloggers in Singapore to kick it all off.

By way of conclusion, here’s HomePay’s seven-point executive breakdown, courtesy Patel:

  1. Set up to create new experiences for families and communities using mobile technologies to improve day-to-day life and encourage responsible spending.
  2. Aspirations to be the single platform to run next generation Asian and Middle Eastern households.
  3. Differentiated to banking products by being truly relevant to modern families and aims to partner with the big banks to provide an overlay of technology and engagement.
  4. A business model that is unique to the region and allows us to bring startup energy to the financial product space to pull in new ideas, build world class digital teams and build next generation products.
  5. Working very closely with families and massive parenting platforms to understand and also engage with them as part of the acquisition and on-going service model.
  6. The needs of modern Asians and Middle Eastern families are different to American or European peers and current products do not reflect that, namely the social and mobile nature of our customers.
  7. Set up by founders with deep combined experience in international consumer banking and technology entrepreneurship with the desire to add some excitement to a stagnant industry that hasn’t changed for too long.