Having raised $1.2m, Irish-led fintech start-up First Circle is to roll out its SME financing platform in south-east Asia, a market believed to be worth $50bn.
Based in the Philippines, First Circle is led by Dublin natives Patrick Lynch (26), formerly of Morgan Stanley, and Tony Ennis (26), formerly of Web Summit, who founded the company last year.
The company’s SME financing platform attempts to minimise the time, effort and complexity associated with SMEs with fast and easy collateral-free loans.
Potential $50bn market
It has now confirmed it has completed a $1.2m seed investment round to support the roll-out of its platform in south-east Asia. This was led by Dublin and London-based Key Capital, and supported by San Francisco-based 500 Startups and Singapore-based IMJ Investment Partners.
First Circle has formed the opinion that there has been a lack of focus on business financing in many of these markets, with consumer lending and mortgage provision taking priority.
In addition, lenders that do offer business financing rely heavily on outdated, cumbersome and time-consuming systems and processes that are not suitable for today’s fast moving businesses.
If it all goes well for the company, First Circle could be one of the first lenders of its kind in the south-east Asian market, valued by the Asian Development Bank at $50bn.
‘Immediate multi-billion dollar opportunity’
Speaking of the funding, Lynch said: “Much like in Ireland, small businesses are the life blood of the Filipino and south-east Asian economies.
“Yet despite their potential in a rapidly expanding economy, we were surprised by the lack of support offered to local businesses, particularly when it comes to access to capital. We’re looking to change that and early indications suggest we’re onto something.”
As one of the supporters of this round of funding, Khailee Ng, managing partner at 500 Startups, said: “The digital economy has created a world of data about SMEs, making them incredibly bankable.
“This is an obvious and immediate multi-billion dollar opportunity that banks have been slow to grasp. We funded First Circle because it has assembled a team of financial insiders who clearly do.”