The underdogs of Southeast Asia’s fintech scene: Early Stage

These fintech startups optimize technology to facilitate financial inclusion in diverse countries.

Singapore has been forging a fintech ecosystem long before other countries in the region set themselves on the same path. After just four years, authorities say Singapore has about 600 fintech startups, created more than 1,100 fintech jobs each year, and generated more than SGD 1 billion (USD 735 million) in investments for fintech companies.

This past week, Singapore went all out to celebrate fintech. The city-state hosted the fourth edition of the Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF), and the first combined event of SFF and the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH). Despite murmurs that Singapore has far too many tech conferences, the week-long event still attracted a record-setting 60,000 participants from more than 130 countries.

At SFF x SWITCH, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced the Global FinTech Hackcelerator’s three winners. MAS and the Association of Banks in Singapore also announced 12 award winners in four categories—Singapore Founder, ASEAN SME, ASEAN Open, and Global.

Recognizable names like TransferWise and Razer Pay Holdings took home prizes. Beyond that, KrASIA took note of three underdogs in Southeast Asia that have been using fintech to maximize their social impact.

CredoLab, which was the winner in the ASEAN Open category, generates credit scores using artificial intelligence. Its AI algorithm was trained using 1 trillion data points from some 8 million loan applications collected from 50 lending partners in more than 15 countries. It has powered almost USD 1 billion worth of loans based on smartphone metadata. Founded in Singapore in 2016, CredoLab is backed by Fintonia Group, FORUM, and Walden International.

Zigway helps low-income families in Myanmar gain direct access to cheap and flexible nano loans of USD 5–200 via their phones. ZigWay provides a fully automated borrowing process and allows them to make daily repayments that match their earning power. The target borrowers are women aged between 18 and 60; those who can’t apply for loans through their phones can also meet face-to-face with ZigWay’s super-users, meaning those who are smartphone-savvy, who can provide help with the process, including loan disbursement and repayment with mobile money. Founded in 2016, Zigway said it has issued about USD 100,000 worth of loans and has secured partnerships with two major banks in Myanmar to scale its service across the country. The startup won third place in the ASEAN SME category.

MyCash Online, which was first runner-up in the ASEAN Open category, is a marketplace designed for migrants in Malaysia and Singapore. MyCash Online offers easy, secure, and convenient online services to foreign workers who typically do not have access to online banking or credit cards. The startup recently secured funding from 500 Startups and is in discussion to raise Series A investment.

Disclaimer: KrASIA is a media partner for Singapore Fintech Festival and SWITCH. 

“Early Stage” is a series where KrASIA highlights startups that caught our eyes for the week.