(Update: Microsoft, the owner of Skype, has verified with DealStreetAsia that Geoff Prentice is not co-founder of Skype as claimed by him. We have reached out to Prentice for comment.)
Hong Kong-based fintech company Oriente has completed its first funding round of $105 million, one of the largest initial rounds in the industry.
Established in 2017 by former Skype co-founder and CSO Geoffrey Prentice, and executives at Lufax and BlackPine Private Equity, Oriente aims to reach millions of new customers in Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economies by leveraging cutting-edge technologies to build solutions that provide real-time credit scoring, digital and O2O lending and other tailored financial services.
“We launched Cashalo in the Philippines a few months ago and this week are officially rolling out Cashacart, our pioneering O2O basket financing product. Our Indonesia venture Finmas has been in beta since August, and we are set to host a formal launch in a couple of weeks. Lastly, we are also on track to enter Vietnam before the end of the year, which is very exciting,” Prentice told DEALSTREETASIA in an email interaction.
Aiming at delivering fast access to affordable credit for the underserved middle class and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) segment, these businesses have scaled rapidly in their respective markets. Cashalo reported faster customer growth than both Skype and Lufax did in their first six months of operations, and Finmas is on track to surpass that, Oriente said in a statement.
The $105-million financing is being used to accelerate technology and product development, scale multi-market operations and expand Oriente’s digital solutions into new markets.
The company now has over 1,200 employees across offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei, Manila, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City.
“Oriente was founded on the principles of inclusion and innovation to open financial access, freedom and opportunity for underserved people and microentrepreneurs, helping them build financial identities and participate in the global economy,” said Prentice.
“The SME and MSME segment is one of the most significant and most underserved,” he added.
Across developing markets, close to 160 million SMEs lack access to finance, and another 160 million are underbanked – collectively this represents a credit gap between $2.1 trillion to $2.6 trillion, according to the International Finance Corporation.
“We see it as our responsibility in helping bridge this gap across markets in Southeast Asia through our ventures like Cashalo and Finmas which will also offer bespoke products for the MSME segment.”
After Skype, Prentice started venture capital firm Atomico and then wanted to do something in Asia and realised that Southeast Asia had one of the most staggering opportunities – with over 70 per cent of the total population underserved and ignored by traditional financial institutions.
“We observed that investments tend to perform best if you can recruit the best people, if you can access capital for growth and if you can target a captive, untapped audience,” he said, adding that fintech is now one of the most exciting industries globally.