Exclusive: Philippines’ Acudeen goes on a financial inclusion mission

CEO Magellan Fetalino III (third from right) with the rest of the Acudeen team. Source: Acudeen.

Financial technology (fintech) startup Acudeen Technologies has been on a roll of late.

It recently won an international startup competition for emerging markets, bagging $500,000 in investments. Prior to that, Acudeen won the YE! Community Award for an all-expense paid Boost Camp Scholarship in Sweden. The startup, which enables small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) with less than three years of operations to convert receivables into cash, has forged partnerships with Philippine-listed Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) and fellow fintech startup First Circle.

Venture capital 500 Startups has backed up Acudeen in a seed round. Acudeen also made it to the DEALSTREETASIA list of most promising startups to watch out for in the Philippines this year.

Now the early-stage startup has taken on the mission of promoting financial inclusion in the Philippines.

Acudeen CEO Magellan Fetalino III said the fintech startup is planning to partner with private business organisations, the government, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to educate SMEs about financial inclusion.

Edited excerpts:

What’s next for Acudeen? Do you plan to raise more funds or focus on expansion and innovation?

Definitely expansion in the market reach of our services. Currently in the pipeline for Acudeen is a nationwide continuous financial education targeting key cities in the Philippines, including Iloilo, Bacolod, Cebu, Davao, and boosting our presence further in Manila.

We are partnering with the regional chapters of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PCCI), local government units, and the International Finance Corp, part of the World Bank, to gather all the SMEs in their region for an event in each of these cities that will focus on our pursuit of financial inclusion to all businesses in the country.

Of course, innovation of our services and the company as a whole will always be our priority. As a startup, we have to be constantly changing our business approach depending on the diverse needs of the market.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced while building your company?

Creating partnerships and promoting awareness of our financial services. In the Philippine market, the term “financing” can have quite a distasteful appeal. This stems from a lot of Ponzi schemes from different bogus local businesses that circulated nationwide in the past. Because of this, it became tough for the company to create partnerships with large corporations and financial institutions as they have doubts and reservations about the legitimacy of our business model.

How exactly do you plan to achieve your goal as a fintech company?

Through customer-relationship building. In the company, we are instilling a culture built around taking care of our clients end to end. We are aware of the problems faced by SMEs in the Philippines involving cash flow that is why we want our members to fully understand their needs first and address these issues in every way we can. We want to be a partner to these businesses to accelerate their growth and not just a financial institution they can run to when they’re in need. That is the initiative we want to push moving forward. We want to inform these businesses that you don’t have to wait 30-120 days to circulate your money for operational expenses and more importantly, business expansion, when you can do it now.

How has 2017 been so far the company and what is your outlook for the year in terms of gaining more users and innovation strategies you plan to make?

2017 has been overwhelming. The reception of our company in different regions in the country, as well as worldwide, is exceptional but very humbling at the same time. This year we are heavily investing in boosting our user-base through the marketing strategy we have mapped out.

Culture is considered very important at startups. What do you at Acudeen do to create the kind of culture you need to build the network that you’re building?

Company culture is definitely an integral part of our day-to-day business operations. I make sure that everyone who represents Acudeen embodies the values I believe will set us apart not only from other similar financial institutions but to other start ups as well. These values are written and artfully displayed around our office. One of these is ‘In Acudeen, the customer comes first’. We would rather listen than be the one speaking. We want to show our clients that we are willing to go out of our way to extend our services to those who need it.

Who do you look to for inspiration as a company and as CEO?

I’m a big fan of Elon Musk. He would always say, “Going through entrepreneurship is like staring in the abyss, while eating glass.” The road is definitely hard. He has been a role model to many for both innovation and perseverance.

What do you think of a startup stock exchange?

The PSE has an underutilised SME Board. I highly suggest that before we introduce a new layer to getting public money, it would be better to educate small businesses and startups on how to make use of this. Perhaps even lessen the regulatory requirements to make it more accessible, or provide certain risk mitigation measures for public investors when investing in startups through the SME Board.

What’s the competitive advantage you maintain against other players in the space?

Our solution is dynamic and we want to be utilised as a partner for growth to improve and develop companies to help reach their true business potential.

How would you like larger banks and financial institutions to engage with fintech startups?

It should be more collaborative. Banks and fintechs, at the end of the day, need each other, to sustain the industry in the years to come.

Can you weigh in on Bitcoin, blockchain and distributed ledgers and how you see their role evolving in Asia’s fintech space?

The future these technologies bring is pretty much transitioning the region to becoming cashless, more connected, and financially inclusive, where everyone, everywhere across the region, at any given time, has access to money, especially, at the point of need.

Also Read: 

Philippines’ fintech startup Acudeen wins Seedstars World 2017, bags $500k

Philippines: Fintech startups Acudeen, First Circle join hands to target SMEs

Philippines: 14 promising startups to watch in 2017

Philippines: Accion, DeepBlue upsize First Circle’s seed fund to $2.5m

Philippines: Angel group MFT bats for easy listing of SMEs

Dearth of IPOs in ‘fastest growing economy’ Philippines may end in 2017: Roel Refran

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.