First Circle, a Philippines-based company with Irish leadership, announced a strong $1.2 million seed investment Tuesday led by Dublin-and-London-based Key Capital with money also coming from 500 Startups and Singapore-based IMJ Investment Partners.
“We’re looking to change that and early indications suggest we’re onto something,” First Circle CEO Patrick Lynch said in a statement. “We’re building a community of the most dynamic SMEs in South East Asia and providing them with the funding and support they need to reach their full potential.”
Lynch founded the company in 2015 alonside Jorrit Koop of the Netherlands and his partner former Web Summit CTO Tony Ennis. First Circle takes cash-flow loan applications from SMEs, boasting it can return decisions on those loans within 24 hours.
Filipino FinTech grows slowly
The Philippines is a small tech market, particularly in FinTech, though it hasn’t been completely unwatered in terms of seed funding this year.
Bitcoin startup Satoshi Citadel Industries (SCI) announced a seed round led by South Korea’s K Venture Group back in June for its remittances business. The company later acquired bitcoin startup Keza in August to followup on its buy-out of BuyBitcoin.ph in April 2015. Back in March, Pitaca Digital Services (PDS) raised a seed round from fellow Filipino corporation Carrillion Partners. In October 2015, credit startup Lenddo closed a Series B round that included backing from Blumberg Capital and Golden Gate Ventures.
There is some VC activity particularly focused on local FinTech companies, such as Narra Venture Capital in Manila, and a new FinTech-focused accelerator opening in Manila through coworking hub A SPACE. Mentors for that program will include leaders from SCI and other growing FinTech startups PawnHero and Qwikwire.
“Much like in Ireland small businesses are the life blood of the Filipino and South East Asian economies,” says Lynch. “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.”