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Aspire raises $32.5M to help SMEs secure fast finance in Southeast Asia

Aspire, a Singapore-based startup that helps SMEs secure working capital, has raised $32.5 million in a new financing round to expand its presence in several Southeast Asian markets.

The Series A round for the one-and-a-half-year old startup was funded by MassMutual Ventures Southeast Asia. Arc Labs and existing investors Y Combinator — Aspire graduated from YC last year — Hummingbird, and Picus Capital also participated in the round. Aspire has raised about $41.5 million to date. Aspire operates a neo-banking-like platform to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) quickly and easily secure working capital of up to about $70,000. AspireAccount, the startup’s flagship product, provides merchants and startups with instant credit limit for daily business expenses, as well as a business-to-business acceptance and other tools to help them manage their cash flow. “I saw the problem while trying to rally small businesses trying to grow in the digital economy,” Andrea Baronchelli, founder and CEO of Aspire told TechCrunch last year. “The problem is really about providing working capital to small business owners,” said Baronchelli, who served as a CMO for Alibaba’s Lazada platform for four years. Aspire currently operates in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam. The startup said it will use the fresh capital to scale its footprints in those markets. Additionally, Aspire is building a scalable marketplace banking infrastructure that will use third-party financial service providers to “create a unique digital banking experience for its SME customers.” The startup is also working on a business credit card that will be linked to each business account by as early as this year, it said. Baronchelli did not reveal how many business customers Aspire has, but said the startup has seen “30% month-on-month growth” since beginning operations in January 2018. Additionally, Aspire expects to amass more than 100,000 business accounts by next year. Southeast Asia’s digital economy is slated to grow more than six-fold to reach more than $200 billion per year, according to a report co-authored by Google. But for many emerging startups and businesses, getting financial services from a bank and securing working capital have become major pain points. A growing number of startups are beginning to address these SMEs’ needs. In India, for instance, NiYo Bank and Open have amassed millions of businesses through their neo-banking platforms. Both of these startups have raised tens of millions of dollars in recent months. Drip Capital, which helps businesses in developing markets secure working capital, raised $25 million last week.

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