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让便利店变身移动小银行,新加坡创企SoCash再获投资

新加坡金融科技创业公司SoCash完成了新一轮融资。此次A轮融资的唯一投资者是全球风险投资集团Vertex Ventures,此前该公司还投资过东南亚网约车平台Grab。SoCash拒绝透露此次融资金额和当前的公司估值。本轮融资将主要用于壮大团队,拓展国际业务,首要目标是印度尼西亚。

银行维护ATM网络的成本很高,但SoCash为银行提供了发展ATM的另一种选择,其应用程序会让普通商店成为可以进行银行账户取款或转账的地方。

首席执行官兼创始人Hari Sivan表示,公司的主要目标客户是零售连锁店和便利店。店主在享受收银便捷性的同时还能从每笔交易中收取一定的费用。

虽然SoCash去年才推出这一服务,但Sivan表示公司目前已经拿下了新加坡渣打银行等几家大客户,并计划未来在新加坡增加了“400个额外的现金点”。

打开全新市场

在某些商店中也有类似的“现金支付” 服务,即结合了销售终端(POS)、收银员的系统,但Sivan说,这只能在“高度组织化的零售企业”中运行。

他补充道:“这可能对Alfamart或Indomaret (印尼两家最大的便利连锁店)有帮助,但其他商店呢?他们可没有POS机。”但有了SoCash,那些独立的小商店也可以成为现金交易点,与许多银行同时建立联系。

Sivan说,SoCash与美国创业公司Spare类似,但在本地它是第一个付诸行动的公司。

现金支付消失可能还需时日

Sivan在成为企业家前是一名银行家,曾领导星展银行的汇款部门。尽管Sivan在数字支付方面积累了诸多专业知识,但他坚信现金支付的未来。

“现金是一种非常有效的支付方式。它即时完成支付,没有费用,接受广泛。”他还提到,如果看央行数据就会发现现金取款额并没有真正下降。“仅在新加坡,每个月ATM取款额就将近2000万。”

然而,这一数字在新加坡并没有什么变化,新加坡人口无增长,几乎每个人都有银行账户。但印尼和泰国等国家人口在增长,而且许多人还没有与正规银行建立联系,根据Sivan的说法,“要想实现无现金社会,可能还要几十年”。

此轮融资前,SoCash已获天使投资。去年7月,该公司进行了首次种子融资,随后又在3月进行了新一轮投资。此前投资总金额约为100万美元。

Singapore-based fintech startup SoCash closed a new round of financing. The sole investor in this series A round is Vertex Ventures, a global venture capital group whose notable investments include ride-hailing firm Grab. SoCash declined to disclose the amount raised and its current valuation.

SoCash promises to disrupt the way banks circulate cash. Its app turns regular stores into a place where you can withdraw from or transfer money to your own bank account.

Banks can benefit from this because it provides an alternative to growing their ATM networks, which are expensive to maintain. It also helps store owners because they get a fee for each transaction, argues SoCash.

Typical clients are retail chains and convenience stores, CEO and founder Hari Sivan tells Tech in Asia.

The firm launched last year so it’s still in the early days of traction, but one of the clients that Sivan can name is Standard Chartered Bank Singapore, for which the startup has added “400 additional cash points” on the island.

Sivan says SoCash’s new funds will be used to expand the team and grow operations internationally, first targeting Indonesia.

Competitive landscape

Banks pay SoCash for its service, which includes sending staff to meet and onboard shopkeepers, as well as training staff so that everyone understands the system.

“We’re an alternative to traditional cash operators and security companies, the ones involved in the transport of cash, with armored vehicles, guards, and so on,” Sivan explains. “Those operators haven’t had competition for the last 40 years.”

Other comparable services are “cash out” options integrated with point-of-sale (POS) cashier systems in certain stores, but that only works in “highly organized, corporate retail,” Sivan says.

“That may work for Alfamart or Indomaret (the two largest minimart chains in Indonesia), but what about one tier below? Those have no POS machine,” he adds. With SoCash, those smaller, independent shops can became cash transaction points as well, and link up with many banks at the same time.

SoCash is comparable to US startup Spare, but regionally, it’s the first mover, says Sivan.

The future of cash

Sivan was a banker before becoming an entrepreneur and at some point, he led the remittance section of DBS Bank. Despite building up expertise in digital payments, Sivan firmly believes in the future of cash.

“Cash is a very effective payment mechanism. It’s instantly settled, there’s no fee, it’s universally accepted.” He also cites how cash withdrawals aren’t really going down when one looks at central bank data. “Just in Singapore, there are close to 20 million ATM withdrawals a month.”

That figure, however, remains flat in Singapore because the population isn’t growing, and pretty much everyone has a bank account. But in countries like Indonesia and Thailand, where populations are growing and many aren’t yet connected to the formal banking sector, the “possibility of a cashless society is still decades away,” according to Sivan.

Prior to this series A round, SoCash had been angel-funded. It first raised a seed round in July last year and then took on another round of investment in March. The total amounted to roughly US$1 million.


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