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.
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.