FINANCIAL SERVICES | Krisana Gallezo-Estaura, Singapore

Fintech startup led by two students scores first bank partnership with DBS

It secured around $ 1.7M funding.

Closing a business deal with large-scale businesses can be a real challenge, especially for startups who have no proven track record yet. However, two MBA students made an impression when they scored the first bank partnership with Singapore’s largest bank lender, DBS.

Kelvin Teo, 30, and Reynold Wijaya, 28, founded Funding Societies in 2015, an online peer-to-business (P2B) lending platform in Singapore for Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to secure loans for growth and for lenders to earn good returns. They launched the startup in Singapore and Indonesia, while being physically in the US studying their MBA degrees. They later emailed DBS CEO Piyush Gupta and scored the first bank partnership as a student CEO.

Kelvin claims that Funding Societies, the first escrow arrangement for fund handling and the first 2FA electronic-signing process for P2B lending in Southeast Asia, has amongst the lowest credit default records. Founded in Singapore to provide alternative financing and investment, Funding Societies expanded to Indonesia in January 2016 under the brand “Modalku.”

The founders
Kelvin, a Singapore permanent resident, came here on the ASEAN scholarship and was a valedictorian of NUS, before serving as a consultant at Accenture, McKinsey and KKR Capstone and graduating from Harvard Business School. He's a Chartered Accountant and sits on the young professionals committee.

Kelvin shared that the first time he came across peer-to-peer lending (P2P) was in 2014. He thought it was crazy when his first buddy told him how P2P lending works until something happened that changed his perception. “Upon visiting several P2P lending companies in the US, I was blown away. I found that it could truly impact SMEs and societies. Not just our society in Singapore, but also societies across Southeast Asia. Hence we call ourselves ‘Funding Societies,’” he said.

Reynold, meanwhile, graduated from Harvard Business School and was a Summa Cum Laude from the University of Michigan with a Master of Engineering. He was a leading executive in a reputable family business conglomerate in Indonesia. He's also the co-founder of Let's Go to School, a non-profit organisation in Indonesia.

By leveraging on technology and credit research, Kelvin and Reynold identified non-bankable but creditworthy SMEs looking for loans and enabled investors to crowdfund them for good monthly returns.

The two started the business by bootstrapping and raising money from their families. After launching their platform in August 2015, they have raised venture capital in two months from SPH Media Fund (Singapore) and Alpha JWC Ventures (Indonesia), and several angels. Alpha JWC Ventures is co-founded by Chandra Tjan who invested in Indonesian tech stars Tokopedia & Traveloka The company has ~S$ 1.7M as of 2015.

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