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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Brankas wants to bring Southeast Asia’s banks and e-commerce into the digital era

Fintech continues to be among the biggest topics driving startups and investment in Southeast Asia. The region’s ‘internet economy’ is forecast to grow massively as its 600 million people increasingly come online — already Southeast Asia more internet users (350 million) than the U.S. has people but developing a robust payment landscape underpins those heady growth forecasts.

Beyond the most prevalent consumer brands — such as ride-hailing giants Grab and Go-Jek — and the outsiders pouring money into the region — including Tencent and Alibaba — fintech startups take a different approach to other parts of the world. Unlike Europe or the U.S, where disruption is the name of the game, Southeast Asian fintech is about third parties working with the system to make it more efficient and wide-ranging. That’s because credit card ownership is low double digits, and transfers from bank accounts — which aren’t universally operated by all consumers — represent an estimated [PDF] half of all online purchases.

The most visible niches attracting investor attention and capital is the data-play — companies that operate as super aggregators of financial services, such as insurance or loans — but there’s also an increasing number of startups that enable banks to kickstart their digital strategy.

Brankas, an Indonesia-based startup that operates regionally, is one such young company — it operates a platform that gives banks and financial companies the tech to roll out digital products and embrace online services.

The company takes its cue from Western success stories — U.S-based Plaid (a Disrupt alum no less) is valued at $2.65 billion while, in Europe, Tink and Bud have both raised big sums from investors — to offer a service that essentially provides the digital plumbing to ease Southeast Asia’s financial incumbents into the digital era.

“What we’re doing is similar to banking API infrastructure,” Brankas CEO and co-founder Todd Schweitzer told TechCrunch in an interview. “The difference being that in Southeast Asia it is very early days and little to no regulation.”

A selection of the Brankas team with CEO and co-founder Todd Schweitzer (seated fourth from right)

Former management consultant Schweitzer founded the startup in 2016 with Kenneth Shaw, his former classmate in California who had been CTO of Southeast Asian online marketplace Multiply.com. They describe themselves as “now longtime Southeast Asia residents.”

Brankas — which means safe in Indonesia’s Bahasa language — graduated Plug And Play’s first incubator in Southeast Asia and it grew from being a service managing multiple bank accounts to a platform that digitizes banking. Today, it is headquartered in Jakarta with 25 staff — 15 of whom are engineers — across that office and another in Manila, Philippines.

The company raised an undisclosed investment from investors, including Singapore fintech fund Dymon Asia, earlier this year and now its founders have their eyes on growth.

The service is currently operational in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Schweitzer said the plan is to expand to Thailand and Malaysia around the middle of 2019.

“We are excited to partner with Todd and Kenneth as they build out open banking infrastructure in the region. Brankas enables seamless connections between financial institutions, merchants and fintechs. This is critical for the next stage of growth of the digital ecosystem in Southeast Asia,” Dymon Asia partner Chris Kaptein told TechCrunch.

So what does the plumbing service for financial organizations actual entail? Brankas focuses on two distinct audiences at this point: banks and financial companies, and companies providing online services, predominantly e-commerce.

For banks, Brankas uses its APIs and systems to essentially slot new services into their platform.

Schweitzer said banks are aware that they need to offer “more open” services. Even in the event that they can figure out what that means in terms of product, they typically don’t have the in-house team to build and manage the tech stack, let alone make it “productized” — i.e. usage by their customers.

“Banks here in Southeast Asia aren’t investing in consumer banking,” he explained,” because the bulk of their revenue comes from traditional corporate lending.”

Brankas co-founder Kenneth Shaw (left) and Todd Schweitzer (right)

For those using banks and collecting money from consumers, the end play is different. The challenges are often similar. For example, most consumers in Southeast Asia use bank transfers to pay for online. That works for collecting payment in theory, but there is no system that optimized for that — actually making sure the correct amount money is in from the correct customer.

Schweitzer recalled a story of how he visited an unnamed (but high profile) e-commerce company’s office and noticed “a whole floor of people who hit refresh on online banking systems to figure out who had made the transfer.”

The Brankas system helps handle that local complexity, and other areas like direct payouts without middlemen, or batched and real-time payments for gig workers and others who receive daily payouts. Other products in the pipeline include credit scoring, a much-needed resource across the region.

To date, Brankas has picked up partnerships with six banks in Indonesia, three in the Philippines and one in Vietnam, where it is in talks to add others. Schweitzer said it has “dozens” of customers across e-commerce, consumer finance and insurance verticals. The startup is also a part of Indonesia’s Open API Sandbox hosted by the country’s Central Bank.

“Today, we address the domestic, non-card payments market in ASEAN,” he told TechCrunch. “That includes everything from bank transfer fees to domestic remittance fees, POS merchant fees, payment aggregator fees and more.”

That alone, he estimates, is worth $7.8 billion in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy. Then there’s the rest of the region to factor in, too.


Source: TechCrunch

Google I/O 2019 Liveblog: All the News as It Happens

Google’s developer conference kicks off on May 7 at 10 am Pacific. Follow along with us for analysis and commentary from WIRED’s editors.
Source: Wired

The Strange Journey of an NSA Zero-Day Vulnerability—Into Multiple Enemies' Hands

How a “secret” hackable bug found by the NSA was used over by Chinese, North Korean, and Russian hackers to wreak havoc.
Source: Wired

Melinda Gates wants to fight 'sexist' data – CNET

The billionaire philanthropist talks contraceptives, women’s empowerment and her new book in Silicon Valley.
Source: CNET

Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4 recap: Cersei Lannister evens the odds – CNET

And you thought the White Walkers were the real monsters…
Source: CNET

Samsung Galaxy Fold buyers facing a longer wait for their handsets – CNET

Update for preorder customers offers a vague idea of when they might get their next update on shipping info.
Source: CNET

Luckin Coffee plans to raise over $500M in US IPO

Luckin Coffee, the ambitious Chinese upstart that’s going after Starbucks, could raise nearly $600 million from its upcoming IPO. That’s according to a price range released by the Chinese startup.

In a new filing, Luckin said it plans to sell 30 million shares at an initial range of $15-$17. That gives an estimated raise of $450 million to $510 million, but it could be bumped up if underwriters take up the additional allocation of 4.5 million shares. So, as a grand total, the listing could raise $586.5 million if the full offering is bought at the top of the range.

The company will list on the Nasdaq as ‘LK.’

Luckin filed to go public last month, just weeks after it closed a $150 million Series B+ funding round led by New York private equity firm Blackrock, which interestingly holds a 6.58 percent stake in Starbucks. The deal valued Luckin at $2.9 billion and it took the three-year-old company to $550 million raised from investors to date.

The company has burned through incredible amounts of cash as it tries to quickly build a brand that can rival Starbucks, and the presence that the U.S. firm has built over the last 20 years in China. Through aggressive promotions and coupons, the company posted a $475 million loss in 2018, its only full year of business to date, with $125 million in revenue. For the first quarter of 2019, it carded an $85 million loss with total sales of $71 million.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has been vocally dismissive of the viability of that strategy of “heavy, heavy discounts.”

“We’re deploying capital and building 600 new stores per year. [We’re] generating the return on invested capital that we believe is sustainable to continue to build new stores at this rate for many years to come,” he told CNBC in a recent interview.

Starbucks claims 30,000 stores worldwide. It has been in China for 20 years and it is aiming to reach 6,000 stores in the country by 2022. Luckin, fuelled by that VC money, has quickly scaled to reach 2,370 locations in under two years with plans to add a further 2,500 this year. That would see it overtake Starbucks — which has 3,600 stores across 150 Chinese cities — although that a metric gives a distorted view since Luckin specializes in digital orders and on-demand delivery. That’s in contrast to the retail model operated by Starbucks.


Source: TechCrunch

Amazon Go's first NY store is also the first to accept cash – CNET

The 12th Go store comes to the Brookfield Place mall near the World Trade Center.
Source: CNET

New Amazon Go store opens in NYC now offers cash sales – CNET

We got a sneak peek at the new Amazon Go store opening at Brookfield Place in New York City. With a swipe of your phone’s Amazon Go app you can enter the store and be tracked as you make a selection for purchase, then walk out and have the charge show up on your account without ever interacting with a cashier, though interestingly Amazon is now actually offering cash sales through an associate upon request.
Source: CNET

Master & Dynamic MW65 review: A high-end wireless noise-canceling headphone with a distinct design and smooth sound – CNET

With its durable, eye-catching design and smooth sound, the MW65 ANC gets high marks, but the $499 price tag hurts its broader appeal.
Source: CNET

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