Financial technology has been a disruptive force globally in recent years, with innovations in payments, investments and currency exchange emerging at a rapid pace. The existence of a seamless and inclusive “Internet of Money” is becoming more of a reality each day, and Fintech entrepreneurs are now turning an eye towards Asia as the next breeding ground for innovation.
This month I was able to attend the RISE technology conference in Hong Kong, where some of Asia’s most potentially disruptive startups came together to pitch, network and share new ideas. Fintech has always been about breaking down financial barriers that have existed for decades, and here are three startups I met at the RISE conference that have the potential to do just that.
Bitcoin has long had the potential to transform online payments and banking, and Pegapay is out to accomplish just that in Japan. I spoke with co-founder Abasa Philips at RISE, and his knowledge and passion for payments and Bitcoin is indisputable. With a wealth of knowledge and experience in the Japanese payments space, Mr. Philips and his partner Michael Montague hope to make Pegapay the new standard for Bitcoin wallets in Japan and eventually throughout Asia. Pegapay uses a unique data encryption technology combined with a slick mobile interface optimized for both Apple and Android devices to create a platform that has yet to exist in the Japanese market. The ultimate goal is make make bank transfers, e-commerce and peer-to-peer payments instant and virtually zero cost utilizing Bitcoin and Blockchain technology.
Pegapay will be launching its Beta in 2015, and plans to scale rapidly in terms of both consumer and merchant adoption. Users can sign up for access to the Beta version on their website.
Location: Hong Kong
Peer-to-peer lending has been growing in the US and Great Britain over the past few years, and Monexo is now bringing that same technology to Hong Kong. While it seeks to ultimately be a full-fledged lending ecosystem in the future, Monexo’s current innovation is allowing property owners to borrow against future rental income. CEO and co-founder Mukesh Bubna has over 20 years of commercial banking experience in Asia, and founded Monexo after he realized there was an apparent shortage of lenders in Hong Kong. Both China and Hong Kong are noted for their high savings rates, and the Monexo platform could provide another outlet for savers to gain higher returns on their capital while at the same time helping borrowers who are unable to secure financing through traditional banks, yet still have assets like residential or commercial real-estate that can be leveraged. It will be interesting to see how far Monexo can take this innovation and potentially expand the service to other asset classes.
Monexo is currently in operation in Hong Kong, and more information about fees, rates and signing up can be found on their website.
Location: Hong Kong
Founded in 2014, Bitspark is going after the Holy Grail of Bitcoin technology: using Bitcoin to allow transactions in any currency, real-time, from any location in the world regardless of whether or not the individual has a bank account. This kind of service is especially needed by foreign-born workers in Hong Kong with families in countries like Indonesia or the Philippines, where sending money back to friends and family is often cost-prohibitive due to high wire transfer fees. Many of these workers are often low-wage and unbanked, thereby making bank transfer remittances impossible.
I was able to demo Bitspark’s application at RISE, and it has a sleek, modern interface which is very user-friendly and easy to navigate. Since Bitcoin is only used as a conduit to transfer money from one currency to another, the actual price of Bitcoin is irrelevant to their business model and platform. Currently available for remittances from Hong Kong to selected regions in the APAC market, Bitspark will soon be unveiling a new Blockchain platform that will expand its reach globally. Its this kind of technology that has the potential to give big banks and wiring services like Western Union a run for their money in the remittance and payments space.
You can keep up to date on news and information about the release of their new platform by signing up for the Bitspark mailing list on their website.
These three companies represent only the tip of the iceberg for fintech in Asia. Investors and Venture Capitalists are betting big on fintech in general, and many are now realizing the special opportunity that Asia represents for innovations across the board in finance. If RISE Hong Kong was any indication, fintech in Asia will undeniably be an exciting and thriving space for those willing to challenge the status quo of the financial services infrastructure.
Author: David Harrington (@TheRealDaveH) – Tech In Asia