First Circle, an Irish-led fintech company based in the Philippines, today publicly announced the completion of $1.2m seed investment round to support the roll-out of its online SME financing platform in South East Asia.

The investment, led by Dublin and London based Key Capital, and supported by San Francisco based 500 Startups and Singapore based IMJ Investment Partners, is believed to be the largest ever seed funding round completed in the region.

First Circle was founded in 2015, by Irishmen, Patrick Lynch (26), a former associate at Morgan Stanley; Tony Ennis (26), the Founding Engineer and former CTO at Web Summit; alongside Dutchman, Jorrit Koop, the former MD of the CompareAsiaGroup, to address the undersupply of short-term working capital and trade finance to SMEs in the Philippines and across South East Asia.

Despite a period of rapid economic growth in the region, the company believes that there has been a sustained lack of focus on business financing in many of these markets with consumer lending, mortgage provision, and other asset based lending taking priority. In addition, lenders that do offer business financing rely heavily on outdated, cumbersome and time consuming systems and processes that are not suitable for today’s fast moving businesses.

First Circle aims to revolutionise the sector and provide growing SMEs with fast, easy and cost-effective collateral free loans through its online platform and proprietary technologies.

“Much like in Ireland small businesses are the life blood of the Filipino and South East Asian economies. Yet despite their potential in a rapidly expanding economy we were surprised by the lack of support offered to local businesses, particularly when it comes to access to capital. We’re looking to change that and early indications suggest we’re onto something”, said CEO, Patrick Lynch.

“We’re building a community of the most dynamic SMEs in South East Asia and providing them with the funding and support they need to reach their full potential”, he added.

Through the company’s online platform, SMEs can apply for a cash-flow loan in five minutes, obtain a decision within 24 hours and receive their loan the very next day.

“The digital economy has created a world of data about SMEs, making them incredibly bankable. This is an obvious and immediate multi-billion dollar opportunity that banks have been slow to grasp. We funded First Circle because it has assembled a team of financial insiders who clearly do”, said Khailee Ng, Managing Partner, 500 Startups.

First Circle officially launched its service in the Philippines on October 8, having operated in beta mode there since April 2016 and built partnerships with local trade bodies and ecommerce platforms.

The seed capital will be used to further develop the company’s online platform and technologies, grow its staff base to address a funding gap estimated at $50bn by the Asian Development Bank.

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