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Daily Markup #347: Neobank Friz secures US$1M to serve freelancers; Khailee on building startups that give the best returns to society; Tips for first-time founders & students in SEA

Ching Yee Ho



Fixing a broken system

  • 500-backed Friz, a fintech startup for freelancers, announced the completion of its oversubscribed seed funding round of US$1 million.
  • This follows a pre-seed round of an undisclosed amount from a host of investors, including Y Combinator, 500 Southeast Asia, 500 TukTuks, and Iterative in April this year.
  • According to a report, the freelancer economy has almost doubled since 2016, with 70% of freelancing talent coming from Asia. However, most of them face difficulty accessing basic banking products such as credit cards and loans.
  • “70 per cent of our customers are very unhappy with mass-market banking and want a personalised financial tool that solves their problems. Our users are tired of broken financial solutions and being excluded from basic financial services,” Nirali Zaveri, CEO and co-founder of Friz, said.
  • Friz said it has been registering a 500% growth month-on-month since its inception in April 2020.
  • Read the full article on e27 here.

Credit: The Star

Bringing out the best

  • “Because 500 Global has seen how quickly many of our over 2,500 startup investments in 77 countries grow to become large tech giants, we have decided to play a more proactive role in onboarding our next 2,500 investments onto their ESG (environmental, social and governance) journey,” 500 Global managing partner Khailee Ng told The Star.
  • Today, the venture capital (VC) firm’s portfolio features 35 unicorns (companies valued at US$1bil or more), including Southeast Asia’s Grab, Carsome, and Carousell.
  • He also addressed the misconception that sustainable companies have lower or longer return on investment (ROI): “Our data is showing that the opposite can be true. Our top performing seed investments continue to deliver ROIs in the 10x, which is 2,000x range under 10 years. And, they are pioneering inspirational examples of sustainability.”
  • The best ROIs can drive the best returns to society, he concluded.
  • Read the full interview here.

Credit: 500 Global

Trends in investing

  • “2021 has had a record-breaking year in terms of the number of Southeast Asian startups entering the unicorn club — and the year is not even over yet!” Atika French, Capital Formation associate at 500 Global, said in an interview.
  • She shared that the region will see more venture capital firms and funds. What does this mean for a first-time founder in Southeast Asia? She said there will be:
    • More options for funding, from seed to growth
    • Probably be a more competitive term sheet environment as investors compete to get deals done quickly and at reasonable valuations
    • A higher level of sophistication in the quality of founders as more serial entrepreneurs are exiting companies and looking to start their next ventures
  • On students looking to go into venture capital, Atika offers this advice: “I think that students should start to recognize that they don’t need to pressure themselves in becoming that “model student”, which I believe is already becoming less relevant in today’s job market.”
  • Read the full interview here.

Ching Yee Ho