3 min read

Daily Markup #543: First Circle helps SMEs win government contracts; Grab touches lives with fintech; VTF turns science fiction into virtual reality

Ching Yee Ho



Credit: First Circle

Click for opportunities

  • Word-of-mouth marketing and personal connections can only take an SME’s business so far. That’s why 500-backed fintech startup First Circle launched a new platform to help small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Philippines get access to government projects, a lucrative source of opportunities!
  • Dubbed Project Finder, the platform not only lists government contracts that SMEs can bid on, but also includes an exclusive First Circle loan product for government suppliers. Applicants who qualify will receive a revolving credit line, which they can opt not to use unless needed.
  • What’s the status quo? Information about government projects is not easily accessible, while most SMEs lack the proof of funding needed to win bids. With Project Finder, the company hopes to remove the barriers to business-to-government transactions. 
  • More details here.
Credit: Grab

Empowering the unbanked & underbanked in SEA

  • Grab’s fintech arm, Grab Financial Group (GFG), was set up to empower the region’s unbanked and underbanked segments – what’s estimated to be 6 in 10 Southeast Asians – by offering simple, transparent, and flexible financial products. GFG’s key R&D center for fintech is located in India.
  • “To fulfill Grab’s mission to drive Southeast Asia forward by creating economic empowerment for everyone, and at our pace of growth, we needed to expand into a center that would have a continuous pipeline of high-quality and passionate tech talent seeking to make an impact,” said Grab India’s site lead & Head of Engineering Srinivas Chamarthy.
  • Some of you may recognize the projects spearheaded by the center, such as the 500-backed superapp’s involvement in the ePenjana initiative, a short-term recovery plan to disburse subsidies via digital payments, and the ePemula program to boost the adoption of cashless payments.
  • “[The ePenjana] initiative saw four times more senior citizens claim their subsidies compared to a previous disbursement and helped millions of Malaysian nationals easily claim government aid during a very challenging period,” shared Srivinas.
  • Another notable project is GrabModal, which provides same-day access to micro-loans for pre-selected drivers and delivery partners in Indonesia.
  • “In 2021, our driver and merchant partners earned US$8.9 billion,” he added.
  • Read the full story here.
Credit: Business Today

From science fiction to virtual reality

  • “If you can visualize it, we can virtualize it!” This is the promise of 500-backed virtual development startup Virtualtech Frontier (VTF).
  • Part of that promise is building a Metaverse that doesn’t merely focus on gaming. VTF wants to virtualize brands, businesses, and worlds by bringing these physical elements into the Web3 space, where people from all over the world can meet up and form real connections that are not bounded by geographical borders.
  • To date, VTF has built hundreds of thousands of user sessions and virtual solutions. Its focus now is building next-generation engagements within the Metaverse, a fairly raw concept in the tech industry. The Metaverse is a one-to-one replica of the real world with a touch of fantasy. 
  • Co-founder & CEO Jason Low believes that his startup will pave the path toward a better humanity. VTF’s Metaverse will create more engaging online experiences that take user experience to the next level.
  • Read the full article here.

Ching Yee Ho