Southeast Asia’s tech landscape shares so many similarities with China’s of five to ten years ago with its maturing internet infrastructure as well as a swift transition to smart and mobile devices. No wonder a plethora of Chinese companies are flocking to the Southeast Asia market in an attempt to duplicate their domestic success in growing Southeast Asian destinations.
Along with this trend, not only internet giants like Xiaomi and Alibaba are targeting at the market as a means of business expansion, but also Chinese startups who find huge possibilities in the area are developing products solely for the territory.
Silot, a fintech startup based in Beijing and Singapore, is one of the companies that is leading this trend. It develops loyalty exchange programs and regional settlement networks across Southeast Asia and other emerging markets. The startup provides settlement and payment solutions as well as marketing and campaign services.
Andy Li, former deputy general manager of Baidu Global Payment, has more than a decade of working experience in internet industry across the Asia Pacific region. After witnessing the fintech boom in China and the disparity between different markets, Andy started Silot with his Baidu teammate Bryan Sun, who now works as CTO.
“Fintech has two development stages. The key words for the first phase are connectivity and enabler, where we set up the infrastructure of the mobile internet and mobile payment to facilitate the interactions between different entities. In the second phase, the keywords are big data and AI, where massive amounts of data is generated,” Andy told TechNode.
Silot is completing the first phase for emerging markets by setting up the infrastructure. Through connecting review-based apps like Dianping and local merchants, the Silot Loyalty Exchange Program offers customized and accurate push promotions by matching the users’ purchasing preferences and merchants’ offer with machine learning and data technology.
“We are running a B2B business, which links merchants and/or banks with online apps such as promotional apps, delivery apps, marketplace apps, etc. We help merchants to match online users to their business nature by linking them with online apps & e-wallets,” Andy said. “With our big data technology, we are able to generate customer personas to help merchants understand better about their customers.”
“Although there’s an increasing demand for third-party payment services, most of the merchants in Southeast Asia don’t have financial accounts, even if they do, they are accounts of traditional banks, which can’t offer additional values,” he adds.
This is exactly what China experienced a few years ago when the O2O closed loop hadn’t been created, Li pointed out.
Currently, Silot has partnered up with several leading payment solutions and banks across the region. It’s loyalty exchange partners connect the offline merchants with the apps from different countries.
The startup’s system is free of charge for clients so far. In the long-term, it plans to generate revenue from memberships and key accounts on a marketing performance basis.
Apart from startups, China’s investment institutions are also looking into the trend. ZhenFund, China’s reputable angel investor founded by renowned tech guru Xu Xiaoping, just invested in the seed round of Silot, its first portfolio company in Southeast Asia market. “Silot plans to start our next funding round in the next quarter.” Li disclosed.
Li wants the team to stay focused on Singapore and Thailand first before extending Australia, Malaysia, and Indonesia for later on.
Li gives several reasons for choosing Singapore as the pilot market before expanding globally.
“The Singapore government is very friendly to startups with many attractive supporting programs,” he says. “More importantly, Singapore as a financial center is a great place to build settlement related business with full spectral support from its regulations to infrastructures.”
Another reason for the decision is probably the quick rise of fintech in Southeast Asia market. The area saw the greatest number of fintech deals in 2016. Of the total 71 investment deals closed in the year, over half of them went to Singapore-based startups.