MANY startups have attempted to unlock financial services in Southeast Asian emerging markets, where credit card penetration is under 10%.
Consumers in the Philippines have lost trust in a system rife with illegitimate and predatory lenders. A new FinTech startup, Plentina, is leveraging machine learning and retail partnerships to help rebuild that trust.
Plentina closed a seed round of $2.2M after successfully launching a service for large-scale merchants to sell on installments to the >90% of Southeast Asian emerging market consumers without a credit card. Their seed round was co-led by former Tableau Executive and ClearGraph CEO Andrew Vigneault, Unpopular Ventures and DV Collective, with participation from JG Digital Equity Ventures (JGDEV), Amino Capital, Canaan Partners Scout Fund, Ignite Impact Fund, and other strategic angels and family offices.
They previously raised a pre-seed round of $750k last year from investors including Techstars, Emergent Ventures, and the 500 Startups Vietnam Fund. Plentina participated in the Techstars Western Union accelerator as their first startup serving the Philippines and was oversubscribed for their seed round before their demo day at Stanford’s StartX accelerator program.
“I’ve worked with many early-stage FinTech companies over the years. However, I’ve come across few founders who are as impressive as Kevin and Earl and have been able to achieve such levels of success with customers, channel partners, and product at such an early stage,” said lead investor Andrew Vigneault about the potential of the Plentina business opportunity. “Kevin and Earl have developed a brilliant go-to-market strategy that has positioned Plentina to be able to promote financial literacy and inclusion at scale in the Philippines and I’m excited to have the opportunity to be along for the ride.”
Founders Kevin Gabayan and Earl Valencia met at Stanford 14 years ago while they were graduate school students working on a machine learning Ph.D. and MBA.
Kevin has since been a NASA computer vision researcher, led data science at Bump Technologies when it was acquired by Google, and founded an emerging market fintech team at Google’s Area 120 incubator.
Chief Business Officer Earl previously was a VP of Innovation at Smart Communications when he founded the Ideaspace startup incubator in the Philippines, led corporate data program and partnerships at Bridgewater, and most recently left his role as Managing Director of Digital Transformation at Charles Schwab. They’ve teamed up to leverage machine learning and partnerships to reveal creditworthy borrowers in emerging markets, starting with their heritage country, the Philippines.
“Accessing financial services in emerging markets can be inefficient. We’re happy to provide consumers more convenient and flexible payments while helping merchants upgrade their sales channels,” said Gabayan, Plentina’s co-founder and CEO.
The seed funding will be used to grow its data science, business development, and customer operations teams to meet the growing inbound demand of new merchants and an accelerating number of borrowers on the platform.
“Plentina believes that machine learning and partnerships can unlock credit potential for the over 100 million Filipinos. With a median age of 24 and an emerging middle class, this generation will be expecting a digital-first financial services product that we aim to provide,” said Valencia, co-founder and Chief Business Officer.
Since obtaining their lending license in the Philippines and launching in October 2020, the Plentina app has been downloaded more than 30,000 times.
The app offers store credit installment loans with major retail partners including 7-Eleven Philippines and Smart Communications, a mobile network operator with over 70 million prepaid subscribers. To date, they have generated over 10M credit scores from alternative data sources.