Round led by SPH Media Fund, joined by Golden Gate Ventures
Funds will be used to build team and expand to additional Asian market
SINGAPORE-based personal finance startup MoneySmart.sg has secured S$2.8 million (US$1.9 million) in Series A funding, in a round led by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Media Fund and including investors such as Golden Gate Ventures, Convergence Ventures, and OPT SEA.
Individual investors such as Royston Tan and Kwok Yang Bin, cofounders of Zopim, also participated in this round.
In 20112, MoneySmart.sg received seed funding of S$589,000 (US$412,000) from Golden Gate Ventures and Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF).
MoneySmart.sg allows users to compare the various loans, credit cards, insurance and other financial products, and buy them direct on the site.
The portal also includes a blog which focuses on financial tips and tricks for the financial layman, with content syndication partnerships with media outlets such as Yahoo!, MSN.com and SPH’s digital portal AsiaOne.
The startup currently has a 21-strong team, with 11 based in Indonesia and the rest in Singapore.
It counts all the banks in Singapore as customers, and includes a few direct partnerships with insurance providers and works with a broker as well, the company said.
Its Indonesian operations kicked off after it acquired financial product comparison site DuitPintar.com, previously KreditAja, in November 2014. DuitPintar.com holds a minority stake in MoneySmart.sg as part of the acquisition terms.
MoneySmart.sg became profitable last year, according to chief executive officer and founder Vinod Nair.
The startup claimed annual revenue in 2014 was “over S$1 million” (US$700,000), but declined to be more specific.
The startup sees the majority of its revenue from the cost of acquisition, which is the successful referral or application of a financial product, according to Vinod.
“About 70%-80% of our revenue comes from the cost of acquisition, and the remainder comes from advertising – from advertorials and sponsored placements on the site,” Vinod told a press conference in Singapore to announce its Series A success.
The most profitable product vertical for MoneySmart.sg is in credit card acquisitions, with Vinod saying that the average Singaporean has an average of five credit cards, according to MoneySmart.sg research.
“There’s no one card to rule them all,” he quipped.
When asked about editorial freedom and the possibility of being influenced by companies paying for advertorials, Vinod argued that there has to be an angle before an advertorial is considered, and posts are clearly marked as advertorials.
“What it allows brands to do is to showcase what they have to offer, but everything is still unbiased and they can’t buy more acquisitions without a good product.
“At the end of the day, when it comes to finance, the numbers speak for themselves, and if you put up something that is wrong, everyone will flame you straight away on social media,” he added.
The numbers do not lie in MoneySmart.sg’s case, as the site sees 750,000 pageviews and 500,000 unique visitors monthly.
Investor’s take, plans afoot
SPH Media Fund chief executive officer Chua Boon Ping said there were possible synergies between SPH and MoneySmart.sg, but emphasised that its investment in the portal was financially driven.
“SPH Media Fund is financially driven as we are set up as an independent VC [venture capital firm] – although we look for synergy, we don’t invest just for synergy,” he said.
The Series A round will give MoneySmart.sg an approximate runway of 12 to 18 months, according to Vinod.
It will be using the funds to expand its content and developer teams, as well as to boost marketing efforts in Singapore and Indonesia.
It is also looking to replicate its model in another country in Asia, according to Vinod, sometime in the middle of next year.
Replicating the model in one more market would be key in proving that its model works in more than just Singapore and Indonesia, he added.
When pressed about which countries were in contention, Vinod said MoneySmart.sg was considering the Philippines, Thailand or Hong Kong.
“I think the three of them are quite different markets, so we are undecided about which one to go for,” he said.
“The Philippines has a population size of 100 million people, but has low online literacy; Hong Kong is a mature market; while Thailand sits somewhere in the middle for population size and maturity,” he added.
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