Irish-led fintech firm secures $1.2m for Southeast Asian business

First Circle aims to revolutionise SME sector with fast, easy loans via new online platform

Irish-led fintech firm First Circle is set to roll out its online SME financing platform in southeast Asia following a $1.2 million (€1.09 million) investment.

Philippines-based First Circle was founded by Tony Ennis, who was previously chief technology officer of Web Summit owner Ci Labs, former Morgan Stanley associate Patrick Lynch, and Dutchman Jorrit Koop, who was previously managing director of CompareAsiaGroup.

The company was formed to address what it says is the undersupply of short-term working capital and trade finance to SMEs in the Philippines and southeast Asia.

First Circle said it would provide SMEs with cost-effective collateral-free loans through its online platform. It claims companies can apply in a few minutes and receive an answer within 24 hours.


Seed funding

First Circle said it intended to use the seed funding to further develop the company's online platform and technologies and to grow its staff numbers to address a funding gap estimated at $50 billion by the Asian Development Bank.

The $1.2 million seed funding round was led by Dublin- and London-based Key Capital and supported by San Francisco-based 500 Startups and Singapore-based IMJ Investment Partners.

The company began offering its services in the Philippines in April, as part of a beta roll-out, but officially launched earlier this month. It has also been working on building partnerships with local trade bodies and ecommerce platforms.

“Much like in Ireland small businesses are the lifeblood of the Filipino and southeast Asian economies,” said chief executive Patrick Lynch.

“Yet despite their potential in a rapidly expanding economy, we were surprised by the lack of support offered to local businesses, particularly when it comes to access to capital. We’re looking to change that and early indications suggest we’re on to something.”

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter