Fintech Horizons was founded by veteran journalists. We cover startups in insurtech, payments, alternative lending, capital markets and blockchain/distributed ledger. Our articles highlight company technology, people, competition, and fundraising, while also looking at how a company was founded.
Dasceq, a company that has created a SAAS platform that uses AI to streamline collections, is “definitely” interested in raising seed funding, CEO and founder Abhishek Goel told this news service.
The company would like to raise a seed round of close to $1m, the CEO said.
Dasceq was founded in August 2017 and has its headquarters in Irving, Texas. It aims to follow in the footsteps of innovative companies like GreenSky and Affirm who used personalization to transform lending, by doing the same for collections, he said.
The company’s software analyzes data from delinquent accounts to determine when, how, and with what frequency an account holder should be contacted. This could mean more or fewer phone calls and could also result in greater use of text, chat, and email, he said.
Dasceq has been bootstrapped thus far and is capital-efficient. The company has an experienced team of data scientists that are skilled at using regression analysis, AI and ML and who have worked previously for companies like Citibank. In addition, Dasceq’s platform is already on the market and is well-liked by customers. These facts, combined with its growing market traction, should make Dasceq appealing to investors, he said.
Dasceq does not plan to use an investment bank to raise its seed round, as it will likely be talking mostly with seed funds and early stage venture firms, the CEO said.
It could though work with an investment banker in six to twelve months. By then, Dasceq should be ready to start preparations for an A round and may tap an investment banker for help with its go to market strategy. The company expects to raise its A round in 12 to 18 months, he said.
The A round will be much larger than its seed round, with a likely size of $5m plus. This is because the A round will be used to scale and would only be raised once Dasceq proves its effectiveness over a larger customer base, he said.
Dasceq grew from 7 to 15 people last year and expects to grow its team from 15 to 30 following the seed raise. The company will look to hire additional support reps, software engineers, and data scientists, Goel said.
Dasceq’s primary focus within collections is prime and subprime auto, with a secondary focus on short and long-term personal installment loans.
There could be other areas of collections that make sense to consider later. Logical areas for expansion include credit cards, student lending, healthcare, government, utilities, and IRS, he said.
Dasceq’s focus is squarely on the US this year, although international expansion could be considered in 2020 as the company has already received customer inquiries from abroad, he said. The addressable market is huge, with delinquencies globally exceeding a trillion dollars, the CEO said.
Dasceq’s aim is to find “the needle in the haystack.” The company’s personalized approach to collections improves efficiency by 30% or more while increasing the amount collected by 8% or more. By using AI, the platform also continuously fine-tunes its recommendations for dealing with delinquent accounts, the CEO said.
The company’s approach differs from some in the space who claim to use AI, but who lack prior experience working with large data sets. Those in collections cannot be fooled, Goel said, as they quickly can tell if a new approach is working.
Prior to Dasceq, Goel worked as a data scientist for more than 15 years, including at GMAC, Argus, US Bank, PwC and most recently as VP of Strategic Data Solutions for Citibank.
He also was an adjunct professor at SMU and taught data analysis at the University of Texas at Dallas. He received his MS in applied economics from North Dakota State and has an MBA from West Bengal Technology University.
Armando Fonseca Sierra is the CEO of Powwi, a trademark of GDE Payments. Powwi is headquartered in Bogota, Colombia and was founded in August 2018. Powwi has created a mobile app that lets individuals and small businesses deposit money, pay bills, and send money. In the Q&A, Fonseca Sierra discusses Powwi’s product offerings, its interest in raising outside capital, and the possibility of expanding beyond Colombia. The interview has been edited and condensed to fit an article format.
What is Powwi and how did the company get started?
Powwi lets people make electronic deposits and payments. The company was made possible as result of changes to the laws of Colombia in 2014, that allow for the creation of SEPDEs (Specialized Companies In Electronic Deposit and Payments)
The company was built with agile principles and a focus on innovation. In Colombia today, people have a hard time sending and receiving money, and the fees to do so are high.
Powwi was started last year and its goal is to increase financial inclusion, to reduce informality in the economy and reduce the dependency on cash.
The company offers financial products for both individuals and small businesses. For individuals, we have two products, known commercially as Powwi Agile and Powwi Más. Both products let people make deposits, put credits, make payments and send money orders.
Can you tell us a bit about those offerings?
Powwi Agile is a demand deposit similar to a simplified electronic account. It can handle up to three legal minimum wages currently, which is close to 2,500,000 pesos per month. About 80% of the population of Colombia has an income in that range.
If a person exceeds that amount, they can use Powwi Más. Powwi Más is a deposit with similar characteristics, but there are no caps and the customer is given additional information and monitoring capabilities.
A store that wants to increase sales can offer Powwi and those customers will return to the store to add money to their account.
There are also a large number of microenterprises in Colombia. These are businesses with less than 10 employees and sales of less than 65 million pesos per month. For these businesses, Powwi has a corporate portal to make payments, investments, and other inquiries.
What are your top goals for this year?
It is a very interesting year, one with important challenges. We are going to market and are expectations are high.
Growing the ecosystem is critical. Many people already use Powwi and a number of stores now offer it. This year, we would like Powwi to go viral. We want people to understand that having money in Powwi provides a greater return. That it is not the same as paying with a ticket. We have developed new ways for transferring money, which remove the operational costs that today are born by the consumer.
What activities does the company do as a team?
Each team member acts as an ambassador for Powwi. We want to speak about Powwi at every opportunity, so we get the word out.
We have not done a formal product launch. When we do launch, we want Powwi to already be well-known from events and from digital marketing. We want people to automatically associate Powwi with the topic of financial inclusion.
How can Powwi help companies with payroll?
We have Claro, a corporate portal for small businesses. Through the portal, a small business owner can make payments, manage payroll and view transactions.
Do you see Powwi expanding to other countries in Latin America?
All of Latin America has something in common and that is the idea of intuition. I will take Brazil out of the exercise, but none of the countries in Latin America has a situation where financial products are widely available. But when people anywhere in Latin America see something that is easy to understand, and innovative, it spreads rapidly.
The difference between Colombia and other countries in Latin America, is that Colombia is highly regulated. Our platform, therefore, has a regulatory component. So if we take out the regulatory component, we can expand to any country where a need for our services exists.
An important point regarding expansion is the need for partnerships. We believe we cannot do this alone, and if we try to, we will fail. We have a great opportunity to expand in Central America and Latin America. What is important is to have a model that works, that is scalable, and that can be customized for each country.
What has it been like to be a leader in the growth of Fintech in Colombia?
I worked 18 years at financial institutions in Colombia. These institutions have a certain way they do things. Regulation is always part of it.
At Powwi, we do things differently. We tell people we are a financial entity, but we are also a Fintech. We say we are a financial entity that also looks to innovate and follows agile methodologies. And of course people at financial institutions look at Powwi and ask—"what is it?”
That is because of the way those financial institutions operate. Any time you need to do anything at a financial institution you are asked to make a hundred photocopies. The procedures are implemented in a way that leave you scratching your head. You are left asking “Why? Isn’t there a better way?”
Obviously doing things in an innovative way while complying with regulations is a challenge. But for us, that is the exciting part. When we find an obstacle, it gives us an opportunity to apply our creativity to solve it.
In the end, you need more than a good idea, you need to set it in motion. When something is in place and you take steps to improve it, then you are innovating! That is part of the culture we are creating at Powwi.
Have you raised capital?
To date, the company has been funded by shareholders. The shareholder group has more than 38 years of experience at financial institutions in Colombia. This group provided Powwi with its initial capital. Apart from that, we have not received an injection of capital .
Where would you like the company to be in a year?
We have a clear vision for the future, one created through operational, tactical and strategic planning. On the strategic side, our goal is to introduce at least one new innovation per quarter to improve the customer experience. The customer does not know we are at work on these changes, but we do not expect the product to look the same next year. We have a plan to improve and expand all of our products and services.
What do you like to do when you have free time?
I enjoy spending time with my family. I also like to look every few months at what innovations are being developed in other parts of the world, not just in finance, but in other verticals as well. On weekends, I enjoy going on a walk with my dogs and clearing my mind to get ready for the week.
Are you interested in attracting funding from the US or Europe?
Yes, as I said, we cannot do this alone. To accomplish everything we would like to do in the next five years requires capital. We are looking at options to see how we can bring in outside capital .We are working right now with an investment bank that is helping us see what avenues exist to obtain a growth investment.
We have seen that it is easier to raise money from the United States or Europe, where capital can be brought into the region. There is a lot of innovation happening in Fintech in Latin America as a result of these investments.
Growth investors tend to have a different approach than companies. When companies invest in other companies in the same country, they wait for you to get to a certain size. So when they arrive, they ask me how many clients I have. I answer, “we have 2500 clients in two months.” They say, “Talk to me when you reach a critical mass.”
BeeEye, a software provider to lenders that integrates artificial intelligence into credit decisions, expects to expand into the US this year and may require additional funding, said Assaf Binstock, co-founder and CEO.
Founded three years ago, the Israel-based company has customers in the United Kingdom and Australia. Between 2017-2018, BeeEye accumulated revenue of $1.2m, according to Binstock. Angel investors and grants from the Israeli government initially capitalized the company but BeeEye may consider more funding this year, depending on the pace of US expansion, said the CEO.
While the angel investors largely are based in Israel, Binstock said the company was considering new investors from Europe, the US and Asia
BeeEye’s EyeOnRisk platform enables retail lenders to easily integrate external data and machine learning capabilities into their credit decision process. EyeOnRisk is not designed to re-write bank lending, said Binstock. Rather, it is a tool that transparently can reduce a bank’s default rate without elevating risk.
EyeOnRisk can be installed on site or applied through a SaaS model without compromising on security or compliance, according to Binstock.
The CEO said the company has demonstrated BeeEye can decrease the default rates of lenders by an average of 19.4% without elevating the risk for the bank.
In one example, a credit card issuer with 3.5 million customers needed more accurate credit decisions for existing customers. After a proof-of-concept project, EyeOnRisk demonstrated it could add external data, along with machine learning capabilities, to more than 60% of the issuer’s customers. The new data would allow the development of new scores for existing customers that were 50% more reliable than the existing scores.
BeeEye claims the EyeOnRisk platform, which was integrated within one day after the proof of concept study, delivered a 13.2% decrease in default rates and 20% increase in revenue to the credit card issuer.
In a second case, a lender wanted to improve the loan application process for new customers. EyeOnRisk built a model that integrated web data with the customer’s application data. It then extrapolated the relevant data from the EyeOnRisk model via API interface and subsequently integrated the new data in the lender’s software system. BeeEye and the customer claim there was a 34% increase improvement in processing new applications and an 18.75% reduction in defaults.
Binstock said EyeOnRisk can be applied to numerous programs within banks, asset managers and regulated financial institutions
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