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WANTED – start-ups for Paypal’s incubation programme

May 07. 2018
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By Asina Porwasin
The Nation

Successful fintech applicants would get access to wide expertise and venture capital 

PayPal has launched the PayPal Incubation Programme to help encourage Thailand’s fintech start-up ecosystem to expand throughout the Southeast Asia region. 

The programme aims to leverage the expertise of PayPal to help these start-ups attain success, said Jerry Tso, general manager of the Singapore Development Centre for PayPal.

More specifically, it will help start-ups get off the ground, access the network of venture capitalists, and help them solve legal and regulatory issues, he said.

“We are very keen in not only focusing on fintech in Singapore. We know very much from the landscape within the region that Southeast Asia is very vibrant. We hope to expand this programme to here, in Thailand, to allow more fintech start-ups to better understand what we do from the incubation programme perspective,” said Tso.

The objective of the PayPal Incubation Programme is to see great ideas coming from Thai entrepreneurs that could potentially be game changing in the fintech industry throughout Thailand and also the whole Southeast Asia region, he said.

“Every year [in Singapore], we have incubated three companies in each batch, in a nine-month programme. We do it on a yearly basis. We have had two batches, and the second batch will graduate in June. So, we are looking for batch three and that’s one of the reasons why we are here in Thailand,” said Tso.

Fintech start-ups in Thailand are still very young, he said, and that leaves a lot of room for PayPal to help entrepreneurs to better understand the overall fintech landscape – the potential for achievement – in the country and throughout the region.

“We can help encourage the fintech start-ups in Thailand with three things. One is from the government perspective: how we can play a more primary role in helping the fintech start-ups here. The second is from the talent perspective – to be supportive and make it easier to develop talent within the fintech ecosystem perspective. The last is from the investment perspective: when these entrepreneurs have good ideas, what can investors and VCs do to help these companies to try different things,” said Tso.

In Singapore, fintech is very mature from a regulatory perspective. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the island state’s central bank and financial regulator, has structured a regulatory framework to help fintech start-ups to be successful, including a “sandbox” environment that pushes start-ups to try new ideas in a safe environment. Thailand has been heading towards emulating other successful countries including Singapore, and PayPal is now coming in to see how it can help speed up and improve the fintech landscape.

“Currently, we are selecting three [start-ups] but that does not limit the possibility for us to select more companies, if they have great ideas that we want to further help incubate. Previously, because the [Thai] programme has just started, we are looking for the right programmes to put in place to help start-ups. As we continue to mature, we want to look to expand from three to more companies within the incubation programme,” said Tso. He would love to have one or more Thai start-ups join the PayPal Incubation Programme, since it is to looking for the best ideas and companies. If there were three or more great ideas or companies emerging in Thailand, PayPal would love to see how it could incubate all of them. 

“We would love to see an idea, which is a potential disrupter in the market. Obviously, the business idea is the key, but we looking for different things from a technology perspective, like good technologies and the talent,” said Tso.

They are very open to a range of ideas, he said. For example, in a previous batch they incubated fintechs related to cyptocurrency, insurance and social commerce. PayPal is looking at a wide range of companies within the fintech industry. 

“PayPal once was a start-up. We want to help the next start-up to be the unicorn of the next generation. We want to see how can we further help the start-ups in this region to come to Singapore and get a better experience. Now they are thinking about the local market; they need to think from a more global perspective.

“At PayPal, we look at ways for other start-ups out there disrupting the market or starting a trend. Potentially, we could partner with them, invest in them, and then they could help solve customer problems that we may have,” said Tso.

PayPal’s Singapore Development Centre includes an innovation lab. The centre has about 200 technologists working in different domains and with different expertise, all supported by PayPal businesses. 

The selected start-ups will be provided space in the Innovation Lab, along with access to expertise across domains including technology, legal, finance, compliance marketing, and also to programmes to help them to better understand and solve problems over nine months. The programme is seeking start-ups with working products, having advanced beyond the idea stage. 

“The focus for the first two batches was to provide the space as well as training and expertise. Now [we are] moving to the next phase of the incubation journey, by partnering with Alpha JWC Ventures to invest in these companies,” said Tso.

The Southeast Asia Venture Capital Fund of Alpha JWC Ventures is an exclusive partner of the PayPal Incubation Programme.

Chandra Tjan, co-founder and managing partner at Alpha JWC Ventures, said the company will seek fintech companies that the partners can together incubate, and would invest in those companies. 

“Alpha JWC Ventures will offer the investment together with PayPal,” said Tjan.

Alpha JWC Ventures, the first VC in Indonesia, has been investing since 2010. It is the first VC in Indonesia. In 2016, they saw fintech as the next big thing in Southeast Asia region and decided to seek start-ups to invest in.

“Currently, those companies are the leading fintech companies in the region. We believe we are a good partner for PayPal for this programme selecting the best companies. We could incubate them to [help them] be successful companies and bring these companies to the point [of becoming] global companies,” said Tjan.

Alpha JWC Ventures has a different approach when compared to other VCs. It does not offer only funding, but also many business factors including strategy, business development, talent, and so on. 

“We will be the value-added VC,” said Tjan.

The amount of investment in this programme would depend on what stage these companies are in, Tjan said. His company can invest anywhere from a couple of hundreds of thousands of dollars to 5 million dollars per investment.

“Every stage of start-ups, they require different funding. Importantly, if we found the right quality companies we will do the investment. We just started to be an exclusive partner with PayPal for this batch,” said Tjan.

The venture company’s focus is to find great companies from Thailand and throughout SEA. 

“We have not invested in fintech start-ups in Thailand yet. I have been exploring [where] to invest. We have not found the right one yet,” said Tjan.

Launched in 2016, PayPal Incubator has seen six fintech start-ups graduate from two cohorts. These start-ups – InvoiceInterchange, TenX, Axinan, PolicyPal, Chynge, and Jumper.AI, have raised over US$100 million (Bt3.17 billion) between them.

The nine-month incubation programme is located in PayPal’s Singapore offices and offers selected start-ups a prime co-working space at PayPal’s Singapore Development Centre located at Suntec City. Selected start-ups will learn about finance and technology topics from PayPal experts. They will be coached and mentored by PayPal executives. And they can access funding through PayPal’s network and VC connection.

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