BillEase, the leading card-free Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) platform in the Philippines closes Series B with USD 11 million in fresh equity. The round is led by BurdaPrincipal Investments, the growth capital arm of German media and tech company Hubert Burda Media and a backer of Carsome, Ninja Van, and Zilingo, among others. Other investors in the round include Centauri, a joint investment vehicle of Telkom Indonesia’s MDI Ventures and KB Investment and backer of Kredivo, 33 Capital from Singapore, and Tamaz Georgadze, CEO and Co-Founder of European fintech unicorn Raisin DS, Europe’s leading marketplace for online deposits and investments.
“The Philippines is expected to be the fastest growing e-commerce market in the ASEAN region over the next 5 years. The country is fast becoming a red hot destination for venture investments as large funds start looking beyond Indonesia and this, in turn, is driving the rapid development of the ecosystem,” says Ritche Weekun, Co-Founder and Chief Financial Officer of First Digital Finance Corporation (FDFC) which operates BillEase. “The events over the last two years have increased the pressure on the fintech space, in particular, to evolve and we’re seeing growing demand for financial products. Our latest round of funding will help us grow at an unprecedented pace, allowing us to further increase financial inclusion in the country.”
At the intersection of e-commerce, payments, and credit, Buy Now Pay Later services – especially card-free apps like BillEase – are emerging as key e-commerce enabling technology.
“BNPL services often rely on card payments, in the Philippines less than 5% of the adult population owns a credit card and cash on delivery remains the primary mode of payment. To address this problem and expand the target market, we developed our proprietary credit, fraud, and payment stack. While this requires more upfront investment, we are actually solving a more fundamental problem for customers and allows us to create long-term relationships.” says Georg Steiger, Co-Founder and CEO.
Launched in 2017, BillEase provides merchants with installment solutions to boost their conversion rate and average order values by enabling customized installment payment products at checkout. For consumers, BillEase serves as an alternative to credit/debit cards and e-wallets when shopping online.
BillEase customers are given a credit limit which they can use at any of BillEase’s over 500+ merchant partners like gadgets retailer Kimstore or Philippine Airlines. Unlike traditional debit cards and e-wallets, customers do not have to top up before they can purchase online or offline. In addition to BNPL, the BillEase app, available in both Apple Store and Google Play, offers a suite of in-app services such as personal loans, e-Wallet top-ups to popular wallets like GCash, PayMaya, Coins.ph, GrabPay, and ShopeePay, mobile loads and gaming credits, as well as future plans to expand the offerings.
As the Philippines experienced one of the strictest and longest lockdowns globally, consumers raced to adopt online shopping and payments. The company saw its growth accelerate ten-fold in the course of 2021. The fresh funds will be used to further accelerate BillEase’s customer growth, enhance and develop new products, and attract top talent.
Huyen Nguyen, FDFC’s Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer says: “At the heart, we are a technology and data-driven company. We build and develop our own platform and that allows us to closely work with partners and rapidly deploy new features. We employ cutting-edge machine learning to make the best decisions based on the limited data available. Our credit system is not a static setup, we continue to improve our credit and fraud models and incorporate new data points as they stream in. This allows us to offer interest rates that are often 50-70% lower than what other lending apps charge and instant approvals for 95% of our customers.”
BillEase is also committed to the development of the country’s credit system towards greater financial inclusion. “80% of our customers don’t have a traditional credit score when they first sign up and get approved through our alternative credit models. Through our membership with state-owned Credit Information Corporation and private credit bureaus like TransUnion, customers can then build their credit record, so in a sense, we are an on-rail to the formal credit system,” Nguyen adds.
“We have been closely monitoring opportunities in the Philippines, and we were particularly impressed with Georg, Ritche and Huyen’s ability to grow rapidly and execute effectively during a global pandemic. We are incredibly excited to lead BillEase’s Series B and support their long-term growth across Southeast Asia.” said Neil Fong, Principal at BurdaPrincipal Investments.
“Centauri has always had high conviction in the space and supporting financial inclusion, having previously invested into Kredivo through MDI Ventures. The BillEase team impressed us with their quick growth and data driven approach, and we are glad to make our first investment into the Philippines,” said Shannon Chaluangco, Partner at Centauri.
The company was founded by Steiger and his ex-McKinsey & Company colleagues Weekun and Nguyen in 2015. The fintech startup launched its flagship brand BillEase with e-commerce giant Lazada as its first strategic merchant partner. Today BillEase has more than 500 merchant partners from airline tickets (Philippine Airlines) to flip flops (Havaianas), speakers (Harman Kardon) to ice boxes (Coleman/Focus Global). The BNPL platform is also offered by five leading payment gateways: Xendit, Paynamics, 2C2P, Dragonpay, and UBX Philippines’ BUX, making it the most extensive BNPL in terms of reach in the country of 109 million people.