Jeff App, the data-enabled loan brokerage platform for unbanked customers in Asia, has closed an approx. €840K financing round led by the Estonian Business Angels Network (EstBAN) syndicate. Joining the round were Startup Wise Guys, Taavi Tamkivi (Salv, ex-Transferwise and Skype) and a number of Nordic investors, as well as several angels from the Estonian mobility unicorn Bolt. The funds will be used to launch new products and fuel growth in Vietnam, their first market, before expanding into further countries in Southeast Asia.
There are more than a billion unbanked people in Asia who struggle to access financial services as a result of the limited amount of available ‘traditional’ financial data. The use of alternative types of data such as smartphone metadata and behavioural patterns is becoming increasingly common, and represents a real opportunity to create financial inclusion. However, due to high fixed costs, the various integrations required, the complexity of the user journey and a gap in know-how, leveraging alternative data can be challenging for individual lenders.
Founded in 2019, Jeff App tackles this issue by consolidating the demand and aggregating alternative data from those seeking financial services. This is achieved by integrating with a continuously growing number of data sources, using anonymised smartphone metadata and analysing behavioural patterns. By leveraging the customers’ digital footprint to produce a unified credit score, the startup is on a mission to make the process smoother for both lenders and borrowers. Jeff App stands out in a market where players focus on either reducing friction in the signup process or just offer an alternative credit score as a third-party plugin outside of the user journey.
Toms Niparts, co-founder and CEO of Jeff App, explained further: “Jeff helps our users to start building credit history based on their digital footprint, something that is otherwise difficult in a market where 70% of transactions are still done in cash. The more Jeff is used, the more we can learn and innovate with new products. Ultimately, we want to develop Jeff into a financial super app offering a range of products besides loans, such as insurance, mass-adopted digital credit score, and even go beyond finance by adding a range of utility functions.”
Onboarding is facilitated by the Jeff chatbot, which allows borrowers to easily submit the data needed to begin applying for a loan in a gamified way. Users perform one centralised application and are screened with multiple lenders simultaneously. The more data they add, the more products they unlock and offers they receive. On the lender side, its B2B toolkit is designed to seamlessly provide lenders with leads and additional insights. This systematic and streamlined approach for sending pre-qualified leads unlocks a new client segment and makes Jeff App a significant revenue stream for lenders.
“One thing we learnt about emerging Asian markets is that there is an incredible opportunity on the B2B side, as the API infrastructure is not as developed as we had anticipated. We are actively developing our lender toolkit, which includes a bank portal and a lender API. The idea is to offer solutions that improve the borrower-lender transaction while also requiring little to no integration effort for banks,” added Niparts.
After achieving 60X growth within the first 12 months, Jeff App will use the raised funds to launch and scale new products that range from a free credit score and insurance offers to digital discount coupons and mobile wallet cashbacks. It will also help to expand across the region, starting with Indonesia and the Philippines in 2021. The startup also has plans to enter other major economies in South and Southeast Asia.
“Starting out at the backdrop of a global pandemic, Jeff App’s team managed to secure the trust of a substantial user base and, most importantly, a significant number of financial institutions. Two things that set them apart from other players are the team’s roots and profound understanding of the fintech sector and their ability to adapt and execute,” said Ivo Remmelg, President of EstBAN.
“We believe Jeff App has the potential to make a significant impact on the lives of millions and promote financial inclusion in Asia. This is an exceptionally driven team and we are proud to back them in making it happen,” said Cristobal Alonso, Global CEO of Startup Wise Guys.
In 2020, the startup landed its first ever funding round of pre-seed funds at around €150K, which was backed by a number of European business angels.