JAKARTA, 10 SEPTEMBER 2019 — Southeast Asian FinTech startup SuperAtom has closed its latest funding round of US$24 million. The round was led by Gobi Partners through the Meranti ASEAN Growth Fund with NYSE-listed Cheetah Mobile as a co-investor.
Founded in 2018, SuperAtom is a startup incubated by and spun off from Cheetah Mobile. The company’s mission is to make financial services more accessible to the masses by integrating global resources: taking low-cost funds from more mature markets such as Europe, Japan, Singapore, and the US, combining them with proven technology and business models from China, and then localizing it for Southeast Asian markets such as Indonesia. In addition, Cheetah Mobile will contribute the use of its global user traffic and its big data platform which will enable SuperAtom to develop a comprehensive risk management system for the company’s businesses.
FinTech lending services have only been around in Southeast Asia since 2016 but is set to play a much larger role. In Indonesia alone, the financial inclusion gap, the shortfall between the demand and supply of formal financial services, is estimated to be US$57 billion, according to research done by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). In the year 2017, the total amount of loan disbursements via FinTech lending stood at US$274 million and has grown to more than US$1 billion in 2018.
SuperAtom possesses several huge competitive advantages over its peers. Firstly, Cheetah Mobile has 434 million mobile Internet users worldwide, of which 70% are outside of China. In Southeast Asia, they have around 60 million monthly active users (MAUs), half of which are in Indonesia, and covers about half of the country’s smartphone users. This allows SuperAtom to acquire customers in a much more efficient way. On July 31, 2018, SuperAtom received official approval to operate in Indonesia from Otoritas Jasa Keuangan (OJK), Indonesia’s Monetary Authority. The company subsequently collaborated with local banks and financial institutions to launch “UangMe”, a P2P consumer lending platform, which has since been downloaded nearly five million times.
Secondly, most regional entrepreneurs are focused on small and medium enterprise (SME) lending, where their local business knowledge allows them to grow while managing lending risks. On the other hand, scaling consumer micro-loans requires deep technology such as artificial intelligence, which is still lacking in local teams, but is readily available in China. And SuperAtom has inherited some of the best top-notch data experts from Cheetah Mobile.
“SuperAtom is a TechFin startup; they are a technology company providing financial services,” said Kay Mok Ku, Managing Partner of Gobi. “These services are especially relevant in markets such as Southeast Asia, where traditional banking penetration is low and the proliferation of smartphones is high. Tech companies are able to reach out to underserved consumers in this region with their innovative services, and essentially win the day.”
The company’s core team is made up of Chinese executives who have international experience in FinTech, having worked with big Chinese companies, such as Cheetah Mobile, FinUp, and WeShare. They are another case of the “going overseas” trend (chuhai 出海) in which Chinese entrepreneurs are using the market knowledge they gleaned from China and are combining it with the technical prowess of domestic product teams to enter overseas markets. Founder and President of the Board of SuperAtom, Scarlett Xiao, is a typical example: she co-founded Cheetah Mobile and helped expand the company from 10 staff to 3,000 globally.
Scarlett explained the startup’s decision to enter Southeast Asia and set up their business in Indonesia: “Our mission is to provide hardworking people in this region with easy access to credit via a convenient platform. A market’s credit system reaches an inflection point once the GDP per capita reaches US$4,000. Southeast Asia is now fast approaching that turning point, where FinTech will start to take off. Countries like Indonesia will see GDP per capita grow from US$3,800 to US$7,000 in the next ten years, so the market potential is enormous. Beyond Indonesia, Philippines is also a very attractive market as it has a population of 100 million, and their GDP is growing at 6.2%. We are getting ready to enter this exciting market as we have just been awarded the financial license by the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission.”
SuperAtom is a FinTech startup incubated within Cheetah Mobile that is targeting to help give more people in Southeast Asia equal access to financial services using the power of technology. After launching its first FinTech lending app, UangMe, in Indonesia in early 2018, the company’s platform has now accumulated nearly five million downloads in the most populated country in the region. The company is striving to fulfill its ambition of becoming a top-tier FinTech company in Southeast Asia with its values of “Customer-First”, “Data-Driven”, “An Open Mind” and “Growth Thinking”.