Philippines based online lender First Circle has raised $1.3m in venture funding led by Accion Venture Lab. First Circle lends to SME's in South East Asia, where historically small businesses have had a very hard time acquiring loans.
SME lending is a given in most Western countries, but the challenges are more acute in emerging markets where there’s a lack of data on customers and banks tend to prioritize larger, more established clientele where the risk is perceived to be lower. Yet, SMEs represent a hugely important part of growing economies. In the Philippines, a Southeast Asia-based country with a population of nearly 100 million, SMEs represent 99 percent of all registered companies yet contribute to just 40 percent of economic output. Financing is a major issue, with SMEs accounting for less than 20 percent of all bank loans in the country. That’s where First Circle, which was founded in 2015, is aiming to make a difference by giving less established companies the footing to grow their businesses at a more rapid rate.