Inspiration, Empowerment, and a World of Billion Dollar Tech Start ups

An Insider’s View of She Loves Tech 2019 in Beijing, China

by Maureen Ledesma

August 3, 2019, Vesl was so blessed to be chosen to represent the Philippines in She Loves Tech, the biggest tech competition worldwide focused on women.

About a month later, Sep 10 2019, fifteen (15) teams from all over the world were flown into Beijing China for a week-long set of workshops, networking, and a conference-competition to end it. Most of the teams were heavy in artificial intelligence driven solutions, and with impact focus on health. Others have fintech and cybersecurity solutions. Whatever focus the startups have, the underlying theme of “Tech for good” prevailed.

The Startups

  1. Aeloi Technology, Nepal, Fintech, Tokenizing microfinance for financial inclusion
  2. Canairy, USA, Healthtech, AI driven mobile application that can identify respiratory problems based from the sound of coughing.
  3. Cyca Oncosolution, India, Healthtech, Nanotechnology to lessen the toxicity of chemotherapy for cancer patients.
  4. Dhaka Cast, Bangladesh, Healthtech, helping diabetes patients organize their restrictive lifestyle
  5. DOT Mind Unlocked, Pakistan, Deeptech, AI analytic services for restaurants to improve service quality, automate menu engineering, and optimize pricing
  6. EvidenceB, France, Edtech, personalizing learning for kids
  7. Jala Tech, Indonesia, Agritech, AI driven and IoT solution for shrimp farming
  8. Phantasma Labs, Germany, Deeptech, Simulation for Self-Driving Cars
  9. Planto, Hong Kong, Fintech, Mobile app that helps millennials manage assets and liabilities
  10. ReSync, Singapore, Renewable Energy Tech, Helps organize solar power management via cloud
  11. Vitacell, Latvia, Healthtech, Skincare solutions for burns, doing away with grafting
  12. Vesl, Philippines, Fintech, Trade finance platform that connects businesses to affordable trade credit insurance and financing
  13. Wenspire, Israel, Cybersecurity, API security and management platform that scans API data stream like an Xray
  14. Zicheng Health, Platform that helps parents track their kids’ health with O2O health services

Workshops

She Loves Tech 2019 was packed with four very immersive workshops for delegates.

There was Psychology of a Founder led by Leanne Robers who is a Co-Founder of She Loves Tech and a trained Psychologist. This was a very empowering and therapeutic session. Being women, we are more prone to emotions and stress.

There were also crisis management and negotiations workshops, pitch training, and a closed doors session with Sequoia China. Beyond workshops, Linkedin, Cartier for Women, and Microsoft also arranged for VIP networking.

Company Visits

The delegates from each country visited prominent Chinese tech companies in Beijing such as Baidu, “China’s Google”, where they demonstrated their technologies such as facial recognition, healthtech robots, facial recognition, and autonomous driving.

Xiaomi was also an interesting visit. Its growth over the last decade has been most fascinating. It will continue to grow as it envisions to offer a fleet of IOT day to day products to serve consumers worldwide.

Horizon Robotics, the last company visit was most notable. It’s a 4 year old unicorn company that would like to consider itself as the “wintel” of robotics, a coined term for “windows and intel”, as they develop both operating system and processors for robots. The company was very secretive that no recordings were allowed once the presentations started.

The Main Event: She Loves Tech Conference and Pitch Competition

Despite it coinciding with the mid-autumn festival celebration in China, the full day conference was a success, as She Loves Tech invited founders from different Chinese unicorn companies to speak and share their passion to the crowd.

Among the most notable speakers was Cindi Mi, the charismatic founder of VIPKid, a $3Bn 6 year old company that allows teachers from all over the world teach English to kids between the ages of 4-12 who are based in China. 

Nio’s founder, William Li known as the “Elon Musk of China” along with his wife who’s also a founder, were there to share about their daily grind as founders and as a couple. It was a fun spectacle to watch having them both on stage.

A panel discussion on tech and investment was moderated by Nina Xiang of China Money Network. It was attended by very notable panellists Ilaria Chan, Group advisor for Social Impact or Grab, Nicole Chen of Refinitive China, Daniel Hersson of ADB Ventures, and Jeff Shen of Leping Foundation.

The pitch competition came after the conference. The ultimate winner of the competition was Germany’s Phantasma Labs presented by their CTO, Maria Meier. The company received RMB100,000 from Teja Ventures and preferential investment from partner investors. Runner ups were Canairy of USA, and Cyca Oncosolutions of India. Among the judges were representatives from ADB Ventures, SOSV Accelerator VC, Dell Technologies, Microsoft for Startups, TUS Pine Peak Group, Borderless Healthcare, Tus Holdings, Intel, Gobi Partners.

Photo Gallery: bit.ly/SLT2019Photos

More than Just a Competition

Carrying the Philippine flag behind Vesl was a huge honor and responsibility. Although it may be perceived that the main event of being in Beijing was the pitch competition, the truth is that the trip itself was the prize. A shared experience among female founders from 15 different countries was a rare occasion that each will surely treasure for the rest of their lives. In a way, a sisterhood was formed.

The inspiring gathering of this scale could never be done without the support of She Loves Tech team (all women by the way), who worked very hard to make this happen. With a mission to uplift women who are making a change in this world with the help of technology, this organization is truly a force for good.

From the Vesl team of the Philippines, thank you for having us part of this empowering movement. We are happily obliged to pay it forward, to inspire many others who dream to change the world.

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Vesl wins She Loves Tech Philippines 2019!

On Saturday, August 3, ten female founders competed in a pitch competition hosted by QBO Philippines and She Loves Tech.

by Ambidextr

Now the largest startup competition promoting both technology for women and technology by women, She Loves Tech, founded in 2015 has featured over 1000 startups across the globe in its four year existence, who have gone on to collectively raise more than US$70 million dollars from top venture capital firms like Sequoia Capital and Wavemaker and top tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon.

The competition has also improved the visibility of female tech founders the world over, garnering over 1200 media features, a live audience of over 1 million people, and over 500 million media impressions.

The story at She Loves Tech Philippines 2019 was no different. At QBO Philippines, the very best female-led founders in the nation, including those at the helm of FHMoms, Antipara Exploration Inc, Payo, StyleGenie, 1Export, Goally, Container Living PH, Enabling Technologies, SmartBride, and VESL Pte Ltd, pitched their companies.

After tense deliberation, VESL1Export, and StyleGenie were awarded SparkUp’s Bayanihan Ecosystem Award.

‘This Bayanihan Award reinforces our team to work harder in serving both online shoppers and MSME retail brands through our platform,’ said StyleGenie co-founder and CEO Abbie Victorino.

“We are grateful for the Startup Bayanihan Ecosystem Award because it validates the work that we currently do for MSMEs in the country. We believe that we still need to learn and do so much for Philippine exports, and this award gives us a platform to show what we can do to contribute,” said 1Export founder and CEO Mel Nava.

VESL was declared the grand prize winner before a packed audience full of tech and ecosystem leaders, including fellow founders, investors, community builders, media, students and other stakeholders.

Led by an all-women founding team of Maureen Nova Ledesma, Jessica Manipon, and Yroen Guaya Melgar, VESL was accelerated by Startupbootcamp in Fintech in 2017 and aims to boost economic development in Southeast Asia through a platform that connects trade lenders and businesses to per invoice trade credit insurers.

With their victory in She Loves Tech Philippines 2019, VESL will have even more resources to scale their platform across Southeast Asia. They will get a US$15,000 activate package courtesy of Amazon Web Services, copies of The Finishers courtesy of Ambidextr, and media values from tech-focused publication SparkUp.

Most of all, VESL will move on to the global stage of She Loves Tech, getting a free trip to Bejing to attend a bootcamp whose attendees routinely include Asia’s top unicorns and a chance to compete to be the global winner.

According to She Loves Tech, the global winner gets “special media and mentorship prizes, fast track access to our partner accelerator programs, and in-house advisory services” as well as “an equity-free cash prize of $15,000” from “She Loves Tech sister fund & Asia’s first gender lens VC fund – Teja Ventures and our partner VCs.”

“This win is very encouraging for Vesl to keep the faith and stay on course. However, we know that this is just one step towards our goals and that real victory is measured by our impact to the society. We go full speed ahead towards closing the trade finance gap! It’s a bonus to be recognized,” said VESL Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Maureen Nova Ledesma.

ABOUT QBO

QBO Innovation Hub aims to develop, grow, and scale a competitive startup ecosystem in the Philippines. QBO provides an avenue for collaboration and innovation with the vision of helping Filipino startups change the world.

QBO is made possible through the shared vision of IdeaSpace Foundation and supported by JP Morgan Foundation, the Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

ABOUT SHE LOVES TECH

She Loves Tech is the world’s largest competition for women and technology taking place in more than 20+ countries this year. Over the past 4 years, startups who have joined She Loves Tech have raised over $70 million in funding for companies all around the world. She Loves Tech aims to empower women and assist in the development of female leaders in the tech industry.

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The Untold Story of International SMEs: An Entrepreneur’s Perspective

Ambitious and cautious, Green Mint Pte Ltd is an international trading business what has grown in folds over just a few years thanks to its founder’s ability to seize opportunities and try out new things.

by Maureen Ledesma

This blog focuses on Green Mint’s founder and CEO, Vaibhav Gupta, who shares his inspirations, struggles, and vision for his company.

Know Your Heart’s Desire

According to Vaibhav, when he was still in college, he had a vision that he will start a business as he doesn’t find himself suitable for a regular job. He’d get bored and would want to make more money than being an employee. However, he understood early on that he needs to learn how everything in business works, and he knows it won’t be easy.

“After college I gained experience from various business houses and learned the importance of purchasing and financing.”

In 2012, three years after college, Vaibhav opened up Green Mint which is a company trading various metals.

“I started making money and I realized the potential of what I’m doing. If I add volume to my trades, I’ll definitely make more money.”

According to Vaibhav, he would not be here without his business partner whom he also considers his mentor. Vaibhav took over Green Mint upon the retirement of his partner in 2016. In addition, Vaibhav recognizes the support of his wife and his family in developing this business.

The Struggle is Real

We asked Vaibhav on his biggest challenges in starting and growing Green Mint. According to Mr Gupta, their biggest challenge when starting was maintaining cash flows and finding the right banking partners who can then later provide lower cost of funds.

“Biggest challenge for us is to obtain fund at a lower cost. Big players in the market have low cost funds and had done vertical integration, whereas players like us have high cost of funds. Finding capital for vertical integration is a big task.”

Be Brave to Try New Things

Vaibhav’s go getter nature to take advantage of opportunities and his courage to try new things in trade finance rewarded him and helped him grow his business. One of Vaibhav’s buyers wanted open account payment terms, 60 90 120 days. He was hesitant to offer payment terms but, since it’s good business, he looked around for solutions to minimize his risks.

“One of my buyers told me that we can have trade credit insurance on them so I’m comfortable to provide a credit period. When I was searching for credit insurance, I found Vesl. Main distinguishing factor between others and Vesl was that Vesl was providing per invoice-based insurance through their platform which was very cost effective in comparison to other players who take lump sum amount for providing trade credit insurance.”

Vaibhav successfully covered his invoices by accessing the Vesl platform and was matched to a lender who would finance his receivables. Not only did Vaibhav have peace of mind dealing with a buyer asking for payment terms, he also found new lending partners who can grow his credit limits. Now Vaibhav banks with one of the biggest Indian Commercial Banks at a lower cost of funds, thanks to trade credit insurance.

Don’t be Complacent, You’re Limitless!

Green Mint as a Company started with copper scrap, and later moved to nickel and steel. Nowadays they are processing and selling ingots. They have expanded and are currently headquartered in Singapore with networks in UAE, Hongkong, China and Africa.

Vaibhav is not stopping with one venture. “In coming years, Green Mint shall be in manufacturing and retail of goods. We are aggressively working in agro retail space.”

Stop Reading Success Stories

According to Vaibhav, to have an edge in starting a business, it is a requirement to have a niche, be focused and have deep knowledge of an industry to know where you can add value.

“There are already big players who have been there longer than you, have integrated far wider than you, and they won’t allow you to eat their share“, Vaibhav said.

“Before jumping into entrepreneurship, keep in mind that the struggle is real. Don’t read success stories. Go to people who failed and learn from them.” He added.

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Lockton partners up to boost SME growth

by Gabriel Olano

As first published on Insurance Business Magazine:

Many economies in Asia are considered emerging markets, and these economies are propped up by small and medium enterprises (SMEs). According to the Asian Development Bank, SMEs compose 98% of all businesses and employ 66% of the labour force in the region, and are rightfully called the backbone of the Asian economy.

SMEs, due to their limited financial capacity, are exposed to a huge risk of financial loss in case a buyer is unable to pay its commercial trade debt, usually due to bankruptcy or insolvency. In order to protect itself from catastrophic losses, a business can take out trade credit insurance.

However, in emerging markets such as the Philippines, trade credit insurance is virtually unknown, which severely limits SMEs’ ability to enter dealings out of fear that the other party may default.

“Trade credit insurance in the Philippines is underpenetrated, and relatively unknown,” Maureen Nova Ledesma, co-founder of Singaporean-Filipino financial technology start-up Vesl, told Insurance Business.

Furthermore, trade finance options for businesses in the country are quite limited, especially for small businesses, Ledesma said. Exporting is not supported for businesses three years old and below, due to international credit facilities requiring high collateral.

To help boost the profile of trade credit insurance in the Philippine market, Vesl partnered with re/insurance broking giant Lockton to raise awareness and uptake of the cover in the market. The agreement between the two firms was signed in March.

According to Ledesma, through the partnership, Lockton will use the Vesl platform to market trade credit insurance in the country. In July, they were able to complete the first round of marketing and information sharing. She remarked that the response from the business community has been positive, from both the SME sector as well as from large businesses, many of which are still unprotected by trade credit insurance.

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Focusing on Supply Chain Innovation

An observation from Ignite 2019’s Top 12 Wildfire Startups

June 25, 2019, IGNITE 2019 brought global attention to the PH startup scene where 12 lucky startups had the chance to share their vision on the spotlight. The pitch competition initially gathered 30 startups to go through a bootcamp where they train for pitching and investor readiness.

These startups were: Agrabah Marketplace, Kahon.ph, Sakay, Burket, Uproot Urban Farms, Cropital, Vesl, Admov, 1Export, Omnirio, Last Mile Inc, and Social Light Inc.

Based on the pitches delivered, there was a clear indication that Filipino entrepreneurs are trying their luck on innovating the supply chain. It is a rigorous but scalable market that is so fragmented yet capable to move into digital space in a short period of time, thanks to tech companies that value platform integration.

Out of 12, 5 startups focus their solutions on marketplace and financing technology which are components of the supply chain. 3 of the 5 startups are connecting suppliers and buyers – general trading, export, agri matching. Another on is in p2p lending for farmers. And then there’s Vesl, taking a stab at risk management and trade financing in the supply chain.

Maybe we would see future integration between two of these five? As a matter of fact, it would be possible for all of them to integrate and create a five-headed unicorn. What a sight!

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Going Digital – Insurance in the Sharing Economy

by Dawn Sit

As first published on the Asian Insurance Review:

The advent of digital technology paved the foundation of the sharing economy, which is now ubiquitous to many industries, and steadily impacting the insurance world. We canvassed three InsurTech startups for their views on the industry’s evolution and how it can stay sustainable.  

The term “sharing economy” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in 2015, and even then, the OED was considered a laggard when it came to tech terms. The phrase’s induction into the English language is but a formal recognition of the present era of consumption.     

The sharing economy today is more ubiquitous than ever, as industries like entertainment, transport and hospitality – so long as they serve mass consumers – grapple to adapt their operations to its intricacies.     

In the last few years, the insurance industry has seen the emergence of InsurTech startups that have made enough of a splash for incumbents to sit up and pay attention to. So how will insurance evolve in the sharing economy? How can the industry ensure its sustainability in the new consumer landscape? 

Accessibility

Ms Maureen Nova Ledesma, CEO and Co-founder of VESL, a micro-trade credit insurance platform, believes that the rise of the sharing economy will in turn proliferate the accessibility of insurance. One can expect more mutual insurance concepts to spring up, enabling clients to obtain enough “coverage at a competitive price”.   

 Insurance is a right – not a privilege – and should not be exclusive, she said. Cover should be affordable to everyone because “that’s basically what the sharing economy advocates”, and bringing trade credit cover to more smallholders is exactly what VESL is trying to do. (See “New kids on the block”) 

Flexibility

Both Mr Ashley Kee, CEO and Co-founder of Bandboo, an InsurTech that pioneered unemployment insurance in Singapore, and Ms Regine Lai, Managing Director of my-insurer, a policy management solution, agreed on the trend of “on-demand” insurance taking dominance. Insurance coverage will be dictated by the customer, when they want it, and how they want it – a customer engagement concept that many industry incumbents still struggle to deliver on.     

But insurers must first be able to collect the correct data to understand their customers and market segments, a key aspect that he noted the industry is “particularly weak in”. Or even if incumbents have collected the relevant data, some may not be as willing to share it, Mr Kee added.  

Agility

If one has not already noticed, the nature of the sharing economy is fast-paced and lean – and is a complete opposite of the classical economy that traditional insurers operate in, where a relatively slower and more cautious approach to doing business is taken, Ms Lai said. So insurance incumbents will face the inevitable need to meet this new consumer landscape with adaptability and fast integration with their existing business models to stay abreast.    

But the industry will also need to tackle the challenge of trust that is at the foreground of all sharing economy businesses, she added, as users need to be assured of security in any transaction conducted. “Most traditional insurers have yet to master how to cover the wide spectrum of peer-to-peer transactions. Constant changes in regulation further complicate the challenge.” 

Collaboration 

Throw tech giants into the mix and the result is a melting pot of challenges that must be tackled with urgency. Mr Kee highlighted that technology behemoths like Facebook, Google and BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) have all the data needed to structure new products in this new economy. If incumbents do not, or are unable to collaborate, “it may well leave us with a situation where the tech giants start developing in-house products” as a means of diversification.     

Chinese online insurer Zhong An, he said, is a particularly good example of positive collaboration between a tech giant and an existing insurer, and adopting good technology. “The next dominant player to emerge in the InsurTech space will probably be a startup that has the professional expertise of an insurer, and who is also agile and dynamic enough to deliver its offerings seamlessly online.”    

Indeed, collaboration between traditional carriers and new InsurTech players is the crux of the industry’s sustainability that cannot be emphasised enough. While startups can innovate on products relatively quickly, insurance companies have the capital and experience and resources to take on regulations. Hence, it takes two hands to clap, working as supportive partners for a healthy insurance ecosystem in the sharing economy, Ms Lai said. 

Talent challenge

Meanwhile, Ms Ledesma is optimistic of the industry’s future: Between traditional insurers, InsurTech startups and non-insurance competitors, the latter two are not likely to dominate insurance, at least for the next few years. “While tech will advance, it takes people to really make the business work – and the reality is that talent is in shortage.”    “

It’s hard to see a successful insurance talent willingly move across to join a startup. So the outcome will depend on which entity is able to retain and grow its talent pool, and meet the needs of the market in its offerings,” she added. 

Lead or lag

Thus at this point, it would not be wrong to say industry incumbents have a leg up on the competition. But for how long insurers can maintain their lead will depend on companies’ drive to transform their business to suit the sharing economy. It is high time for incumbents to lose the laggard label.    In Bandboo’s experience, Mr Kee said their collaboration with insurers has been “generally positive”, save for two stumbling blocks. The first is compliance and regulatory issues, which most new startups face. The other hurdle is “existing technical infrastructure within companies that is often old and can cause potential issues if we try to integrate and collaborate.”     Change in the insurance industry, he added, is often limited to distribution, with “very little effort focused on product structure, underwriting and even the inherent business model”.  


New kids on the block

Asia Insurance Review checked in with three startups, each a pioneer in their respective scopes, for a quick brief on their core missions and challenges they currently face.

 Q: What is VESL’s core purpose and where does it fit in the insurance value chain?

VESL provides one-of-a-kind insurance protection for trade invoices. Our platform allows a pay-per-invoice premium, thus allowing our clients financial flexibility for premium payments, instead of committing to an annual plan.  

We aim to fill the gap, particularly for trade credit insurance. Making available a product that was once out of reach to small and medium businesses through the use of an online platform which reduces the cost, risk, and overall level of effort for insurance providers.  

What our platform does is extend the customer footprint to the mass SME market that the big insurers are unable to serve. To the banks and the lenders of the SMEs, the scheme provides a great risk management solution to support their SME clients. At the same time, we aim to give SMEs access to greater trade financing facilities so they can grow their business faster. 

Q: What key obstacles keep VESL from fulfilling its aim?

Getting the word out on a new product tends to be difficult. Not only is it time consuming, we also need to use an innovative marketing strategy to sell our product well. Talent acquisition is another challenge. Fortunately for us, VESL has help from Sage Fintech, our venture partner that provides us the necessary advice and guidance.

Ms Maureen Nova Ledesma

CEO & Co-founder, VESL


Q: What is my-insurer’s core purpose and where does it fit in the insurance value chain?

Our vision for my-insurer is to be a one-stop solution for intermediaries and policyholders alike when it comes to policy management, purchase, renewals – essentially the entire purchase and servicing cycle. At present, my-insurer is the only solution of its kind that provides a value proposition of equal strength to both intermediaries and policyholders. We are an enabler. 

At present, my-insurer is actively onboarding intermediaries and corporate partners onto our solution. We are also collaborating with other InsurTech companies to better the development of my-insurer. We have since seen exceptional results in Singapore and have started to slowly expand into neighbouring markets.  

Q: What key hurdles do you face in bringing my-insurer to the market?

Tenacity and patience. Most InsurTech startups are dabbling in a new ecosystem without precedence, pushing boundaries and creating new spaces. It often takes time for acceptance, recognition and adoption both from users and traditional insurers to view us as partners and not competitors.

Ms Regine Lai

Managing Director, my-insurer


Q: What is Bandboo’s core purpose and where does it fit in the insurance value chain?

Bandboo is an InsurTech platform that allows members to form insurance communities to protect themselves without going to an insurance company. At this juncture, our focus is very much in customising solutions for new emerging industries that are typically overlooked or neglected by insurance companies. We aim to fill the gaps through niche products so our products are generally complementary in nature to general offerings within the insurance industry. 

For example, we created our Car Excess Protection plan, tailored towards drivers within the ride-sharing economy. Excess (or co-payment) charges are often very high for these drivers due to a lack of data and poor understanding of this market segment, so we use technology and plenty of non-traditional data points to help understand this particular segment and to structure the product more efficiently. 

Q: What key challenges do you face in entering the industry?

To begin with, regulation is the main challenge for InsurTech startups like ours and this was a hurdle that we worked very hard on, to convince MAS that we were operating within the regulatory framework. Secondly, insurance is one of the most advertised industries globally, but most startups are generally not well-funded, so we definitely have to be creative in our go-to-market strategies and how we brand ourselves to the general public.

Mr Ashley Kee

CEO & Co-founder, Bandboo

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Startup of the week: Vesl

by Lauren Schoepnner

As published here: Startupbootcamp’s Startup of the Week.

This week our featured startup is Vesl, which provides innovative trade finance solutions for traditional and online commerce. Vesl facilitates access to cheaper invoice financing and opens up financing to previously ineligible companies by securing invoices with trade credit insurance. Vesl brings together borrowers, insurers, and financiers through a platform where borrowers are enabled access to bite-size insurance and financing by the best and largest providers worldwide.

As its name suggests, Vesl is a vessel to access trade finance—it is neither an insurer nor a lending company, rather a trade finance platform granting access to financing and trade credit insurance for commerce around the world. We spoke with Maureen Nova Ledesma, Co-Founder and CEO of Vesl, as well as other members of the Vesl team: Jessica Manipon, Co-Founder and Guaya Melgar, Co-Founder, to learn more about how they are impacting the insurance market.

On what segments and problems is Vesl working in the insurance market? What makes you different from other competitors in the market?

So here’s what everyone needs to understand first: Trade credit insurance is more than just protection against a defaulting customer. Since it reduces a buyer’s credit risk, financial institutions are more willing to lend and even lower borrowing rates to insured transactions. Many businesses could benefit from trade credit insurance.

But here’s the problem: It is not popular because of the way it is being distributed right now, where premiums are paid on the entire projected turnover for the year at the beginning of a period, either yearly or quarterly. Insurers usually ask for a minimum premium paid which could cost at least USD $10,000. Our model changes the way businesses pay for premium where they only pay on demand, when they have an insurable transaction. This means they can spread the cost over a period.

How did the Vesl team meet?

We all knew each other back when we were working for a forex trading company in Manila. We were the early employees of that company where we all dabbled in sales trading, marketing, business development, and research. Our working dynamics jived well together. And we’re just lucky enough to scout a talent like Rona along the way.

Can you tell us about why you have chosen to solve the trade credit gap?

The trade credit gap is reported by the Asian Development bank year to year. The 2015 report tallied US$1.4Tn while 2016 tallied US$1.6Tn worldwide. Small and medium sized enterprise proposals for trade finance are rejected 52% of the time. We believe we can help economies grow by taking on this problem. Per ADB, a 25% improvement in financing can already increase production by 30%, employment by 20% and new business by 19%.

We view this as a big challenge and at the same time a big opportunity if we can leverage on technology. There are existing FinTech solutions but we believe that there’s still more that can be done to this trade credit gap, and the solution may come from InsurTech.

What were your expectations for an accelerator when you joined, and what are your thoughts today?

You know how Power Puff Girls were created – mixture of Sugar, Spice and everything nice… and then chemical X was added? Startupbootcamp (SBC) is like that. SBC provides all the support a startup needs, except chemical X because chemical X ought to come from the founders themselves to make things happen and make the most of the program. In other words, the program exceeded expectations but nothing comes easy.

What have you achieved since joining the program?

Since joining the program, we have received guidance from the best mentors we could ever ask for. Compliance-wise, we managed to get in touch with the regulators at MAS who are quite helpful. Furthermore, doors for partnerships have opened, including one for a potential worldwide distribution channel (and we’re so excited to see how it will all unfold). We also managed to gain the support of Marsh as our placement broker, arranging a policy with an S&P AA- rated insurer.

Your team is comprised of all women—what have you found to be the benefits of being an all-female team?

Jessica: For us, one’s gender has nothing to do at all with running a startup. Just like all other startups (regardless of the profile of their team), we get what we reap. We work hard, and we don’t think about anything else. We find ourselves going through the same challenges and difficulties as other startups, too.

Mau: I second Jessica’s point. However, since there’s not a lot of all-female founding teams, we do get some pleasant reactions and compliments. We hope we can set an example and one day make this part of the norm.

Do you think you have had a different experience than other start-ups because you’re all women?

Guaya: I do think there’s a bit of a difference being in an all-female team. There’s a bit more emotion. Could be difficult sometimes, but it also means there’s more passion, more stubbornness, more drive. (FYI I feel it very acutely, guys).

Maureen: *Agrees and nods* Well there you go—the whole truth! I wonder what it’s like in other startups…

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