As the co-founder and CEO of InvoiceInterchange – an invoice trading marketplace that provides working capital solutions to SMEs – Brian Teng shares his entrepreneurial journey and aspiration to make obtaining finance for businesses a hassle free experience.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
My name is Brian Teng, the co-founder and CEO of InvoiceInterchange. I am a qualified accountant who began my career at Ernst & Young and Deloitte before moving to the UK over ten years ago to pursue my career in financial services. I met my co-founder in London where the idea of InvoiceInterchange was formed. We moved to Singapore in 2015 to start InvoiceInterchange.
What is your business venture about?
InvoiceInterchange is an invoice trading marketplace, providing working capital solutions to fund business growth. We are passionate about making business finance a better place – flexible, faster and price-transparent.
We serve SMEs who trade with large organisations and suffer from long payment terms/late payment. For growing businesses who need to raise working capital, InvoiceInterchange allows SMEs to sell their outstanding invoices, otherwise tied up for 90 to 120 days, to a network of investors for immediate cash.
On the other hand, investors have the opportunity to invest in a new asset that is liquid and with high risk-adjusted returns.
What is your mission at the outset?
InvoiceInterchange’s mission is to be Asia’s number one regional platform which provides fast and simple online finance to businesses. We want to make obtaining finance for businesses a hassle free experience.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
My co-founder and I always wanted to start a business. While working in accounting firms and banks, we witnessed many SMEs struggle to obtain bank financing. We want to fill that void, especially the underserved businesses who have limited or no access to traditional financing.
Our co founder’s family ran a traditional factoring business, hence that gave us a good insight into the way it was run in a brick and mortar style and how new innovative alternative finance models were beginning to take off in countries like the USA and the UK. This got us both thinking about how we could channel new sources of capital to SMEs and how we could bring the age-old business of factoring into the modern world by harnessing the power of the internet.
What is unique about your business?
We want to create a new institution – a technology-focused alternative finance provider with a different culture, different DNA; where businesses can obtain finance online. What makes our service unique is the work we have done to make onboarding and ongoing financing of invoices a smooth and hassle-free experience. The way we assess creditworthiness is very different from what the banks are doing. Harnessing artificial intelligence, we can deliver decisions fast and what we believe are superior decisions.
Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?
Speed, simplicity and flexibility. Business owners have a thousand things on their mind. Our platform enables clients to create a trade in just a few clicks thus maximizing the user experience. This is shown from the high retention rate on our platform.
On the other hand, our investors have been enjoying consistent returns from investing in assets on our platform.
What have been the biggest obstacles?
Diving into invoice financing world indeed bear some pitfalls and roadblocks. Managing risk is one of the most common obstacles faced by players in this market. Even though our platform have had no defaults to date, we continue to improve our risk management system and processes
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Your business will always be your baby, no matter how small or big it is (Steve Jobs). Just like a real baby, it takes a long time for start-ups to grow. It’s a long journey, like a marathon. My advice is to celebrate small wins along the way.
Do you have any final thoughts?
Fintech is the way forward. A Citigroup report released in 2016 predicted that 30% of banking jobs could disappear between 2015 and 2025 as technology replaces human beings. Thus we are of the view that alternative finance will slowly become more mainstream.
Who is your biggest inspiration or drive to do what you are doing?
What motivates us the most is seeing the positive impact that we have had on our customers, where we helped them grow through efficient financing. We feel a high sense of satisfaction knowing that we have made a contribution in helping them achieve their goals.
What’s next for you and for InvoiceInterchange?
We are working on expanding our services to other markets in Asia, as well as continue to enhance our trading platform and credit engine to support our expansion.
Hock Lai has 18 years of experience in the financial industry, having performed roles in both business and technology. He graduated from the National University of Singapore (Real Estate), Nanyang Technological University (Infocomm Technology) and Nanyang Polytechnic (Fund Management & Administration).
He is also a Fellow of the Singapore University of Social Science, advisor to FinTech Startups and mentor to student FinTech projects.
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