Fintech startups are the next big thing in the Southeast Asian tech scene. Simmonds Stewart client C88 (formerly Compare88) is racing ahead of the pack after securing the backing of high-profile VC investors including Telstra Ventures.
C88 provides online financial services price comparison tools, helping consumers to compare the offers of major brands for products such as credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, vehicle loans, savings accounts and insurance. The company also offers a brokerage service, enabling consumers to purchase products directly on the C88 platform – for which C88 has secured relevant financial services licences through Southeast Asia.
Founder and CEO, J.P. Ellis, talked to us about the company’s background, its most recent series B financing round, and how they have found working with Simmonds Stewart.
the c88 story
Prior to C88, founders Karl Knoflach and J.P. worked in private equity, finance, operations and leadership. The C88 senior team also consists of Gary Empl, a professional software developer with over two decades of experience leading teams in the creation of cutting-edge software in the financial services industry. Karl and Gary were part of the original founding team of einsurance.de in Munich in 1999 – a revolutionary company in the German insurance space which later became Check24.de, the German market-leader.
C88’s commercial teams in Indonesia, the Philippines and other markets are made up of senior bankers, insurance executives and sales operators with many years of experience in financial products sales and distribution. This experience, and the networks that senior team members bring, is crucial to C88 maintaining its market leader position.
J.P. notes that the Southeast Asian economy’s migration to digital begin with communities moving online for social needs. This was followed by online purchasing of physical goods, usually electronics and clothes, then travel bookings, followed more recently by financial services. This migration began in earnest in 2009, and by 2011 there were already major e-commerce providers. Online channel emerged in the insurance vertical in 2013, and C88 followed quickly releasing its platform in 2014.
J.P. observes that high traffic digital marketplaces, such as C88’s CekAja.com brand in Indonesia and eCompareMo.com brand in the Philippines, benefit consumers as well as underwriters. C88 can use its volume to create pricing efficiency for their customers. That volume also reduces the overall cost of acquisition for underwriters. Prior to the emergence of financial services e-commerce, banks and insurers basically only had two options for sales in the large markets of Southeast Asia: branches or physical agents. Digital sales through C88’s platform provides a highly cost-effective alternative.
Southeast Asia remains highly fragmented. Operating a multi-jurisdictional structure that is attractive to both consumers and providers, while keeping national regulators on-side, is challenging.
The company also faces the challenge of creating a common culture across national teams. Incentivising teams in different verticals and across countries to work together to solve problems creatively is an ever-evolving process of creative leadership and problem solving.
J.P adds that fortunately, C88’s team are multi-lingual and truly love what they do. It is not at all uncommon for them to log long hours during the week and weekends, because they genuinely enjoy what they do in building systems and solving problems for consumers in the region.
working with simmonds stewart
As well as advising C88 on its venture capital financing rounds, Simmonds Stewart’s Lee Bagshaw and Chris Wilson have helped C88 implement a variety of business critical structures including inter-company, cross-border licensing agreements and intellectual property documentation.
J.P says that Simmonds Stewart provided high-quality and competitively-priced legal services in the critical areas of C88’s business. J.P. particularly appreciated the level of support he received when negotiating and completing the company’s recent Series B round led by Telstra Ventures – he says that the Simmonds Stewart team know venture capital deals inside out, and made the negotiation of the financing documentation a breeze.
Simmonds Stewart looks forward to helping C88 to continue its journey to become a leading fintech player in Southeast Asia and beyond.