Singapore company CardUp is an online platform that lets individuals and SMEs pay for expenses like taxes, rent, or even payroll, using their credit card – even if the recipient doesn’t accept cards.
Cardup raised a seed round lead by top tier venture firm Sequoia Capital in late 2017. We spoke to founder Nicki Ramsay about Cardup’s journey so far.
Nicki got the idea for CardUp while working at a major credit card provider in Singapore. She saw that a lot of big ticket items (like tax and rent) could not be paid for with a credit card, because the recipients were not willing to go through the hassle and fees associated with the setup process. This meant that card holders were not getting benefits from these big payments such as being able to access their credit facility or earn loyalty reward points. In addition, banks were losing out on the fees that would be linked to an increase in credit card spending.
CardUp solves this by flipping the existing card processing model, acting as the middleman between cardholders that want to use their card in more ways and recipients who don’t accept card payments. CardUp users benefit from using the credit line on their card to extend the payables period for these expenses, as well as earning credit card loyalty points and rewards. In addition, the recipient does not need to have a CardUp account to receive credit card payments.
Finding the initial capital and relevant expertise needed to get a company off the ground is a challenge for a lot of the founders that we work with. This is particularly common for solo founders like Nicki, as they are not able to draw on the financial resources and connections of their co-founders. In Nicki’s case, she decided to join The Finlab (United Overseas Bank’s Singapore fintech accelerator), which was a great way to access mentorship and exposure to a wide investor community.
While at The Finlab, Nicki spent a lot of time talking to financial institutions, to get them on board with cardholders using the platform. CardUp has since secured partnerships with many of Singapore’s major banks to promote CardUp’s services. The company also promoted the platform to individuals and SMEs through its online marketing content. The focus of this material was to educate users on the platform’s benefits and how the platform works.
the financing deal
As CardUp gained more users, the company needed to raise some money to further develop its platform.
Nicki pitched to a wide range of VCs in Southeast Asia. Sequoia was a natural fit as they are deep in the payments space, and CardUp is disrupting traditional payment processing models.
Other investors included SeedPlus, who were originally introduced to Cardup by The Finlab.
The company completed its ~US$1.7m seed round in late 2017. The investment has allowed the company to triple the size of its team in just a few months.
working with SS
Nicki told us that Simmonds Stewart’s depth of knowledge on VC deals in Southeast Asia was a massive help throughout the capital raising process:
Simmonds Stewart added a lot of value for us during the negotiation with Sequoia as they have vast experience with startup and VC deals in the region and are very familiar with the different permutations of VC term sheets. Also, because they have acted for a lot of startups taking investment from Sequoia, they saved us time and cost by telling us which points Sequoia would likely be open to negotiating.
Overall, Nicki said that the Simmonds Stewart team were extremely knowledgeable, and professional to deal with.
Having worked with Nicki, we are now certain that it won’t be long before everyone will be using their credit card for important payments, like their legal fees!