Following months of preparation, HatchX, Sri Lanka’s first fintech accelerator, hosted its big day on the 10th of September at the Hatch premises. HatchX Demo Day aimed to showcase the seven selected fintech startups in the program while building awareness on the overall initiative among the Sri Lankan community.
The program is an initiative in partnership with the Lankan Angel Network and the Ford Foundation. It was initially meant to launch back in March. By this time applications were already called, and seven fintech startups were shortlisted out of 20 applicants. On the 23rd of April, the accelerator programme kicked off virtually. Fast forward to September, HatchX Demo Day took the spotlight amidst a vibrant and active startup community.
Four months of effort comes to fruition
Kicking things off was Director and CEO of Hatch, Randhula De Silva, who took the stage to give an overview of Hatch and the HatchX accelerator. Talking about the motivation behind the initiative, Randhula mentions that the intention was not just to discover promising fintech startups. But rather it was also “to open a new door towards creating a transformation in the financial sector in Sri Lanka by bringing together all the stakeholders playing a key role in the financial ecosystem.”
Also sharing the spotlight was Nio Liyanage, Program Director at HatchX. Nio gave an overview of the process of bringing the accelerator together. “The startups qualified into the program, by virtue of being exceptional, we looked at key criteria such as potential impact, investability, meaningful traction and having outstanding founders.” Nio further states, “I encourage you not to think about them as small businesses who are showing off their performance. But rather try to understand the potential each venture has and the subsequent impact on society.” So, without further ado here are the seven handpicked startups.
First up was Imesh Liyanage from OGO Pay, a startup that focuses on the current sharing economy. As Imesh puts it, OGO Pay seeks to “unlock the full economic potential of the sharing economy, through inclusive financial services”. For example, imagine a situation where a taxi driver is unable to repair his/her vehicle due to low funds available. The driver may end up saving daily earnings just to gather enough funds to pay for the repair. But if there was access to better credit or if the money could be invested better, drivers would have fewer disruptions to their earnings. Hence, better wealth creation opportunities.
OGO Pay aims to tackle this problem by looking at the first step of financial transactions, which is to make it easy for platforms to accept payments. As the gig-workers earn they would have the option of saving, investing or making payments from their earnings through OGO Pay. Further, with the data gained through the platform regarding their income, OGO Pay also aims to work with financial providers to extend credit to gig workers. The ultimate goal of OGO Pay is to offer inclusive and accessible financial services to gig-workers.
Following up Imesh was Cofounder and CEO of iLoan, Lakshan De Silva. You might remember them as the Sri Lankan startup that made it to Seedstars Summit 2020. Taking the stage, Lakshan points out that in Sri Lanka the lack of trade credit is a USD 2 billion issue and that 40% of the trade credit needs are not met. Bearing the brunt of this issue are the business owners of the micro-SME sector. iLoan aims to bridge this credit gap faced by the micro-SME sector. By utilizing blockchain and other technologies while working in partnership with banks and other financial institutions, iLoan extends much-needed credit to these small businesses.
Smart Insure is looking to offer micro-insurance to the Sri Lanka populace. According to Founder and CEO of Smart Insure, Shyamal Adikari, only 13% of the Sri Lankan population have a formal insurance policy. Smart Insure aims to increase adoption by connecting the insurer with the base provider through its app. Smart Insure has three product offerings through its platform targeting three different segments. Smart Telco Insure for daily wage earners, Smart Handyman Insure for handymen and Smart Agri Insure for farmers.
Another Seedstars Colombo finalist, DirectPay is a cashless payment platform. DirectPay facilitates cashless payments through a variety of products. This includes a mobile app, which allows you to make digital payments, fund transfers, and payments utilizing QR codes. Beyond the mobile app for consumers, the startup has several other products to enable businesses to accept cashless payments. These include an Internet Payment Gateway (IPG), a virtual Point-of-Sales terminal, a dedicated merchant app, and white label solutions as well. Talking about DirectPay’s current roadmap, Cofounder and CEO of DirectPay, Kanishka Weeramunda mentions “We’re not just building a payments app. By January 2021, we’re launching our multi-bank PoS/IPG switch. By 2022, we will be launching Sri Lanka’s first Neobank.”
MAML by Algoredge
“Our proprietary technology Mint Augmented Machine Learning (MAML) platform uses machine learning and data analytics to help organizations make more accurate (credit) decisions”, states Cofounder of Algoredge, Urmila Chandrasekeram. Furthermore, Urmila states that MAML is an automated decision engine that can be integrated into any core banking system. With this, Algoredge hopes to achieve two things, mitigate credit loss due to incorrect decisions and decreasing dependence on expensive manual processes. The MAML platform looks to offer customizability and affordability for the financial sector in emerging markets like Sri Lanka.
Fipbox is focused on providing safer investments and loans and helps people make informed financial decisions. The platform aims to be a one-stop-shop for individuals looking for suitable Fixed Deposit options. Fipbox will let users find and compare FD rates and then apply on the platform itself. A similar process is also provided for lending as well. Here, you can select an option of your choice, fill the required details and apply for the loan. “While we do have competition, we’re currently the only one in the market to have over 14 institutions on board on a single platform”, states CEO of Fipbox, Kalana Meneripitiya.
Helios P2P is Sri Lanka’s first peer-to-peer lending platform. As Cofounder and CEO of Helios P2P, Nuzhi Meyen puts it, they aim to democratize consumer credit and promote financial inclusiveness via P2P lending. Essentially, the platform is focused on addressing two pain points, high loan rates for borrowers and low fixed deposit rates for investors. Thereby, Helios P2P acts as an online marketplace where lenders and borrowers are brought together. “Our plan is to be the Uber for consumer credit financing”, says Nuzhi. While the platform currently serves the Sri Lankan market, Helios has ambitions to reach markets such as Thailand and Cambodia as well.
Mind you, it doesn’t end with the pitches. Nio shared that discussions are already underway with HatchX and investors to help these promising startups expand regionally. Furthermore, the current support structure at Hatch will continue for the seven startups. “The startups are now part of the wider Hatch community. It’s only the formal program that’s ending,” says Sanchitha Silva, Program Manager at HatchX.
Of course, Hatch itself has come a long way since its early days. According to Randhula, “Since inception, Hatch is home to 500 members in two locations Colombo and Jaffna” and that Hatch currently hosts three in-house incubator programs, two accelerators (including HatchX) and a maker-studio.
So, what will the future hold for HatchX and the seven startups? If the HatchX Demo Day is any indication, there’s a lot to look forward to with the future of fintech in Sri Lanka.