Bridging the finance gap for the next generation of SMEs and startups, Zetl is emerging as a way forward for businesses in the APAC region to ‘settle’ their bills. The platform provides fast, flexible capital for next-generation companies based on their future revenue, revenue profile, contracts, and receivables. Zetl integrates easily into a business’ existing platforms and uses the data to digitally underwrite enterprises and provide financial access as intuitively and painlessly as possible.
Explaining small businesses’ struggles in obtaining financing from traditional institutions, Co-Founder and Finance Director of Zetl, Matthew Roberts, said, “Traditional financiers were looking to underwrite enterprises based on their audited financial statements and assets that could be collateralized. However, coming from startup backgrounds, we realized that businesses were moving towards asset-light models, which saw them struggling to obtain financing from conventional institutions.
Zetl’s Approach to Fast and Flexible Capital
In a conversation with Arteculate Asia, Co-Founder and CEO of Zetl, Shan Han, shared that businesses look for three main answers when seeking funds: how much can be accessed, how much it will cost, and how can it be paid back? Zetl offers a fully integrated solution by analyzing data from existing bank accounts, invoicing, and cloud accounting software. In addition, the tech-driven approach builds a revenue profile based on historical income and future revenue projections to offer flexible product options to its clients.
Currently, the products Zetl offers include the following:
- Credit Line: An overdraft facility that provides businesses with comfort for any cash flow shocks.
- Wage Layer: Unlock working capital to ensure staff payroll is completed on time due to late payments.
- Revenue Share: Grow your business with new investment where repayment is tied to revenues. If revenues fall, so make the monthly repayments.
- Invoice Financing: Unlock up to 80% of an invoice’s value that is settled once the client eventually pays.
“Our value proposition is speed. For example, many B2B businesses operate on 60-90-day payment terms but need to pay their staff salaries every month. With Zetl’s Wage Layer product, buffer capital is provided to ensure that the business’s growth is not affected until payments are made,” Shan highlights. With Zetl, clients can obtain up to USD 300,000 in their accounts within 24 hours from application. Furthermore, to ensure the secure transfer of funds, Matt shares that regulated KYC protocols and government gateways have been implemented for identity verification on the platform.
The journey of Zetl thus far
Zetl was founded in the summer of 2019 by Shan Han, Matthew Roberts, and Mark Francis. Initially, Mark and Shan met in the financial services industry. Keeping in touch for years, the two identified a common problem faced by businesses that financial institutions weren’t addressing. “Before Zetl, I had worked together on a previous project, where I mentioned to him how frustrating it had been to secure funding for another asset-less business – even though it was deemed profitable,” shares Shan.
The duo then met Matt after an introduction via a friend in Singapore, and thus, Zetl was born. With Shan and Mark having spent most of their lives in Hong Kong and Matt being based in Singapore, it was no surprise that Zetl was launched in both these markets concurrently. Having worked together on the platform since then, the team has expanded to 20+ personnel operating out of Australia, Malaysia, and The Philippines. Recalling their early days, Shan shared, “I remember when we were starting and talking to people about our concept, we received numerous calls over the next few months to check if we had set up our product. Hence, we could tell there was an instant market fit for what Zetl would offer.”
One of the team’s most significant challenges during Zetl’s early months was the pace of digitalization in different markets. However, with the quick adoption of tools like eSign, the team was able to create a smoother onboarding process for the clients to overcome this. “Additionally, we needed to access customers at the point they needed funding; and analyze their data in the simplest way possible,” Matt adds. Therefore, it made sense for Zetl to establish strong partnerships with platforms such as accounting and payroll, which would already have the data to accelerate adoption.
How can startups access capital? Insights from veterans
Funding for startups can be received from four sources of capital: grants, equity, revenue, and debt. The best option to suit a business depends on the company’s nature. Revenue-based capital is more tailored to startups and scale-up firms with small asset bases, light consultancy, and no real furniture, commodities, or goods to post as collateral. “If you are frequently generating revenue and growing rapidly with no dilution and loss of control, receiving funds can be quite fast. This will also help businesses supercharge their growth by bringing forward future revenue as an investment,” Shan highlights.
Together with securing the funds, he stressed the importance of monitoring costs to be on top of the business’s finances. “Ignorance in not knowing where money is going will cause problems later in budgeting and projecting future cash flows.” Matt also adds that investors invest in ‘lines rather than dots.’ Meaning they need to be assured of the progress of the business and not be sold on the concept when first discovered. “This partly comes down to the team of Co-Founders, who have to be able to show grit, domain expertise, understanding of HR, and course – sales.”
The future of Zetl: Making finance more accessible to businesses
SMEs are growing and are set to provide close to 50% of employment in the APAC and ASEAN region, with a market size of over 1 trillion USD in the next 5 years. A report by the Asian Development Bank highlights underserved regions such as South Asia and highlights that MSMEs employ 76.6% of a nation’s workforce but lack access to traditional financing. Citing such research, Zetl is in a solid position to break down old barriers to finance with its tech-driven approach to uplift businesses across the region.
Currently, the Zetl platform handles customers with annual revenues in the sweet spot of 1 – 50 million USD while being dedicated to growing with its customers. “We plan to develop Zetl so that it can be easily integrated with any platform and provide easy financing for the next generation of businesses without needing a separate app or website,” Shan conveys.