S'pore fintech start-up YouTrip receives US$25.5 million in funding for regional expansion

YouTrip founders Arthur Mak and Caecilia Chu. The US$25.5 million in funding raised by the company will be used to drive its expansion in South-east Asia. PHOTO: YOUTRIP

SINGAPORE - Singapore-based payment services company YouTrip has raised US$25.5 million (S$34.9 million), becoming the latest financial technology (fintech) start-up here to benefit from heightened investor interest in recent months.

The investment, YouTrip's first from venture capital firms, was led by venture capital firm Insignia Ventures Partners and unnamed private investment entities.

The funding will be used to drive YouTrip's expansion in up to two markets in South-east Asia over the next six to 12 months .

"We are... investing heavily to build localisation teams for these markets," said YouTrip co-founder and chief executive officer Caecilia Chu.

People understanding the local market will be hired to develop new services fitting that market, she explained.

YouTrip's multi-currency stored-value plastic card, targeted at travellers, was first launched in Singapore last August (2018) in collaboration with electronic payment system provider and travel card issuer EZ-Link.

YouTrip's contactless stored-value Mastercard lets users pay in over 150 currencies when overseas. The stored-value card is accepted by the more than 30 million Mastercard merchants worldwide.

It can also be used to pay for public transport rides in Singapore.

YouTrip said it offers exchange rates comparable to those listed on Google and other financial sites, which are usually lower than what is offered by banks and money changers.

Users top up their stored-value cards with up to S$3,000 using any credit or debit card through the YouTrip mobile app, which also allows users to exchange 10 selected currencies in-app.

The company derives its revenue from merchants who pay a commission for each purchase made with YouTrip.

Ms Chu said the YouTrip app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times in Singapore since launch, but declined to reveal the actual number of users. YouTrip has 70 employees in offices here and in Hong Kong.

Ms Chu and co-founder and chairman Arthur Mak are based in Hong Kong, but opted to launch the product here because of support chiefly from EZ-Link, a subsidiary of Singapore's Land Transport Authority.

The YouTrip card is built on the EZ-Link one and bears the EZ-Link logo.

"The partnership with EZ-Link really helped us in terms of credibility," she said.

Fintech investments in Singapore more than doubled to hit US$365 million last year from US$180 million in 2017, according to a report from consulting firm Accenture.

Ms Pachara Lawjindakul, principal at Insignia Ventures Partners, said: "The fintech space in South-east Asia is developing at a relentless pace to meet evolving consumer expectations and the travel industry represents an immense untapped market at the intersection of this growth."

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