Payments continue to be a huge issue in many parts of Asia and emerging markets. That’s why 2C2P, a Singapore-headquartered startup, has closed a $7 million Series C round to help solve the complexities across Southeast Asia.
2C2P is not one of the most prominent startups in Asia. You are unlikely to find CEO Aung Kyaw Moe on the regional event circuit — he’s “busy running a business.” Yet his story and the rise of the company itself is not your average one.
The business began in 2003 when Moe, who is from Myanmar but lives in Bangkok, tired of his programming job at a corporate bank. Having excelled and won prizes at regional coding events, he figured he could pursue something he was passionate about for a living. Once he became a free man, Moe built a number of mobile games but ran into problems when he realized funding his venture wasn’t as easy as he’d initially presumed.
His path to startup CEO began to gather steam when his son was born. Initially struggling for money (Moe’s wife and son had to move in with her parents), he found the expectations of fatherhood to be the ideal motivator.
His luck began to come right when a friend from a major bank in Thailand complained about security protocols hampering efforts to tap into mobile and internet services. Moe coded a system that used SMS to verify payments, and within three weeks it was verified and sold to the bank. Sensing an opportunity, Moe founded 2C2P — which is registered in Singapore, but run out of Bangkok, Thailand — to fully focus on banking industry pain points.
Today, the startup works with a range of top names — including American Express, China UnionPay, JCB, MasterCard, and Visa — enabling them take and receive payments. 2C2P has a presence in every country in Southeast Asia bar only Vietnam, a politically tricky minefield, and the tiny Brunei. In total it has 89 staff, but Moe told TechCrunch in an interview that he intends to increase total head count to 120 by the end of 2015.
“With over 600 million people, close to 700 hundred million mobile devices and a GDP of US$2.4 trillion and growing, the promise of e-commerce in Southeast Asia is tremendous… but there’s no payments company that can serve the full region,” Moe said. “We want to be No. 1, and our ambition is to only serve Southeast Asia.”
The 2C2P CEO, who recently completed a business degree alongside his role in order to “learn the skills I need to build a team and culture,” is also seeking to make senior hires for the management team, particularly around corporate governance and HR.
The money will go to regional expansion, too. There are no immediate plans to look for acquisitions, but Moe hinted that M&A deals could be on the cards once 2C2P completes its Series D round. That’s something, he added, that he isn’t focusing on at this point.
Moe is particularly passionate about the potential of pre-paid payments in Southeast Asia, a growing movement that helps those without credit cards — who represent the overwhelming majority in many countries — to use new services from banks and retailers.
To that end, 2C2P is working on virtual and physical debit and prepaid cards that can help bridge the payments gap. The Series C fund, Moe said, would be used to develop other technologies, too.
While Braintree and Stripe are beginning to target Asia with early rollouts, Moe said he believes that a local approach is necessarily for local problems. For example, he explained, 2C2P supports payment via monthly installments on commerce sites, which is an important but often understated feature that consumers in Southeast Asia look for when buying big-ticket items.
2C2P’s services processed $2.2 billion in transactions across Southeast Asia during 2014. That represented a 400 percent annual increase, and Moe said he believes that the growing focus on the media — from the likes of Rocket Internet’s Lazada and Zalora, to big companies like Alibaba/Taobao and startups like Carousell, will drive “strong growth in our revenues,”