Existing backer Bain Capital led the extension, with participation from previous investors such as Access Ventures, CLSA Capital Partners Lending Ark Asia, D3 Jubilee Partners, 500 Global, Kakao Investment, TBT Partners and IBX Partners.
The additional funding brings PeopleFund’s total raised to around $100 million in equity. Apart from the capital, PeopleFund also secured $240 million in debt financing in 2022 from Goldman Sachs, CLSA Lending Ark Asia and Bain Capital. The company did not disclose its valuation when asked.
In 2021, PeopleFund raised $63.4 million (75.9 billion won) in equity for Series C, also led by Bain Capital, to further develop its credit-scoring system.
PeopleFund plans to use its new capital to continue to advance its AI-powered risk management and credit scoring system for its users, which includes borrowers and lenders. On top of that, the startup aims to launch a B2B service this year to provide AI-enabled customized credit scoring system services to financial institutions.
Another reason for its runway extension is to meet one of the requirements for a P2P lending license, according to industry sources.
In South Korea, P2P lending marketplaces must pass yearly requirements to get a license from Financial Services Commission (FSC) to run their business. To operate its business in 2023, PeopleFund, which reports that it is making a profit loss, must own a minimum capital ranging from $400,000 to $2.4 million, depending on its loan balance. (The loan balance is the remaining amount of loans made by PeopleFund that the borrowers have not yet repaid.) PeopleFund’s loan balance was $264.3 million (326.8 billion won) as of December 2022, the company said. That means the outfit’s requirement capital is around $1.5 million to $2.4 million, according to the industry sources and local media.
Joey Kim, founder of PeopleFund, said in a statement that “2022 will be marked as a year of turbulence for fintech, with the global public market adjustment alongside changes in the macro environment. Meanwhile, the Korean consumer lending market has undergone a dramatic transition into the mobile sphere, with big players like KakaoPay and Toss leading the change. This transition, coupled with the instability of the credit market, is opening up opportunities for tech-based digital lenders and its technologies to highlight our competence compared to traditional financial institutions.”
The outfit says its total amount of loans deployed to borrowers to date was estimated at $1.3 billion in December, up from $936 billion in October 2021. The startup says it has seen more than 56.7% growth in the number of borrowers and 9.6% in the number of lenders compared to the previous year. The number of its borrowers and lenders was 20,688 and 2,943,883, respectively, as of December last year.
The Seoul-based P2P lending startup, founded in 2015, successfully closed its extension. Still, the impact of the extremely tough market condition was inevitable, leading to several tech industry layoffs in the last few months. PeopleFund confirmed that it had cut about 10% of its staff in the fourth quarter of 2022 to “operate the business efficiently and effectively” amid the possibility of a worsening economy. PeopleFund had nearly 150 people as of December 2021.
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