TECHCRUNCH.COM — The pandemic has spurred interest in saving and investment apps around the world, especially ones geared toward newer investors. In Southeast Asia, startups in this space that have raised funding over the past few months include Ajaib, Bibit and Stashaway—and that’s just a (very) partial list. Now Infina, which calls itself the “Robinhood of Vietnam,” is announcing an oversubscribed $2 million seed round.
The seed funding, which was made in two closes, included participation from Saison Capital, Venturra Discovery, 1982 Ventures, 500 Startups, Nextrans, and angel investors like executives at Google and Netflix.
Infina launched its app in January 2021. Most of its users are between the ages of 25 to 40 and looking for alternatives to investing in long-term asset classes like real estate. The app requires a minimum contribution of about $25 USD and lets investors pick from assets including savings accounts, term deposits, fractionalized real estate and mutual funds, which founder and chief executive officer James Vuong told TechCrunch is currently the most popular asset class among Infina’s users. Infina works with financial partners like Dragon Capital, ACB Capital, Mirae Asset Fund Management and Viet Capital Asset Management.
The company notes that only about 3.2% of people in Vietnam have invested in stocks. But according to the Vietnams Securities Depository, about 500,000 trading accounts were opened during the first five months of 2021, a 20% increase from all of 2020. This, along with Vietnam’s high internet penetration rate (about 70% as of January 2020) and the fact that more than 3/4 of of internet users have used online financial services before, lays the groundwork for apps like Infina to take traction.
In statement about its investment, Saison Capital partner Chris Sirise said, “Retail investing in Vietnam is at an inflection point and we have seen multiple other emerging markets reach this break-out point. With an experienced team that is passionate about financial literacy and education, Infina is well-positioned to ride this wave of growth.”
Before founding Infina, Vuong was an engineer in Silicon Valley before returning to Vietnam to serve as vice president of investment and a Kauffman Fellow at IDG Ventures. He also founded a startup called Lana Group that was acquired by Line Group. Vuong told TechCrunch he believes Vietnam is entering a “‘golden decade’ of hyper uninterrupted growth as other Asian Tigers have had in the past,” and created Infina to gives retail investors a chance to partake in Vietnam’s financial trajectory.
While at home during various stages of lockdown in Vietnam, Vuong said many internet users began switching to digital services, including for investments. He added that a series of interest rate cuts by Vietnam’s Central Bank to help businesses during COVID-19 prompted many retail investors to look for alternatives with higher returns than term deposits.
“A majority of our users are new investors,” said Vuong. “Although they are familiar with savings, fixed income or mutual fund investing are relatively new to them.” The app’s interface and content is geared toward them.
When users register, Infina surveys their risk and return profile, then recommends an asset to begin with. As they continue investing, Infina’s users see information about the risk and return profile of each asset category and the issuer’s profile, investment strategy and historical performance. Like other investment apps with many newer investors, Infina also creates its own educational content, like blog posts, daily newsletters and videos.
“We are very transparent in communications on risk and returns, profits and fees, and that’s our advantage compared to other platforms,” said Vuong. He added that part of the new funding will be used to hire people with technical and investment backgrounds to further develop Infina’s KYC (know your customer) system to better analyze their risk appetite, as well as its system for evaluating each asset class.
Other investment apps in Vietnam include Finhay and Tikop. When asked how Infina differentiates from its competitors, Vuong noted its wide range of asset classes, low minimum and transparency about different types of investments. He added that Infina is not majority owned or tied to a particular issuer, “which allows us to be neutral and work with all of the country’s high-quality fund managers.”