Singapore-based Aspire, which wants to become the financial services “one-stop shop” for SMEs, announced that its business accounts have reached $1 billion in annualized transaction volume one year after launching. The company also unveiled Bill Pay, its latest feature that lets businesses manage and pay invoices by emailing them to Aspire’s AI-based digital assistant.
Launched in May 2020, Aspire’s online business accounts are targeted to startups and small- to medium-sized enterprises, and do not require minimum deposits or monthly fees. Co-founder and chief executive officer Andrea Baronchelli told TechCrunch more than 10,000 companies now use Aspire’s business accounts and that adoption was driven by two main reasons. The first was Aspire’s transition to a multi-product strategy early last year, after focusing on corporate cards and working capital loans. The second reason is the COVID-19 pandemic, which made it harder for companies to open accounts at traditional banks.
“We can go in and say we offer all-in-one financial tools for growing businesses,” he said. “People come in and use one thing first, and then we offer them other things later on, so that’s been a huge success for us.”
Founded in 2018, Aspire has raised about $41.5 million in funding so far, including a Series A announced in July 2019. Its investors include MassMutual Ventures Southeast Asia, Arc Labs and Y Combinator.
Baronchelli said Aspire’s business account users consist of two main segments. The first are “launchers,” or people who are starting their first businesses and need to set up a way to send and receive money. Launchers typically make less than $400,000 a year in revenue and their Aspire account serves as their primary business account. The second segment are companies that make about $500,000 to $2 million a year and already had another bank account, but started using Aspire for its credit line, expense management or foreign exchange tools, and decided to open an account on the platform as well.
The company has customers from across Southeast Asia, and is particularly focused on Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. For example, it launched Aspire Kickstart, with incorporation services for Singaporean companies, at the start of this year.
Bill Pay, its newest feature, lets business owners forward invoices by email to Aspire’s AI-based digital assistant, which uses optical character recognition and deep learning to pull out payment details, including terms and due dates. Then users get a notification to do a final check before approving and scheduling payments. The feature syncs with accounting systems integrated into Aspire, including Xero and Quickbooks. Baronchelli said Aspire decided to launch Bill Pay after interviewing businesses and finding that many still relied on Excel spreadsheets.
Aspire’s offerings overlap with several other fintech companies in Southeast Asia. For example, Volopay, Wise and Revolut offer business accounts, too, and Spenmo offers business cards. Aspire plans to differentiate by expanding its stack of multiple products. For example, it is developing tools for accounts receivable, such as invoice automation, and accounts payable, like a dedicated product for payroll management. Baronchelli said Aspire is currently interviewing users to finalize the set of features it will offer.
“I don’t want to close the door that others might come toward a multiple product approach, but if you ask me what our position is now, we are basically the only one that offers an all-in-one product stack,” he added. “So we are a couple years ahead of the competition and have a first-mover advantage.”