This month in August 2021, five years after giving out our first loan to an SME borrower in Singapore, we have surpassed a significant milestone of cumulatively having financed more than SGD 1 billion in SME loans on the Validus marketplace. As we sit back today and bask in the glow of the 30,000 smiles we have put on the faces of SME owners (and the countless others that have benefited, including their employees, families, vendors, and customers), we can’t help reminisce about how our journey started.
Many an epic fairy-tale have started with these words, and our journey, too, started similarly. Once upon a time, a merry band of a few starry-eyed individuals connected with a shared zeal to empower SMEs through financial inclusion and infected with a romantic notion to tread the road not taken.
That was how Validus was born.
While we knew the journey would be arduous, we were unprepared for the emotional upheavals that befell our way, often experiencing exhilaration and devastation and all in a single day. We battled various adversities that startup founders often face – blue screens, NPLs, resignations, investor volte-face, and despondency. But, in times of despair, we often turned to books of faith, and Gandalf never failed to show us the way.
I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time given to us.
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Our quest, though not yet quite epic, has been quite an adventure. And what we treasure the most is the fellowship that has banded on this journey – our 200-strong #OneValidus team across our four operating countries.
Together we have Innovated – new business models built around supply chain data, an asset class for sophisticated, accredited investors, and underwriting models that have probably never seen execution at scale. We have Pioneered – first in ASEAN to launch an insured marketplace SME loan product, launch a co-managed fund model, and the first fintech onboarded as a PFI under ESG’s prestigious Enterprise Financing Scheme. Most importantly, we have Adapted – to resiliently battle the challenges that Covid-19 has thrown at us, grow 3x during this pandemic period, and open a new market in Thailand by establishing an enterprising team entirely remotely. We have received our fair share of awards for all these endeavors – we have beaten the mighty incumbents at the MAS FinTech Awards 2020. When doors have been shut on us on financing support by financial institutions, we have found allies in overseas fund managers who have opened their windows to us.
Like all great epics with multiple chapters and volumes, what is the future that holds for #OneValidus? We will continue to grow and innovate, and when it seems like everything is working like clockwork, we will break it down and build it again because we know we can still do it better!
Our first SGD 1B milestone took five years, but achieving the next SGD 1B will be One. We have championed the supply chain-led SME financing model, and now we will showcase end-to-end digital lending with fast approvals purely based on alternate data.
Finally, we will grow from being the SMEs preferred lending partner to become their CFO managing their finances, planning for their cashflow needs, and enabling their transactions, all as we empower their future.
There is no Frodo without a Sam. We are filled with gratitude to our corporate anchors, investors, and SME partners as we continue our mission. Most importantly, our fellow team members – ‘Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.’ Each one of us stands testimony to that fact.