Interest in crypto-investment is growing worldwide and for New Zealand fintech firm Invsta, Southeast Asia is firmly in its expansion sights, says CEO and co-founder Rachel Strevens.
For Auckland finance whiz Rachel Strevens, helping clients to achieve good investment outcomes is a passion.
And it’s one which led her to take the plunge into the cryptocurrency investment space last November, when she co-founded Invsta – a platform that allows everyday people to invest in cryptocurrencies with ease.
Things are moving fast for the nimble startup. In May 2018, Invsta sought a $1-million round of seed funding, and it’s looking to expand internationally – with a 12-month view to grow rapidly in Southeast Asia.
In June 2018, Strevens was one of five New Zealand tech entrepreneurs who spent a week in Manila to learn about the Philippine tech sector, as part of the ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative (YBLI) programme.
Strevens shares more about Invsta, its expansion plans in Asia, and her observations on doing business in the Philippines.
What is Invsta about?
Rachel Strevens: “Invsta is an online cryptocurrency platform that allows everyday people to easily invest in cryptocurrencies, and do it in a way that helps reduce some of the risk involved, and with a diversified approach.
“Our Invsta platform is really a global product, and we’re developing this in New Zealand but looking to expand this across Southeast Asia pretty rapidly over the next six months to one year.”
What’s the appeal of Southeast Asia?
“Asian markets are incredibly attractive on a number of fronts, including the sheer size of the population and the fact that it’s much closer to New Zealand than, say, the United States.
“Due to the developing economies and a growing middle class, many markets are embracing cryptocurrencies and the opportunities that blockchain technology can offer, providing more clarity from a regulatory standpoint, which creates better certainty.
“Also, the comparatively high acceptance of the use of online financial tools to manage investments and wealth makes the region attractive.
“In the short term, we’re focused on closing our current capital raise round, putting the finishing touches on the platform and getting this ready for rapid scale. We’re also setting up a base in Asia – likely Singapore – which we’ll use to service the wider Asian region as we look to rapidly scale.
“Invsta’s longer-term goals are for aggressive growth across Asia with a crypto-investment platform that provides users with the easiest method of confidently investing into crypto.”
What are some things you’ve learnt about business in the Philippines?
“There’s a really good opportunity for us to do business. There are a lot of different local ins and outs that we would need to work through and navigate through. But I think it’s something we will have on our radar for the coming year, I would say, depending on a lot more market research to go into some of those details.
“One of the big things we’ve learnt is that setting up a company in New Zealand is a very easy, straightforward process. In the Philippines, it can be drawn out over a number of months, potentially up to six months’ time. That’s one example of an economy that is still developing and doesn’t have some of the systems and processes we’re used to and expect to see in New Zealand.
“The market and the people are quite different. For example, there are a lot of consumers in the Philippines who don’t have bank accounts. It’s quite a different landscape from that point of view.
“The advantage of going into the Philippines is it’s an absolutely huge market. It’s an English-speaking country so that’s a big win for us ... it would be very easy to come here.”
What companies are in a similar space as Invsta in Asia?
“We’ve noticed quite a few different innovations happening in the Philippine blockchain space. From the people we’ve spoken to and what we’ve seen, it seems the blockchain and cryptocurrency innovation space in the Philippines is at a slightly earlier stage than it is in New Zealand, but we’ve only spoken to a few people.
“But there are some really cool things happening, with different blockchain start-ups coming through. There’s a few ICOs [initial coin offerings – a means of raising capital using blockchain] coming through; we’ve spoken to them as well.
“Elsewhere, many countries have a range of crypto-exchanges through which people can trade cryptocurrencies themselves. Abra is a global remittance provider that also allows for buying and selling of crypto through a platform. There is also a pretty wide range of crypto-hedge funds, however these tend to have high minimum investment levels, making them unsuitable for the everyday person who wants to invest a smaller amount into crypto.”
Interview by Francine Chen and Rebecca Inoue-Palmer.
– Asia Media Centre