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RWDC Industries is a new startup hoping to become a bioplastics giant in Athens, Ga.

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Daniel Carraway spent his entire career working in paper and bioplastics.

The serial entrepreneur began his career at International Paper working in their research division before founding two previous companies which became cornerstones of the bioplastics industry. His latest venture, RWDC Industries, has raised $133 million in a recent financing to build a new sustainable manufacturing juggernaut in the small city of Athens, Ga.

With offices in Athens and Singapore, RWDC is the fruit of a partnership between Carraway and Roland Wee, an engineer with decades of experience in the chemicals and construction business across Asia.

The two men met through mutual connections as Carraway sought new opportunities to pursue his longtime vision of commercializing bioplastics.  The serial entrepreneur had just stepped away from his work with  Meredian Holdings Group and its subsidiary, Danimer Scientific — companies that sprung from work Carraway started at his kitchen table with his wife back in 2004, he said.

In 2019, bioplastics represented a $95 million opportunity according to a report in Market Data Forecast, but the small size of the current market belies how big the opportunity can be, according to Carraway.

RWDC, Danimer, and Kaneka are all pursuing an opportunity to replace plastic packaging, which was a $234.14 billion market, according to GrandViewResearch. It’s that potential market for plastics that has drawn countless companies over the years — including Carraway’s own — to raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

Several of those companies failed. Perhaps the most successful of the early high-flyers was Metabolix, which had a public offering before the financial crisis hit in 2008. That company sold its bioplastics division to CJ CheilJedang for roughly $10 million and pivoted to crop science.

Carraway insists that the market has changed over the last few decades and the time is finally right for biology to supplant chemistry in industrial manufacturing.

“If you look back at the history of new materials development… especially polymers.. There has never been a new polymer that had been invented that didn’t take twenty to thirty years for it to make wide scale adoption,” said Carraway. “When a polymer is first developed it takes a while to get the manufacturing right to get it at wide scale. [And] it takes time for polymer converters to understand how to use a new material… it’s not that technologically it’s not viable it’s about figuring out how to use the new material.”

Scale is important too, said Carraway. “You have to reach a certain critical availability in metric tons available in the global market to create a situation where people can use the new material,” he said.

RWDC can already make about 5,000 tons of PHA and expects to grow its capacity to make half a million tons of material, but that barely scratches the surface of available capacity for traditional plastics. “For the next decade we’re going to be in a mad scramble to grow production capacity because we’re going to be behind the demand curve,” said Carraway.

Industry observers have seen this story before. Because the new material Carraway is talking about isn’t actually all that new. For at least the past twenty years companies have been working on ways to cheaply manufacture polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). The material is produced by the fermentation of oil or sugars and serve as a replacement for the chemicals that are made from cracking ethane (a product of oil processing) to make plastic.

However, as concerns continue to mount over the environmental degradation caused by plastic pollutants and the contributions the plastics industry makes to emissions causing global climate change, the push for replacing plastics with more sustainable products has gained momentum.

Regulations in Europe will ban many single use plastic products next year forcing companies to build out their supply of bioplastic alternatives or abandon the use of plastics altogether.

Market moves like these have the potential to spur the bioplastics industry and shift production into high gear. Carraway said demand hasn’t been effected by the collapse of oil prices which has driven down the costs of chemicals and plastics.

“Even though our materials are initially more expensive… the amount that they cost over the commodities in normal circumstances isn’t that much,” Carraway said. “Every customer we’re working with has asked us to speed up and give them more. No one has said we want to slow down or scale back or change our plans.”

And propelling the industry forward could provide a lift to local economies that have been financially ravaged by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

At least, that’s what Carraway is hoping will happen in Athens, Ga.

The company is using some of the money it raised from international and US-based investors including the Singapore-based venture capital firm Vickers Venture Partners; IKEA’s investment company; a Swiss pension fund; a Northeastern energy provider; and an industrial chemical company owned by Koch Industries to revive an old factory in the city as its new production plant. 

RWDC said the new facility will bring in 200 jobs to northeastern Georgia.

“We are excited to see RWDC expand its operations in Athens and add a substantial number of new well-paying jobs,” said Athens-Clarke County Mayor, Kelly Girtz. “Athens is the home of the University of Georgia, and we have a long record of supporting innovation and industry. Like communities across America and the world, we want to see a reduction in plastic pollution, and we have high hopes that RWDC, with the help of the Athens community at their new facility, will be able to solve that problem.”

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/05/rwdc-industries-is-a-new-startup-hoping-to-become-a-bioplastics-giant-in-athens-ga/

Fintech

GoBear raises $17 million to expand its consumer financial services for Asian markets

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Singapore-based fintech startup GoBear has raised $17 million from returning investors Walvis Participaties, a Dutch venture capital firm, and Aegon N.V., a life insurance and asset management provider. The funding brings GoBear’s total funding so far to $97 million, and will be used to expand its consumer financial services platform, which is available in seven Asian markets: Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Founder and CEO Adrian Chng told TechCrunch that GoBear will focus on what it calls its “three growth pillars”: an online financial supermarket that evolved from the company’s financial products aggregator/comparison service; an online insurance brokerage; and its digital lending business, which it recently expanded by acquiring consumer lending platform AsiaKredit.

The company has also added three new executives over the past few months: chief information technology officer Valeriy Gasratov; chief strategy officer Jinnee Lim as Chief Strategy Officer; and Mike Singh from AsiaKredit as its new chief lending officer.

GoBear originally launched in 2015 as a metasearch engine, before transitioning into financial services. The company now works with over 100 financial partners, including banks and insurance providers, and says its platform has been used by over 55 million people to search for more than 2,000 personal financial products.

The startup serves consumers who don’t have credit cards or other access to traditional credit building tools. Similar to other fintech companies that focus on underbanked populations, GoBear aggregates and analyzes alternative sources of data to judge lending risk, including patterns in consumer behavior. For example, Chng said if a loan application is filled out in less than a minute, it is more likely to be fraudulent, and applications made between 8:30PM and midnight are less risky than ones made between 2AM to 5AM.

Data points from smartphones is also used to assess creditworthiness in markets like the Philippines, where the credit card penetration rate is less than 10%, but more than 40% of the population uses a smartphone.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Chng said GoBear has been gross margin positive since the end of 2019. Interest in travel insurance has declined, but the company has continued to see demand for other insurance products and lending. Its online insurance brokerage has grown its average order by 52% over the last three months, and the company has seen 50% year-over-year growth from its loan products.

There are other fintech companies in Asia that overlap with some of the services that GoBear offers, like comparison platform MoneySmart, CompareAsiaGroup and Grab Financial Group. In terms of competition, Chng told TechCrunch that not only is the market opportunity in Asia huge (he said there are 400 million underbanked people across GoBear’s seven markets), but the company also differentiates with its three core services, which are all interconnected and draw on the same data sources to score credit.

Chng anticipates that the pandemic will spur more financial institutions to begin digitizing their products and looking for partners like GoBear to help them manage risk. In turn, that will make more financial institutions open to using non-traditional data to score credit, enabling underbanked markets to have increased access to financial products.

“The momentum is here. I think now is the time for tech and data to transform financial services,” he said. “As a platform, we are really looking for partners to come with us for the next phase of growth and investment. I feel positive even with COVID-19, because I think that we will have more acceleration, and the opportunity to change people’s lives and benefit them and investors by solving tough problems will only increase.”

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/26/gobear-raises-17-million-to-expand-its-consumer-financial-services-for-asian-markets/

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Fintech

GoBear raises $17 million to expand its consumer financial services for Asian markets

Published

on

Singapore-based fintech startup GoBear has raised $17 million from returning investors Walvis Participaties, a Dutch venture capital firm, and Aegon N.V., a life insurance and asset management provider. The funding brings GoBear’s total funding so far to $97 million, and will be used to expand its consumer financial services platform, which is available in seven Asian markets: Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Founder and CEO Adrian Chng told TechCrunch that GoBear will focus on what it calls its “three growth pillars”: an online financial supermarket that evolved from the company’s financial products aggregator/comparison service; an online insurance brokerage; and its digital lending business, which it recently expanded by acquiring consumer lending platform AsiaKredit.

The company has also added three new executives over the past few months: chief information technology officer Valeriy Gasratov; chief strategy officer Jinnee Lim as Chief Strategy Officer; and Mike Singh from AsiaKredit as its new chief lending officer.

GoBear originally launched in 2015 as a metasearch engine, before transitioning into financial services. The company now works with over 100 financial partners, including banks and insurance providers, and says its platform has been used by over 55 million people to search for more than 2,000 personal financial products.

The startup serves consumers who don’t have credit cards or other access to traditional credit building tools. Similar to other fintech companies that focus on underbanked populations, GoBear aggregates and analyzes alternative sources of data to judge lending risk, including patterns in consumer behavior. For example, Chng said if a loan application is filled out in less than a minute, it is more likely to be fraudulent, and applications made between 8:30PM and midnight are less risky than ones made between 2AM to 5AM.

Data points from smartphones is also used to assess creditworthiness in markets like the Philippines, where the credit card penetration rate is less than 10%, but more than 40% of the population uses a smartphone.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Chng said GoBear has been gross margin positive since the end of 2019. Interest in travel insurance has declined, but the company has continued to see demand for other insurance products and lending. Its online insurance brokerage has grown its average order by 52% over the last three months, and the company has seen 50% year-over-year growth from its loan products.

There are other fintech companies in Asia that overlap with some of the services that GoBear offers, like comparison platform MoneySmart, CompareAsiaGroup and Grab Financial Group. In terms of competition, Chng told TechCrunch that not only is the market opportunity in Asia huge (he said there are 400 million underbanked people across GoBear’s seven markets), but the company also differentiates with its three core services, which are all interconnected and draw on the same data sources to score credit.

Chng anticipates that the pandemic will spur more financial institutions to begin digitizing their products and looking for partners like GoBear to help them manage risk. In turn, that will make more financial institutions open to using non-traditional data to score credit, enabling underbanked markets to have increased access to financial products.

“The momentum is here. I think now is the time for tech and data to transform financial services,” he said. “As a platform, we are really looking for partners to come with us for the next phase of growth and investment. I feel positive even with COVID-19, because I think that we will have more acceleration, and the opportunity to change people’s lives and benefit them and investors by solving tough problems will only increase.”

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/26/gobear-raises-17-million-to-expand-its-consumer-financial-services-for-asian-markets/

Continue Reading

Fintech

GoBear raises $17 million to expand its consumer financial services for Asian markets

Published

on

Singapore-based fintech startup GoBear has raised $17 million from returning investors Walvis Participaties, a Dutch venture capital firm, and Aegon N.V., a life insurance and asset management provider. The funding brings GoBear’s total funding so far to $97 million, and will be used to expand its consumer financial services platform, which is available in seven Asian markets: Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Founder and CEO Adrian Chng told TechCrunch that GoBear will focus on what it calls its “three growth pillars”: an online financial supermarket that evolved from the company’s financial products aggregator/comparison service; an online insurance brokerage; and its digital lending business, which it recently expanded by acquiring consumer lending platform AsiaKredit.

The company has also added three new executives over the past few months: chief information technology officer Valeriy Gasratov; chief strategy officer Jinnee Lim as Chief Strategy Officer; and Mike Singh from AsiaKredit as its new chief lending officer.

GoBear originally launched in 2015 as a metasearch engine, before transitioning into financial services. The company now works with over 100 financial partners, including banks and insurance providers, and says its platform has been used by over 55 million people to search for more than 2,000 personal financial products.

The startup serves consumers who don’t have credit cards or other access to traditional credit building tools. Similar to other fintech companies that focus on underbanked populations, GoBear aggregates and analyzes alternative sources of data to judge lending risk, including patterns in consumer behavior. For example, Chng said if a loan application is filled out in less than a minute, it is more likely to be fraudulent, and applications made between 8:30PM and midnight are less risky than ones made between 2AM to 5AM.

Data points from smartphones is also used to assess creditworthiness in markets like the Philippines, where the credit card penetration rate is less than 10%, but more than 40% of the population uses a smartphone.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Chng said GoBear has been gross margin positive since the end of 2019. Interest in travel insurance has declined, but the company has continued to see demand for other insurance products and lending. Its online insurance brokerage has grown its average order by 52% over the last three months, and the company has seen 50% year-over-year growth from its loan products.

There are other fintech companies in Asia that overlap with some of the services that GoBear offers, like comparison platform MoneySmart, CompareAsiaGroup and Grab Financial Group. In terms of competition, Chng told TechCrunch that not only is the market opportunity in Asia huge (he said there are 400 million underbanked people across GoBear’s seven markets), but the company also differentiates with its three core services, which are all interconnected and draw on the same data sources to score credit.

Chng anticipates that the pandemic will spur more financial institutions to begin digitizing their products and looking for partners like GoBear to help them manage risk. In turn, that will make more financial institutions open to using non-traditional data to score credit, enabling underbanked markets to have increased access to financial products.

“The momentum is here. I think now is the time for tech and data to transform financial services,” he said. “As a platform, we are really looking for partners to come with us for the next phase of growth and investment. I feel positive even with COVID-19, because I think that we will have more acceleration, and the opportunity to change people’s lives and benefit them and investors by solving tough problems will only increase.”

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/26/gobear-raises-17-million-to-expand-its-consumer-financial-services-for-asian-markets/

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