Neat is a challenger bank for early-stage startups and SMEs

With the growth in cross-border payment services and ‘challenger’ bank cards for consumers, you’d be forgiven for wondering where the options are for small business — where cash is particularly precious.

They do exist. One of the newer options is Neat, which is nested in Hong Kong but open for business worldwide.

The startup started off following the same track as the likes of Monzo, Starling and Revolut in Europe, developing a ‘new’ kind of account free of branch-based banking and tedious paperwork. But quickly the team realized that its service was being adopted in large by startups and SMEs as a way to get more flexible financing and perks like install balance/billing.

Neat still offers a consumer service in Hong Kong, but it places a heavy focus on developing its business service. Right now, that helps companies who can’t apply for credit cards get a Neat Mastercard which can be used for trivial (but important!) items such as monthly bills for services, flights, hotels and more. There’s no credit involved since the cards and account are debit-based.

Beyond the basics, Neat Business customers can use their account to handle employee payroll, business invoices, receive money and really pay all other bills that would require a credit card without using their personal one, as is so often the case for early-stage startups. More advanced features include expense cards for employees, while detailed company reporting and automated accounts are planned for introduction soon.

The company is based in Hong Kong, but Neat’s service can be used overseas, and indeed it already is.

Co-founder and CEO David Rosa, a former managing director of Citi Bank Asia Pacific, told TechCrunch that the company has customers in over 100 countries since account holders don’t need to be resident in, or incorporated in Hong Kong, to qualify for the service.

That said, a large portion is based in or associated with Hong Kong as it stands today, but Rosa — who started the business in 2015 alongside CTO Igor Wos — said he wants to change that and grow the userbase globally. The fact that Neat is working on introducing multi-currency solutions, as well as accountancy software integrations, is sure to help widen its appeal to those based outside of Hong Kong.

(Left to right) Neat co-founders Igor Wos (CTO) and David Rosa (CEO)

In a further validation, Neat recently snagged $2 million in funding to develop its tech and increase marketing. Those investors included Singapore’s Dymon Asia and Portag3 Ventures, which is the VC arm of Canada-based Power Corp, a public listed international management firm with a market cap of $9 billion. The Neat deal represents the Portag3 Ventures’ first investment in Asia and its CEO is bullish on how the duo can work together.

“From Hong Kong, we can reach the world. There’s a lot to be done here especially because of the China angle,” Rosa, who has lived in Hong Kong for 17 years, said.

Revolut announces a Robinhood-like trading product

Fintech startup Revolut likes to announce new things all the time. Even though nothing is going live today, it’s interesting to see where the startup is heading. The company is working on a trading platform for traditional shares without any commission.

You’ll find stock from public companies from the U.K. and the U.S., as well as various ETFs and options. In other words, Revolut is going to become the Robinhood of Europe.

While American customers have been using Robinhood for years, the rest of the world has been lagging behind when it comes to stock trading.

You still have to open an account on a painfully slow website and pay a few euros for every transaction. Some companies even ask you to send a letter to create an account. And if you want to buy stock through your existing bank account, it usually costs even more.

Revolut promises that you won’t pay any commission when you buy or sell shares. The company plans to make money on margin trading, securities lending and interest on cash. Unfortunately, Revolut didn’t say when the feature would launch.

Premium subscribers will be able to test the feature first. Eventually, you’ll also get additional perks if you’re a premium subscriber. Trading will be available to all Revolut users in Europe and future markets. The company plans to launch in the U.S., Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand in the coming months.

Revolut’s premium subscription is becoming a sort of Amazon Prime for financial products. You pay £6.99/€7.99 per month and you get unlimited foreign exchange transactions, travel insurance, access to new features and more.

It’s clear that Revolut plans on making predictable revenue on this premium subscription. And maybe the trading platform will make more people subscribe to Revolut Premium.

Additionally, Revolut now officially has 2 million users. It’s funny to see that Revolut is announcing this new milestone just days after N26 announced a million users. Interestingly, Revolut has 900,000 users in the U.K., where N26 has yet to launch.