WeLab, the startup that runs WeLend, Hong Kong’s first peer-to-peer lending site, has raised a $14 million Series A from TOM Group and Sequoia Capital. The company says it plans to launch a new product in mainland China later this year that will use big data for credit risk modeling, as well as establish strategic partnerships with mobile, e-commerce, and financial companies.
TechCrunch first profiled WeLab last October. The startup told us that barriers to entry for peer-to-peer platforms in Hong Kong include strict financial regulations and competition from dominant players in the banking industry such as HSBC, Standard Chartered, and Citicorp. WeLab overcame obstacles with a money lenders license in Hong Kong, as well as stringent standards–for example, at the time we talked to them, WeLab only approved 20% of loan applicants in order to optimize its portfolio. In return, borrowers got lower interest rates than from banks and other traditional financial institutions. WeLab’s goals include building other online products to “democratize finance.”
In a press release, founder and CEO Simon Loong said “In Asia, the market opportunity is huge as banks remain constrained by dependence on legacy businesses, while the traditional lending model is generally both inefficient and misaligned with the interests of consumers. But the Internet changes everything and gives market participants an opportunity to find ways to serve the consumer better.”