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Helping the data-less: Meet the Singaporean startup rebuilding trust assessments in the digital age

Business and Enterprise

Posted on November 16, 2017

3 min read

The booming Asia startup ecosystem has presented a lot of opportunities for technology startups in the region. With our startup accelerator muru-D in Singapore and venture capital arm, Telstra Ventures, Telstra has been fuelling this ecosystem and supporting these companies in building the blocks and expanding their reach. In the coming six weeks, you will hear from startups under the muru-D program and from our Ventures portfolio about their stories and how Telstra is helping them win the game.

My father used to run his own business. As a kid, I watched how he established mutual trust and longstanding relationships with customers and suppliers. I aspired to emulate his success, but I found myself starting my entrepreneurial journey in a different world, in a different time.

In any given day, as part of his business operations, my father would exchange credit amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. He wasn’t the only one. This is largely how business has been conducted throughout Southeast Asia, where both formal and informal lending relies heavily on trust built over time, validation from your social circle and gut feeling.

Today, there are untapped opportunities for people in Southeast Asia’s emerging digital economies. However, it can be challenging for organisations to trust those they’ve never met with valuable assets, especially if these individuals don’t have bank accounts, credit histories or any form of data to validate against potential defaults.

I’m passionate about helping to establish trust relationships, by building a solution that accommodates how locals have been accessing credit for decades.

In 2014, Uber was launched in Malaysia. The company experienced strong rider demand and wanted to incentivise and attract more drivers through credit advances on car leases. I worked with Uber to create a manual process for data collection that was anchored by psychometrics. This lent credibility to thousands of unbanked individuals and allowed them to lease cars from Uber and improve their livelihoods.

In January 2016, I founded Hafta – a company that collects psychometric data and creates a basis for trust, by improving risk assessments for companies and individuals. We then joined muru-D Singapore, which gave us the tools and high-growth mindset to evolve our manual process into a software-based solution.

Serial TED Talk speaker and trust expert Rachel Botsman said this: “… now we have millions of people staying on Airbnb every night – trusting each other with their homes, their whole lives, really. And it’s only in 0.01 percent of bookings where something goes badly wrong. I think that’s a very optimistic story.”

Trust lies intimately between the perceptions two parties have of each other. Our goal is to inform these perceptions for companies – big and small – and create opportunities for individuals across the world. I believe psychometrics can be a great trust equaliser, especially in today’s digital and sharing economy.

 

Hafta is an alumnus from muru-D’s second cohort in Singapore. The program, currently into its third cohort, is supporting 11 Singapore-based startups.

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