Jeffrey Liu, is the co-founder and CEO of Jenfi, a fintech company that specializes in providing revenue-based financing for digital native businesses in Southeast Asia.
Jeffrey and his team are members of workbuddy. Read on in our exclusive interview to learn more him, his company, plus advice he has for budding entrepreneurs.
Hi Jeff, please give us a brief overview of your journey that led to the founding of Jenfi? Were there any personal experiences or insights that influenced you to start Jenfi?
Prior to Jenfi, I co-founded GuavaPass, which was a subscription service that offered access to a variety of aspirational group fitness classes.
During my time at GuavaPass, I encountered a significant challenge that many non-traditional businesses face – accessing capital for growth. Despite having a rapidly expanding subscriber base, we found it extremely challenging to secure bank loans or other forms of financing beyond traditional venture capital.
This challenge also resonated with my peers running consumer startups in the region. It became apparent that there was a pressing need for a tailored solution to address this acute funding gap, specifically designed to support the growth expenses of e-commerce, SAAS, and digital businesses in Southeast Asia.
Recognizing this opportunity, my co-founder and I decided to establish Jenfi. Our goal was to offer a bespoke funding option to empower entrepreneurs and help them overcome their financial barriers through accessible, flexible capital solutions that align with the unique needs and growth trajectories of these businesses.
Jenfi serves a niche in the lending market. Could you share more about Jenfi’s fintech solutions, and the unique value proposition that you bring to clients?
Our flagship product is “Growth Capital as a Service.” In a nutshell, we fund your growth expenses (e.g., Facebook ads) so you can scale your business faster. In exchange, we take a small percentage of your future sales as a form of repayment. As a result, you gain ultimate flexibility, as you pay less when your sales are lower than expected. This dynamic repayment model is called revenue-based financing.
We are one of the first fintechs to offer this service in Southeast Asia.
Jenfi's growth trajectory is impressive. From inception to where you are now, what were the major milestones and challenges that have shaped the company's path?
At Jenfi, our focus has always been on delivering a seamless experience for obtaining growth capital. We have achieved this by investing in technology and establishing data integrations with numerous payment processors, merchant platforms, digital advertising providers, and local banks. These integrations enable us to evaluate each applicant comprehensively and in an automated manner, ensuring efficiency and accuracy in our decision-making process.
One of our most significant milestones was the successful implementation of same-day financing for our clients, which allow us to address the urgent needs of our clients, allowing them to access capital quickly and efficiently.
Another notable milestone for us has been expansion into new markets, such as Vietnam and Indonesia. This has brought its own set of challenges like navigating local regulations, establishing partnerships, and adapting our technology to each market’s needs.
The fintech industry is rapidly evolving. How does Jenfi stay ahead in terms of innovation? Can you provide an example of how you've embraced change to better serve your clients?
To stay ahead of the curve, we spend considerable time with direct engagement and active dialogue with our clients to anticipate their evolving needs.
A recent example is the development of a multi-tranche offering. Recognizing the high renewability among our clients, we realized they required a more robust solution that aligned with their actual growth spending behaviour. This led us to create a flexible structure that allows multiple drawdowns, enabling them to access funds precisely when they need to fuel their growth.
Additionally, we introduced a dynamic limit setup, adjusting offered amounts based on actual business performance. By being responsive and adaptive, we ensure tailored solutions for our clients, enabling us to provide a more effective financing experience.
What are your future plans? Are there any exciting collaborations or partnerships on the horizon for Jenfi that you'd like to share with our readers?
We plan to provide more comprehensive solutions that go beyond our flagship revenue-based financing product. These additional offerings are meant to supplement what we currently offer, while providing more touchpoints with Jenfi so we can add more value to our clients.
We will continue focusing on our core markets in Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia, while looking for new neighbouring markets to expand into.
We are actively exploring opportunities to forge meaningful alliances that can drive mutual growth and benefit our clients.
As a seasoned entrepreneur, you've undoubtedly gained a wealth of knowledge. What's one piece of advice you would give to aspiring founders who are navigating the early stages of their own startups?
Develop a sense of urgency. One common pitfall I observe among first-time founders is the tendency to over-optimize every aspect of their business, from perfecting their tagline to endlessly refining their product through numerous iterations. However, it's crucial to recognize that time is of the essence during the early days.
Instead of striving for perfection or keeping busy with non-essential tasks, be willing to take bold action. Even if it means launching a product that is only half-built, embrace the opportunity to gather crucial feedback and iterate quickly.
Remember, the pursuit of perfection can delay progress, while a sense of urgency will help you make the most of your limited runway. Focus on maximizing the available time to learn, adapt, and improve your product, ultimately propelling your startup forward.
Describe your leadership style.
I strongly believe in the importance of adaptive or situational leadership – aligning leadership style with the specific context and situation at hand. Startups, in particular, undergo significant transformations as they progress.
I often use the analogy of a small community growing into a village, then a town, and eventually a city. At each stage, the management and organizational requirements to support the infrastructure change completely. As a leader, it is crucial to recognize and adapt to these evolving needs to ensure the success and growth of the organization.
How did you first learn about the workbuddy app, and what led you to choose it for your team?
I first learned about the workbuddy app shortly after the Covid lockdown period. As we adopted a hybrid work schedule, our team was frustrated with existing workspace options, which required us to commit to a single workspace full-time.
workbuddy immediately stood out as an obvious choice due to its unique offering. They provided access to over 50 workspaces, including prestigious locations like WeWork, and allowed us the flexibility of choosing full-time or part-time memberships. This meant that we could “sample” different workspaces during the initial period and self-review what locations worked best for us. Thanks to workbuddy, we discovered a wide variety of interesting workspaces that we wouldn't have otherwise known about.
Coworking environments can have a significant impact on productivity. Could you share examples of how the workspaces provided by workbuddy have positively influenced your team's productivity and/or collaboration at Jenfi?
workbuddy has had a significantly positive impact for our team. By coming together in person, team members from different teams can work in a dedicated and productive environment. This enables us to easily share ideas, engage in spontaneous discussions, and foster a greater sense of collaboration, which can sometimes be challenging in virtual work environments.
The opportunity to have face-to-face interactions during office days has proven invaluable in strengthening our teamwork and accelerating project progress. Additionally, the shared meals during these office days provide an informal setting for catching up with one another on a personal level, further enhancing team cohesion and fostering a positive work culture.
Overall, workbuddy's network of workspaces have played a crucial role in creating an environment that promotes productivity, collaboration, and a strong sense of camaraderie among our team members.
Startups can experience rapid changes. How has the flexibility and scalability of your coworking arrangement with workbuddy supported Jenfi's evolving needs as a growing company?
One of the key advantages we've enjoyed is the flexibility offered by workbuddy. As our team size and requirements grew, we were able to quickly add new members on the fly without being constrained by capacity limitations. Unlike traditional long-term contracts, workbuddy allowed us to easily adjust our workspace arrangements and move our team to more conducive work environments that better aligned with our evolving needs.
This meant that we could adapt to changes in team dynamics, project requirements, and collaboration preferences without any major disruptions.
Any favourite coworking offices you’ve tried from the 50 locations available on workbuddy, and why?
WeWork Suntec Tower 5 is where productivity meets panoramic cityscape vistas, and one of our favorite workbuddy locations. The spacious workspace is bathed in abundant natural lighting, creating a bright and inviting atmosphere. With its soaring high ceilings, the office exudes a sense of grandeur and openness. But what truly sets it apart are the breathtaking views it offers. From this prime location, we are treated to some of the best views in town, rivaling those enjoyed by tenants in the CBD.
What’s your favourite music or songs to listen to while working?
Indie rock (eg. Arcade Fire) or chillout lounge music depending on the mood and work at hand.
In a parallel universe where you're not an entrepreneur, what would you be doing as a career?
I would be a full-time explorer. This career choice may seem unconventional to some, but I have been fortunate enough to encounter individuals who have turned their passion for exploration into a livelihood. Driven by an insatiable curiosity for the unknown, I would embark on awe- inspiring adventures that lead me off the beaten path. The allure of uncharted territories and the endless array of possibilities would always draw me in, as I firmly believe that the most fascinating journeys are found along the path less taken. I would document and share my experiences to inspire others to embrace their own spirit of exploration.