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CreditEase, Plug and Play invest in Smile API, an employment data startup targeting gig workers

Smile API provides user-authorized access to valuable employment and income data from HR, payroll, commerce, and marketplace platforms through a single API.

Smile API, an information infrastructure startup based in the Philippines, has bagged a “significant” investment from Chinese conglomerate CreditEase and Plug and Play APAC.

Other details of the deal haven’t been disclosed.

Smile API will utilise the capital to grow and enhance its information infrastructure to serve more clients in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.

Founded in April 2021, Smile API (owned by Smile Technology) provides a source for employment data in Asia, targeting temporary workers such as personal shoppers, courier delivery people, drivers in the rideshare and food delivery businesses, taskers, and pet sitters.

Its API (application programming interface) infrastructure enables clients to access wallets, loans, insurances, digital bank accounts and other financial applications through its white-labelled interface within the client application. The single API then provides them with the essential job and income data across HR, payroll, commerce, and marketplace platforms.

The startup also fast-tracks the loan or financing application process by facilitating approval (or rejection) quickly. Data can flow swiftly from an employer to a bank or a vendor, but the user has total freedom over whether or not to cross the bridge. Each transaction requires express authorisation from the client, who selects what data is shared with whom and when.

Smile’s API is also designed to connect data from businesses, employees, banks, and fintech firms to its digital platform to increase financial inclusion through Open Finance.

The company said this approach is more inclusive than the Open Banking press statement. “When compared with open banking, open finance solves the problem of accessing primary employment data instead of bank data, bridging the gaps in the gaining of financial products and services by the unbanked, like the gig workers in particular.”

Smile API is building partnerships with like-minded innovators in the Philippines. MoveForward, an online buy-now-pay-later provider for the unbanked, is one of its partners. Besides the Philippines, the firm aims to grow across Asia and the APAC area.

“Unlike other global markets such as the US and China, where employer data APIs are common, there is no API or service similar to Smile API in the region,” said Ziheng Li, senior ventures analyst at Plug and Play Singapore.

Even before the pandemic, Asia marched ahead in the gig economy. As of 2019, countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines were in the top five sources of freelance workers globally. The gig economy's year-on-year growth in countries such as Vietnam is also significant at 56.9 per cent in self-employment, Indonesia (50.9 per cent), and Malaysia (25 per cent).




Smile API is a part of our Portfolio startups in Plug and Play APAC. As an in-house venture capital, our goal is to fund the teams that are building the defensible businesses of the future. By leveraging our capital, our network of VCs, and our corporate partners, we give our portfolio companies an added advantage. Join our platform today!

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