Singapore-based fintech startup Nium hit a rather rare milestone in July 2021. It raised a US$200 million investment round led by US-based Riverwood Capital, and in the process, became Southeast Asia’s first business-to-business (B2B) fintech unicorn.

That’s not all the startup—formerly known as InstaRem—is notable for.

Chief executive and co-founder Prajit Nanu has long spoken of his desire for an initial public offering (IPO). Now that Southeast Asia’s startup exit window has opened up—with Grab Grab The Ken The ripple effects of Grab’s US$40 bn record SPAC listing Read more heading public via a SPAC deal and local IPOs like Bukapalak Bukapalak The Ken Why Bukalapak needs to lean on its Mitra despite a US$1.5B IPO Read more taking place—Nanu has an action plan. He wants to take his company public in the US in the next three years.

Pulling that off would be a significant win for a company that has followed an unconventional path. Nium pivoted from being a simple cross-border payments company to providing a whole stack of services for e-commerce businesses that handle payments locally or globally. That was aided by the acquisition acquisition PR Newswire Nium Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire B2B Travel Payments Leader Ixaris Read more of Europe-based Ixaris, a fintech startup that helps the travel business accept online payments, and the India-based unit of Wirecard, a disgraced disgraced Financial Times Wirecard: a record of deception, disarray and mismanagement Read more German payments firm that filed for insolvency insolvency Financial Times Wirecard collapses into insolvency Read more last year after ‘losing’ €1.9 billion (US$2.23 billion).

Today, Nium claims to process US$8 billion in annual payments. And its virtual credit and debit card business—started in response to the needs of a specific set of customers—has issued over 30 million cards. Nium’s team has also grown to keep pace with the company’s rapid transformation, spanning over 700 people across 17 countries. Nanu believes Ixaris can become a major force for Nium when travel returns, while Wirecard, he says, is a low-risk way to grab a crucial payment licence in India.

Still, it’s rare for companies to do acquisitions—particularly Europe-based targets—while based out of Southeast Asia, as Nium has done. But the company is already lining up its next startup acquisition as it races towards that IPO goal.


Jon Russell

Jon Russell is Southeast Asia editor for The Ken based in Bangkok. Originally from the UK, Jon moved to Thailand in 2008. He’s passionate about telling thoughtful business stories, and tracking the impact of the internet in his adopted home of Southeast Asia.

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