Unearthing a Digital Solution: Doxa’s Quest to Transform Business Financing

Portfolio Stories

May 6, 2024

Unearthing a Digital Solution: Doxa's Quest to Transform Business Financing

Developing a structured process to extract credit data is crucial for qualifying financing

Unearthing a Digital Solution: Doxa's Quest to Transform Business Financing

In the heart of Southeast Asia’s bustling business landscape, Edmund Ng embarked on a journey to redefine how companies access crucial financing for growth. When he was a regional technical director at Nufin Data, a Singapore-based fintech trade financing firm, Ng encountered a pervasive challenge: firms struggling to secure bank financing due to inadequate credit data. This stumbling block spurred Ng’s resolve to unearth a digital solution, leading to the inception of Doxa.

Ng’s story is one of transformation—from a seasoned corporate director to a startup visionary on a mission to disrupt traditional financing norms. His experiences at Nufin Data illuminated the shortcomings of manual procurement processes, igniting a passion for streamlining data collection methods.

“I saw firsthand the repercussions of outdated data practices,” Ng reflected. “It wasn’t just about digitising documents—it was about organising meaningful data for credit analysis.”

Together with co-founders Leon Yeo and Henry Kwan, Ng forged ahead, undeterred by the daunting prospect of startup entrepreneurship. Their shared vision propelled them to build Doxa Connex—a cloud-based platform designed to revolutionise procurement, payment and financing processes.

This article follows Doxa’s journey from an idea to a fully-fledged solution. Along the way, they encountered numerous challenges, from persuading industries entrenched in traditional practices, such as construction, to navigating the obstacles presented by COVID-19.

Assembling Doxa

Accessing credit financing presents a significant hurdle for companies, especially micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). In a 2021 study by Tech for Good Institute, 60 per cent of surveyed MSMEs in Southeast Asia were unable to obtain loans from financial institutions.

The crux of this issue is that many MSMEs can’t produce enough credit information and history to get a credit score, making them a high-risk segment for banks and other lenders.

There are data management platforms that help companies log financial data, but without an organised process, collating and tracking invoices and transactions remains onerous, resulting in fragmented and error-filled data. That makes applying for loans labour-intensive, time-consuming and expensive.

Sourcing and collection of rich, useable data for credit financing, Ng said, requires a comprehensive digital re-engineering of business operations.

For two years, Ng sketched the blueprint that would be the genesis of Doxa Connex, a cloud-based platform that enables businesses to digitalise the procurement, financing and payment processes, allowing them to easily record and verify transactions and better qualify for credit financing.

At the end of 2018, Ng took the plunge and quit his job at Nufin Data to build Doxa. Ng acknowledged that it was an audacious move. It would be difficult to rejoin the corporate world if his startup failed, as he was already in his early 40s. To compound the risks, Ng did not have higher education qualifications as he left school at Secondary 3 – when he was 15 years old.

Without an O-level certification, he began his career as a chef in the military service. Ng worked his way up to becoming a member of the special forces for the next 12 years before leaving for the corporate industry. While serving in the military, Ng cultivated a passion for computer science and technology and educated himself on the subjects during his spare time.

“I do not have any formal certifications; a lot of the technical and industry knowledge I accumulated came through self-studying. Building Doxa was really an all-or-nothing venture for me, “ said Ng.

He also drew parallels between being a founder and a special forces soldier. “These two vocations require similar character traits and aptitudes: you need to have a focused mind, be able to analyse situations from different angles and manage uncertainties under high pressure,” said Ng.

“At the same time, I was confident in building my solution since I had a lot of experience rolling out enterprise tech platforms, such as SingPost’s SAMs,” he said.

Ng’s expertise was bolstered by his two co-founders, Leon Yeo and Henry Kwan. He met Yeo, a former senior executive in multinational corporations such as S&P Global and Wood Mackenzie, at church. Kwan, who spent two decades in tech and business development roles at investment management and data analytics firms, was introduced by Yeo’s brother-in-law.

“I was attracted to Doxa’s concept, which was interesting because it could substantially lower the cost of financing by streamlining the administrative process and reducing fees,” said Kwan. In 2019, the trio officially launched Doxa.

Building a holistic financing infrastructure

Doxa’s platform, Doxa Connex, is focused on digitalising the entire supply chain financing process, beginning from the purchase request stage to payments. The company first built the purchase request and approval flow before developing the digital invoicing and payments process.

“We are developing a system for embedded finance. This way, it increases the stickiness of our product and provides greater value and convenience to our clients, as they can accomplish the entire procurement and financing process without leaving our platform,” says Ng.

Doxa Connex is integrated with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software such as SAP, SAGE and Oracle, so companies don’t have to overhaul their existing accounting systems.

Doxa Connex’s digital interface facilitates seamless procurement transactions between buyers and sellers and documents and stores all historical data on transactions for analysis and auditing purposes — ensuring greater transparency, accountability and compliance with regulatory requirements.

Users can also configure their procurement processes according to specific compliance requirements, such as legal or industry regulations.

The platform uses blockchain technology to strengthen data security. It encrypts purchase orders (PO), making verifying and securing POs simple. Doxa Connex also connects directly with banks to handle and verify clients’ payments and financing requests, eliminating the need to physically visit banks to validate documents.

Tackling an old-school industry

While Doxa Connex is designed to be industry-agnostic, the team started by focusing on the construction industry — a complex, multilayered sector that is notoriously resistant to change. Yet, it is precisely these reasons that piqued Doxa’s interest.

“Construction is far behind in digital adoption and still relies a lot on paperwork. Their workflow is difficult to manage, and the purchasing process is quite complex, involving many different departments,” said Yeo. “At the same time, if the construction industry’s workflow were so simple, Doxa’s solution did not need to exist.”

In addition, Yeo highlighted that their experience in solving complex workflows offers them a competitive advantage as they could easily replicate the process across diverse industries with minimal adjustments.

Doxa’s construction industry clients were initially sceptical of their platform. Additionally, they felt that the team did not have domain knowledge of the construction industry.

“We managed to convince the construction companies of our sincerity in improving their industry. We told them that if they could share their domain knowledge, we could build the right product to fit their needs,” said Yeo.

The Doxa team quickly developed the base module and then conducted workshops and workflow tutorials with their client prospects to help them understand the benefits of using Doxa Connex.

For each client, Doxa provides personalised onboarding sessions to ensure that they understand the features and workflow of the platform. These include self-help tutorials, webinars and individual walkthrough sessions. To date, leading construction firms such as Tiong Seng Group and Kimly Construction Group have onboarded Doxa Connex.

While the COVID-19 pandemic threw a spanner into Doxa’s healthy growth trajectory, it helped expedite the company’s goals — encouraging companies to embrace digitalisation. Cheque collections became nearly impossible during the lockdown measures, so construction companies quickly recognised the utility of Doxa’s product.

Achieving full integration and future plans

Today, over 1,000 companies across the business spectrum, including construction, healthcare and logistics, have adopted Doxa Connex. It has processed over S$200 million (US$148.3 million) in invoices to date.

The platform is fully integrated with existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and accounting systems and major local banks. It is also expandable to other data management applications through its API, granting clients greater ability to customise to their needs. By using Doxa Connex, companies can improve the efficiency of administrative tasks, speeding up their workflow by 49.2 per cent and reducing the payment processing time by 30 per cent.

Last year, Doxa launched a pilot programme with UOB and Visa to allow subcontractors to receive payments in advance on Doxa Connex using the virtual UOB Visa card — streamlining payment cycles. Kimly and JTC were the first companies to participate in this pilot.

The Doxa team regularly takes in feedback to improve the platform and better serve their clients. For example, it recently added a new feature that allowed clients to assign multiple tasks to each job role after hearing requests for greater flexibility.

Doxa also built a supplier portal to improve the end-to-end user journey. During the Request for Quotation (RFQ) process, companies often have to resort to using search engines and calling/emailing suppliers. “By embedding a supplier portal in our platform, we are making the supplier-sourcing more seamless,” said Yeo.

Driven by its success in Singapore, Doxa has expanded to Indonesia and is working on entering the Malaysian market. Doxa also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Maybank to enhance supply chain financing solutions for more companies in the building and construction sector.

“We are constantly seeking ways to expand our product’s use cases to new customers and markets and, in turn, power up Southeast Asia’s MSME ecosystem. By unlocking economic growth throughout the complex supply chain, we are helping to bridge the gap between SMEs and banks, benefitting all players in the ecosystem, ” said Yeo.