Wee Digital: Facing up to a cashless economy

10:03 | 09/12/2019 Companies

(VEN) - Wee Digital is a young startup pioneering face recognition and other biometric recognition technologies for various Vietnamese services, including banking and tourism. Since its launch three years ago, it has established a network of leading customers including banks and large business groups across the country.

facing up to a cashless economy
Wee Digital CEO Christian Nguyen

In keeping with the government’s vision of a cashless society, Wee Digital’s face recognition technology can make interbank money transfers on mobile phones or websites easier and more convenient.

Company founder Christian Nguyen, a French Viet Kieu who moved back to his ancestral homeland, realized that as a small startup, Wee Digital could not compete with major finance companies and organizations in the cashless payment market. He therefore chose to offer tools to support this new trend, becoming the first business in Vietnam to successfully commercialize face recognition technology.

Wee Digital is not a technology seller, but a technical connector. Its platform enables users to connect with service providers connected with Wee Digital.

Apart from the banking sector, Wee Digital has developed face recognition technology in other fields such as tourism and hotels. For example, Vingroup’s Vinpearl resort company became the first business in Vietnam to apply Wee Digital’s face recognition technology to serve customers. “It took us nearly three years to innovate the core technology to apply the face recognition technology used in Vinpearl now,” Nguyen said.

The technology was developed by 10 Vietnamese specialists who graduated from domestic universities. Wee Digital has been cooperating with many banks to provide its service at kiosks. Aside from payment confirmation, facial OTP and FacePay also enable transactions on mobile interfaces, biometrics security and analysis of users’ behavior.

Nguyen explains that two factor authentications are still used in Vietnam and the world - PIN codes and one time passwords (OTPs). However, there are still loopholes in using OTPs in each payment transaction and not many payment addresses apply biometrics for payment authentication. Current technologies make it virtually impossible to “forge” a face for biometric identification compared with the relative ease of forging documents or hacking.

Nguyen does not want to follow in the path of other startup products, which were developed in Vietnam but only sold abroad.

Before starting Wee Digital, Nguyen implemented projects such as Element 5 sold to Millenium Penata Futures, a major Forex in Indonesia. He is also the co-founder of OffPeak - a platform for the food and beverage business operating in Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand. He withdrew his capital from OffPeak in 2017.

Nguyen said that although his two previous projects were in different fields, they had one common denominator which also applies to his current venture in the payment sector - developing products that provide new experiences.

Wee Digital’s innovation was awarded first prize in the Vietnam Fintech Challenge organized by the State Bank of Vietnam. Two other prizes, “Digital bank of the year” and “Best retail mobile banking experience”, won by the Vietnam International Bank (VIB) also had contributions from Wee Digital.

Wee Digital is oriented to help create a system of more natural and convenient banks, emulating the habit of using social networks by millions of Vietnamese people every day.

In early 2019, two startups, Urbox and Wee Digital, received investments from VinaCapital, a US$100 million venture capital company. Director of VinaCapital Ventures - a technology investment arm of VinaCapital - Tran Nhat Khanh said, “These investments are part of our continued efforts to support Vietnamese technological startups in solving some inefficient issues in business, and to help user access to advanced products and services at reasonable prices.”

Yen Le