Gaming giant Razer has launched a $50 million fund to invest in sustainable startups, starting with bamboo toilet paper brand Bambooloo, it announced today.
The Razer Green Fund gave its first seed investment to The Nurturing Co., owner of Bambooloo. The Nurturing Co. will supply the single-use plastic-free toilet paper in some of Razer’s offices, Razer said.
Razer did not disclose the size of the seed investment, but said average investments through the fund would range between $100,000 and $1 million.
The toilet paper is made from bamboo pulp and uses 90% less water and 70% less carbon to produce than regular toilet paper, The Nurturing Co. says.
Razer, known for making gaming hardware, says it hopes the fund will encourage its fans to use more sustainable products.
The fund is managed through zVentures, Razer’s corporate ventures arm, and will focus on investments in renewable energy, sustainable forestry, and carbon and plastic management.
The Nurturing Co., which currently sells products in New Zealand and Malaysia, said the fund would help it launch in other markets, including the US.
Gaming hardware manufacturing company Razer has come a long way since CEO and cofounder Min-Liang Tan had the idea to design a computer mouse specific for gamers back in 2005. According to the firm’s latest financial results, 2020 was a record year, with Razer for the first time achieving over US$1 billion in revenue, in the process also registering its first ever annual profit.
Razer’s success naturally lies in its hardware business, where it enjoys a hugely loyal fanbase for its controllers, headsets, keyboard, and laptops. But there is another business segment that is growing fast and which is pointing to a new – and potentially highly profitable – revenue stream for the gaming industry: fintech
In 2017, Razer stepped for the first time into the fintech sector with the launch of in-game payment service Razer Gold, which now has 26 million registered users. This was followed in 2018 by Razer Fintech, a digital payment network targeting both B2B and B2C end users across Southeast Asia.
Revenue from the financial services arm grew over 66% in 2020 to US$128.4 million. Speaking at an earnings briefing in March, CEO Min said the financial services growth was “truly phenomenal”, adding that it had been driven by surges in Razer Gold usage in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the demand for Razer Fintech B2B services due to the accelerated digitization of many businesses in the region.
Digital payments in Southeast Asia
When it comes to fintech, Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, outpacing the US, the UK, and even China. Razer is one of a number of companies with no previous financial sector experience that are now making significant steps into the sector. From ride hailing apps to e-commerce platforms and even airlines, more companies in the region are now also offering fintech services such as digital payments, loans, and even virtual banking.
“The usage of fintech, especially e-wallets, is a growing trend in Asia, especially in East and Southeast Asia,” Darang Candra, director of Southeast Asia at Niko Partners said. “None of Razer’s fellow unicorns in the region, such as Sea Group, Grab, and Gojek, started as fintech companies, but they later created their own fintech services – SeaMoney, GrabPay, and GoPay, respectively. This helped in pushing brand loyalty to their respective services. Razer seems to be in line with this trend.”
For companies such as Razer, moving into the fintech space is simply a case of responding to customer needs. This is especially true when it comes to providing digital payment services in a region that has some of the world’s lowest levels of financial inclusion.
KPMG estimates that as many as 73% of Southeast Asia’s population does not have access to a bank account. What they do have, though, is access to the internet. According to the e-Conomy 2020 report, co-produced by Google, Temasek, and Nain & Company, over 70% of people in Southeast Asia are now online, including an additional 40 million who came online in 2020 alone. The report also said the estimated gross transaction value (GTV) of digital payments in Southeast is expected to reach US$1.2 trillion by 2025, up from US$620 billion in 2020.
“In the past few years, we witnessed strong growth in gamers in Southeast Asia,” Limeng Lee, chief strategy officer at Razer and CEO at Razer Fintech, said. “However, we also noticed that while gaming activity was on the rise, monetization by our gaming partners did not see similar growth. We identified as a gating issue the ability for the young gamers to make digital payments for their gaming and entertainment needs, especially in countries where a large proportion of the population was still unbanked.”
One example of how Razer has moved quickly to fill the financial inclusion gap can be seen in the launch of the Razer Visa card, a virtual prepaid service that doesn’t require users to have access to a bank account. Instead, card owners can top up or cash out at a network of offline touchpoints.
As well as regular card benefits such as cash-back rewards, the Razer Visa also allows users to access an in-app gamified rewards system. Razer and Visa completed the first trial of the card late last year in Singapore and expect to roll out in other countries during 2021.
“Razer’s main business model is still focused on selling hardware products and based on what we see from the cooperation with Visa through their Razer Card, it seems that they want to specialize in providing rewards, cash backs, and even gamified-based bonuses for using Razer’s fintech services to buy hardware products,” Candra said. “This would be similar to how Sea, Grab, and Gojek’s fintech products are all connected to their respective ‘traditional’ businesses.”
Focus is firmly on the youth market
While Razer’s fintech ambitions are not exclusively targeting gamers, they are nonetheless focused heavily on Gen Zs and millennials – a demographic where the Razer brand is already well established.
Razer famously attracts a cult-like following. Tattoos of the company’s three-headed snake logo are especially popular. One Razer devotee even went as far as having his leg tattooed with Min’s face in return for a free Razer gaming smartphone. It is unimaginable that any of Razer’s competitors, such as Switzerland-based Logitech, could inspire similar brand devotion.
Looking to the future, this brand awareness and customer loyalty, combined with a huge customer base in the region, could be a key differentiator for Razer’s fintech plans in what is becoming a crowded and competitive market.
Says Razer’s Lee: “We are constantly in discussions with partners on potential collaboration who either want access to our 50,000-plus online merchants where we can help upsell their services or want association with the Razer brand to gain access to our 125 million-plus user base. These partnerships will be a win-win for both parties.”
At the end of last year, Razer unsuccessfully bid for one of Singapore’s two virtual banking licenses under the brand name Razer Youth Bank. While a setback for the company – local fintech rivals Grab and Sea were part of the winning consortiums – the bid nonetheless showed both the scope of Razer’s ambition, as well as its clear market position as a youth-focused fintech.
“Moving forward, Razer Fintech intends to aggressively scale up our core B2B business which has been driving the growth of our business in the past couple of years,” Lee said. “We will invest in further geographical expansion in the SEA region and other high growth emerging markets such as Latin America and the Middle East.”