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Fascinating Women 2023: Rebecca Kersch

The Harvard-built app team, led by Dutch-Filipina founder Rebecca Kersch, brings their newly-built US-to-Philippines money sending app TANGapp to the top global fintech market

Introducing an easy culture of sending money to the Philippines through their free mobile remittance app, TANGapp tech founder Rebecca Kersch brought her global powerhouse team in the Philippines last February.

Formed in Cambridge, MA and headquartered in Brooklyn, NY, the team is composed of 12 full-time members and they were here for the first time for a heart-to-heart round table talk at the Salcedo Room of Seda Makati. “I don’t want to build a product that does not change things…,” says Kersch, “At TANGapp, we believe that digital mobile payment services can improve for Filipinos, improving the lives of Filipinos. Whether they are one of the 4.5 million Filipinos working in the US or the tens of millions of unbanked in the Philippines, every Filipino deserves access to the ever-growing international digital economy.”

Inspired by the Filipino word “tanggap,” TANGapp is a free peer-to-peer mobile payment app that makes sending money from the US to the Philippines as smooth, fast and hassle-free as sending a text message regardless of your location, income level, or currency. Partnering with the Filipino community, the company’s social mission is to improve the lives of migrant workers and OFWs, starting with the US and the Philippines.

TANGapp tech founder Rebecca Kersch
TANGapp tech founder Rebecca Kersch | Photo courtesy of TANGapp

At your fingertips

The story of TANGapp began with Rebecca seeing her Tita Baby Castro, who is a Filipino migrant worker, send money home at such exorbitant fees, spending as much as an entire month’s wages just on high fees when sending remittances. She started to research and speak to more Filipino migrant workers and also learned that their relatives in the Philippines have not improved in household economics because they are unbanked and have never earned interest on savings, often have no insurance, and still pay for rent instead of having their own properties, among many others.

Kersch wanted to change that.

There are at least 10 million overseas Filipinos sending home over $35 billion every year. The receivers of these remittances are in the Philippines, where more than 50% of all adults are unbanked, and all mainly rely on cash pick-ups which is costly and inconvenient.

TANGapp removes all of these with its easy-to-set-up app that can be connected to one’s US bank for senders and PH bank or e-wallet for receivers, while offering the LIVE most-favorable exchange rate. Senders can remit as little as $5 and money transfers will cost them only 3% regardless of the amount. “Think international Gcash for the 1.5 billion unbanked globally,” Kersch says, “And as the amounts roll in, people also start to do financial planning.”


Education and heart

Born in the Netherlands, Rebecca Kersch took her Bachelor of Science in International Business Administration at the VU University of Amsterdam. After obtaining her BSc, she worked for a non-profit organization in the HIV/AIDS field that was based in Amsterdam, as well as Cape Town South Africa. Kersch has always been interested in studying business, but has always had her heart set on fulfilling a bigger social mission.

After a year working a non-profit, she took a double masters degree: Master of Science in International Management- CEMS, at the Rotterdam School of Management, at Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and graduated cum laude. She also worked at the United Nations during her last year in the Department of Field Support, under the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, in New York.

However, after all these schools and organizations, Kersch realized that those organizations were not entirely what she has expected. She then joined strategy consulting at the firm Strategy& in Amsterdam and did projects in different countries in different sectors, acquiring more professional skills. Yet, she still misses that clear social mission that she is looking for in most projects that she did.

Rebecca Kersch at the Harvard Kennedy School graduation
Rebecca Kersch at the Harvard Kennedy School graduation

Finally, it was when she attended Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) at Harvard University  where she found her calling to create TANGapp. She applied for multiple startup grants, accelerator programs, and incubators but was rejected from most. She then applied and got accepted at the prestigious Adrian Cheng Fellowship for social entrepreneurs at the Harvard Kennedy School where she was given $30,000 (P1.5 million) grant that helped her kickstart TANGapp.

“At Harvard, they were really supportive of my entrepreneurial journey,” she says, “The reason I also jumped into Harvard is because it’s where I met a lot of my team members. I’m not really focused on (the fact that they’re Filipinos but more of because) this team is a team that understands the whole scope of our mission at TANGapp. They are either first or second generation immigrants, and they can all each work in any top company anywhere around the world.”


Superior team

“I started TANGapp towards the end of Harvard. I graduated during the pandemic in June 2020,” she says, “I’m super excited because as a young company we have already achieved quite a lot.” In 2022, the company saw an average month-on-month growth rate of 35%, with over 40% of its users being repeat users. 

“We don’t have any physical offices. Our team works virtual and remote. We started over the pandemic and every team member was hired remotely in different countries and everyone is flying in now for our first full team meet-up and we were thinking of just doing that every year because we are already able to build a lot and get very far with being remote,” she says.

TANGapp's fully remote team
TANGapp's fully remote team
TANGapp's fully remote team

TANGapp raised $1.5 million in pre-seed funding from 17 angel investors in 2021 and is currently raising its $2.5 million seed round from Venture Capital Firms as well as angel investors. TANGapp’s pre-seed round’s largest investor is Katrina Razon. Other angel investors include the founder’s Harvard Business School entrepreneurship professors, as well as other renowned HBS alumni, including Erik & Susan Jarnryd. This seed round’s committed investors include Goodwater Capital VC, TEN13 VC, Visible Hands VC, Bolster Ventures, and renowned angels such as one of the first engineers at Facebook, the co-founder of a unicorn fintech, and accomplished Filipino business executives.

Team members from the US, Europe and India will join the Philippine-based team as they meet with current and prospective business partners and hold community events.

TANGapp is focused on meeting more Filipino affiliates, uplifting more Philippine-based organizations, such as non-profits and charities, and entering new markets in the future. The company isn’t just about the business or the money, but about building empowered communities that will change the world.

The TANGapp members gathered for their first full team meet-up recently in Manila.
The TANGapp members gathered for their first full team meet-up recently in Manila.

Photos courtesy of TANGapp