Grafica’s founder Yoann Berno will serve as the CEO of Catalyst (no relation to Catalyst Fund).

Catalyst acquires Grafica to solve impact ventures major IT challenges.

Zurich, 15 June 2016

About Catalyst

Catalyst was created to solve the IT challenges of impact ventures - Impact ventures, which provide households in emerging markets with access to financial services, modern energy, clean water, health services, education and other essential products and services.

The founders of Catalyst recognized that seamlessly operating digital technology is critical to the commercial success of most impact ventures. Catalyst integrates software applications into an application network and establishes consolidated data warehouses. Catalyst customers can integrate new applications faster and have control over all their data.

Catalyst is a solution provider. It advises on digital strategy, implements solutions and maintains digital systems. Catalyst does not build product, but rather help clients select the best-suited 3rd party applications to meet their business needs.

Catalyst has been incubated by Persistent Energy Capital (PEC) and the Shell Foundation (SF).

Catalyst acquires Grafica

Grafica is a Nairobi based start-up developing a comprehensive software as a service (SaaS) product for distributed solar companies in sub-Saharan Africa. Grafica’s founder Yoann Berno will serve as the CEO of Catalyst.

“After a career in Silicon Valley, Yoann has spent 2 years understanding the IT challenges of distributed solar companies in sub-Saharan Africa with Grafica. His leadership skills, insight and expertise are as critical for Catalyst as is his passion for lasting socio-economic impact. We are excited to have Yoann lead Catalyst!”, Dirk Muench partner with PEC and co-founder of Catalyst.

“I am excited about Catalyst as it will continue Grafica’s core mission to leverage technology to accelerate environmental and social impact in Africa. Today there is no company like Catalyst that impact ventures could turn to. There are many product companies but no company that focuses on solving IT challenges with a best-in-class service approach. Catalyst is assembling a team of experts to fill this gap. I see a huge opportunity for impact and return.” Yoann Berno, Founder of Grafica, CEO of Catalyst.


Yoann Berno – Dirk Muench – | Konradstrasse 61 | 8005 Zuerich |

How can fintech startups engender trust and best leverage AI and ML for the next generation of financial products?

Catalyst Fund’s new cohort of inclusive fintech startups spans the globe and pushes the boundaries of innovation in sectors as diverse as mobile money, agriculture and insurtech. As Catalyst Fund investees, these impact makers receive grant funding and tailored and hands-on technical advice. In turn, the startups also help us learn about three main questions:

  1. How can digital financial services be more customized, convenient and accessible than traditional offerings?
  2. How can formidable barriers to inclusion be overcome?
  3. How can investors, donors, and advisors best catalyze successful and innovative models?


Catalyst Fund, a sponsor of The Good Capital Project 2017

The Good Capital Project (GCP), the next step in bringing impact investment into the mainstream. Through a design thinking process, the GCP will convene and leverage expertise from the financial, design, academic, non-profit, governmental and impact communities to drive greater collaboration, partnerships and accelerate capital flows into purpose-driven investments. The project will focus on generating innovative and sustainable solutions to align the capital markets with the human needs of tomorrow. 

Catalyst Fund 

When: June 19th, 2017

Where: Convene, Midtown East, 730 Third Avenue, NYC 

CEO Forum and the Fintech for Inclusion Global Summit 2017

Catalyst Fund is supporting the upcoming CEO Forum & Fintech for Inclusion Global Summit 2017, organized by Accion Venture Lab and Quona Capital and hosted by FMO, taking place in the Hague, Netherlands, from June 21st to 23rd, 2017. Catalyst Fund investees, Escala Educación, PayGo Energy, Atikus, Grafica, Comunidad4Uno, Harvesting and Paylatr will be in attendance.

Event: The CEO Forum 

When: 21-22 June 2017

Where: FMO headquarters (Anna van Saksenlaan 71, 2593 HW Den Haag, Netherlands)

A closed-door gathering of CEOs or other C-level representatives of portfolio companies of Venture Lab, Quona Capital, FMO, and Catalyst Fund that are advancing financial inclusion through their products and services. The CEO Forum will provide participants with opportunities to engage in practical discussions, openly speak about successes and failures, and share learnings in areas such as sales, partnerships, recruiting, fundraising, and scaling. In addition, the Forum will offer valuable knowledge-sharing, development opportunities, and industry insights – all of which are sought by resource-strapped startup management. 

Event: The Fintech for Inclusion Global Summit

When: 23 June 2017

Where: FMO headquarters (Anna van Saksenlaan 71, 2593 HW Den Haag, Netherlands)

The Summit, to which investors, thought leaders, experts, key market participants and other fintech CEOs will be invited, will consist of dynamic exchange of insights and network building between these leading actors in the fintech for inclusion space. Participants represent companies and institutions whose products and services or investment focus cover a variety of themes and business models such as small business and consumer digital lending, alternative credit scoring, payments, and other enabling technologies. With the attendance of over 150 selected fintech startups, investors, financial services and other industry leaders, the Summit will enable a robust exchange of ideas and to yield concrete opportunities for collaboration and partnerships across borders and sectors.

Our investee, Harvesting, will be at AI for Good Global Summit

Plenary 6: AI for Common Good and Sustainable Living

Join Catalyst Fund at the AI for Good Global Summit for a plenary on AI for Common Good and Sustainable Living. This session will explore how AI can accelerate and advance the development and democratization of solutions to promote common good and enable sustainable living. Our Data and APIs Manager, Matt Grasser will be speaking at the AI for Prosperity panel.

Panel: AI for Prosperity,

When: Day 2, 8 June 2017

Venue:  ITU Headquarters, Rue de Varembé, 2, Geneva, Switzerland

XPRIZE believes Artificial Intelligence will be central to solving humanity's grand challenges. Solutions to pressing problems related to health and wellbeing, education, energy, environment, and other domains important to XPRIZE can be found by capitalizing on the unprecedented quantities of data and recent progress in emerging AI technologies.

To support our mission to build a bridge to abundance for all, XPRIZE is, together with the United Nations (UN) specialized agency, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), hosting the inaugural AI for Good Global Summit, in Geneva Jun 7-9, 2017. This annual summit will gather government officials, UN agencies, NGO’s, industry leaders, and AI experts to address how artificial intelligence can help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and design a first UN-backed “AI Guiding Principles” to provide guidelines on ethical, technical, standardization, societal and policy issues related to AI.



In Digital Financial Services We Trust

Photo Credit: Flickr, Prab Bhatia Photography

Photo Credit: Flickr, Prab Bhatia Photography

As a customer these days, trust is probably on your mind. Whether you’re choosing on what airline to fly on next or sealing a deal on a handshake, trust is fundamental to our personal and business interactions. If your customer base is with a low-income person or in an emerging market, trust is essential to create from the get-go, especially you’re talking about managing one’s money. In digital financial services, trust is a huge competitive advantage.

What we saw from our work at Catalyst Fund, providing tailored engagements to accelerate early-stage fintech startups in Mexico, ColombiaGhanaKenya and India, is that trust can be created and from the first interaction with the customer. We have been working with 10 startups in our inclusive fintech portfolio, in areas such as higher education, household workers, smallholder farmers, pay-as-you-go clean energy and microfinancing. From this perspective, we put together what we have learned and tested in the field into the Design for Trust Toolkit. Our hope is that this practical resource gives early-stage startups a way to tailor their customer and product strategies to maximize trust creation.

Who is the Design for Trust Toolkit for?

The Design for Trust Toolkit brings together the best startup-based practices from Silicon Valley and BFA own fintech and customer research expertise with low-income customers. Supported with some industry examples, this toolkit is customized for trust creation with the underserved population. If you are fintech CEO or are part of the management team, then this toolkit is a smart way to boost your team’s capacity in building trust creating features along the customer journey.

In digital financial services, trust is a huge competitive advantage.

A Peek into Design for Trust

Building trust in markets where your customers are on the lower end of the income curve and where institutions are weak, is hard to do. It can also be eroded quickly. In the case of inclusive digital financial services, we believe there are five top drivers for startups to get right and that increase the perception of trust by the customer. These elements are competencyappearancecontroltransparency and commitment & benevolence. By mapping out these drivers along your customer’s journey, you can intentionally minimize perceived risk and maximize sense of trust.

The Design for Trust Framework

For example, when trying to acquire customers in low-income markets, are you competent at designing products based on customer research — their needs, preferences and behaviors? Are you thinking problem-first or solution-first? M-Shwari is a bank account with savings and loans features offered only through M-Pesa’s mobile money transfer service. Customers can open accounts in 30 seconds and apply for short-term loans in a matter of seconds. Take a cue from M-Shwari that demonstrates high competency by making it the registration process very seamless and quick to open an account through M-Pesa.

Think about trust creation as a framework and apply it to your organization or specific customer interactions to improve

Or consider the impact of appearance to activate clients from signups to usage. Founded by non-profit lending platform Kiva.orgBranch is the branchless bank for the next generation. The mobile app employs the user data stored in phones to learn about and predict good borrowers. Without the need for a credit history required by banks, Branch can offer credit lines of $2.50 to $500 in 10 seconds. Branch is especially popular with farmers, drivers and merchants in Kenya, and intends to expand in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Like Branch, remember that your customer still might be pretty new to digital financial services on their mobile phone. This is where a simple user interface with clear shapes, colors and text sizes are important for getting your customer to take action.

To retain customers, what level of control do you provide to the customer? Consistently offering users the ability to perform and agree to upgrades and new services and contact details and knowledge base on service use are great ways to give a sense of control. Branch manages a nice balance of the online and offline experiences through chat interfaces and immediate responses from humans to extend control to their clients.

These are a few examples we cover in the Design for Trust Toolkit. It is designed so you can think about trust creation as a framework and apply it to your organization or specific customer interactions to improve. Either way, the pointers and best practices are meant to be actionable and easy to map out as a process, perhaps to visit again after you’ve mastered a stage in the customer journey.

So, visit the Design for Trust Toolkit and leave a comment for us or provide examples of other firms you think do a great job at trust creation. If you do work through the entire toolkit, be sure to provide your feedback here.

Stay connected by signing up for the Catalyst Fund mailing list and joining theInclusive Fintech Group on LinkedIn.

An Interview with Tahira Dosani and Vikas Raj of Accion Venture Lab

We recently had the opportunity to connect with Vikas Raj and Tahira Dosani, Managing Directors of Accion Venture Lab and members of the Catalyst Fund Investors Advisory Committee (IAC). As founding members of the committee, we were eager to hear from Vikas and Tahira about their experience with and perspective on Catalyst Fund as we looked back on the first year of the initiative.

Read their interview on our medium blog.

Why Low-Income Families Don’t Send Their Children to College. Hint: It’s Not Always About Money


There are significant behavioral reasons that discourage parents from saving toward their children’s higher education in Colombia.

Read our post on the three priorities financial services providers should consider when developing college savings products for low-income customers.

The Intelligent Bank of the Future

Here’s a thought experiment: what if you had to design from scratch a new bank targeting low-income clients? This would be a bank that could focus on clients with smartphones to grow quickly and efficiently. It could also have a forward-looking CTO with a future-proof mindset.

Read more here

Kenya’s PayGo Energy raises $1.43m funding round

PayGo Energy allows households to cook on clean burning Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and uses pay-as-you-go technology to allow customers to purchase the system over time via mobile money.

The funding round involves investors such as Novastar Ventures, Energy Access Ventures, Village Capital, Global Innovation Fund, and Global Partnerships/Eleos Social Venture Fund.

The investment will finance the expansion of PayGo Energy’s customer base in Nairobi, the development of its software platform and next generation smart meter, and the growth of its team.

Read more here: 

Recap of Catalyst Fund at FLII 2017

What have we learned about catalyzing inclusive fintech startups so far?

By Jonathan Uriarte

Thoughts from the Catalyst Fund Panel at FLII 2017

On Feb 15th, the Catalyst Fund hosted a panel about supporting early-stage inclusive fintech companies at FLII 2017 (The Latin American Impact Investing Forum). Held in Mérida, Mexico and in its seventh year, FLII brings together investors, entrepreneurs, nonprofits and other ecosystem players working hard to bring real impact in Latin America.

The panel, Catalyst Fund: Our Approach and the Lessons Learned from Supporting Inclusive Fintech Startups, covered how the Catalyst Fund model compares to other accelerators or incubators and more specifically, how Catalyst Fund tailors its advisory engagements using a range of startup tools all the while rolling up their sleeves working alongside the startup teams. Speaking were some Catalyst Fund investees: Jorge Camus from, Miguel Duhalt from Comunidad4Uno, myself, Jonathan Duarte Escala Educación, Catalyst Fund partner Mathieu Albrieux AccionVenture Lab and moderator Gabriela Zapata from BFA.

Read full post on our blog.

Catalyst Fund Event Info at FLII 2017

Join Catalyst Fund at FLII 2017 (Foro Latinoamericano de Inversión de Impacto) for a panel on the challenges and lessons learned working with inclusive fintech startups. Featuring our investees from different stages in the investment life cycle and sectors ranging from education, and financial services for the low income customer, 

Panel: Catalyst Fund: Our approach and lessons learned from supporting inclusive fintech startups

Moderator: Gabriela Zapata, senior associate at BFA


Event info:

Feb 15th, 2017 3:30pm-4:30 local time
Hyatt Regency
Mérida, México

Full FLII program agenda here:

Three approaches to accelerating innovative fintech ventures that serve the poor

Early stage inclusive fintech startups, in developed and emerging markets alike, have a hard time securing the capital and expertise needed to test their ideas and bring products to market. They’re too early for most investors, but their ideas have great potential to scale. What solutions exist to support them? Three innovative accelerators are helping fintech startups pioneer transformative businesses that empower the poor.

Join us to hear from Catalyst Fund, the Digital Financial Services Innovation Lab (DFS Lab) and the Financial Solutions Lab and how they are supporting fintech startups around the world to spur innovation in financial inclusion.  

Panel: Inclusive Fintech for Good - Impact Hub Seattle

Moderator: Victoria Griffith, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Catalyst Fund: David del Ser
DFS Lab: Jake Kendall
Financial Services Lab: Colleen Briggs
Destá, startup: Sebastian Ugarte

Impact Hub Seattle
220 Second Ave South, Seattle WA

February 16th, 2017
12-2PM PST
Lunch provided, with happy hour to follow

Catalyst Fund, supported by BMGF and JPMorgan Chase & Co, aims to accelerate innovative fintech startups delivering digital financial services to low income customers in emerging markets, through seed grant capital, hands-on advice and mentorship by a group of impact investors.

Digital Financial Services Innovation Lab (DFS Lab) is an incubator for high-potential entrepreneurs working to introduce innovative FinTech solutions to the developing world. Via tailored guidance and hands-on support from leading experts, the organization helps refine, grow and launch businesses that can transform the lives of the poorest, profitably and at scale. 

The Financial Solutions Lab, managed by CFSI and supported by JPMorgan Chase, is a US-based community of startups, financial services companies and nonprofit organizations building solutions to improve the financial lives of Americans.

PayGo Energy: Cooking on Your Terms

Following a $230,000 debt investment from the Global Innovation Fund, PayGo Energy is expanding its customer base in Nairobi to test and improve its technology, service delivery and distribution networks. PayGo’s smart metering systems enable customers to pre-pay for clean cooking gas, by monitoring customer gas consumption and predicting when gas is going to run out. This allows PayGo to provide an uninterrupted supply of affordable, clean gas to its customers.

Reposted from Global Innovation Fund.

Catalyst Fund Investee Destacame Closes Seed Funding Round to Expand Access to Credit in Latin America

The seed round, led by Accion Venture Lab, will support expansion of alternative credit scoring services for the underserved

SANTIAGO, Chile, Jan. 18, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Chilean-based alternative credit scoring startup Destacame announced today that it has closed its seed round of financing. Funds will support the expansion of Destacame's services within Chile and into Mexico in 2017.

Destacame is an alternative credit scoring platform that uses alternative data – such as utilities payment transactions – to assess an individual's creditworthiness. Destacame's proprietary algorithm synthesizes this customer data to generate an alternative credit score that can be provided to financial institutions to extend credit and other financial products to thin-file and credit-invisible customers.

"We are thrilled to expand our work with a network of partners who are equally committed to building a more financially inclusive world," said Jorge Camus, Destacame´s Co-Founder. "This financial support, Accion Venture Lab's global experience in scaling businesses and working with companies in the alternative data space, and Mountain Nazca's expertise all over the region, can help scale Destacame's effort in Chile and throughout Latin America."

"In too many instances, thin-file borrowers are neglected by formal financial institutions because serving these customers can be expensive, time-consuming, and subjective," said Michael Schlein, CEO and President of Accion. "Destacame addresses this problem by reducing the time, cost, and uncertainty of working with the underserved. With its strong leadership team, innovative technology, and commitment to the underserved, Destacame can ultimately help more people benefit from the world's financial system."

Creditworthy applicants are often denied loans or credit cards because they lack the detailed credit histories on which banks rely to lend. Further, in Chile and throughout Latin America, for those who do have a credit history, credit scoring is primarily negative; it often over-accounts for negative behaviors, and does not factor in positive ones – such as a history of paying bills on time – that are not reported to credit bureaus. Destacame's algorithm factors in both positive and negative behaviors, helps thin- and no-file customers prove their ability to repay loans, and reduces the barriers that often prevent financial institutions from working with underserved individuals.

The round was led by Accion Venture Lab, the seed-stage investment vehicle of financial inclusion leader Accion, which provides seed capital and management support to innovative startups that expand financial access to the poor and underserved. Venture Lab has already provided strategic advisory services to Destacame as a mentor through the Catalyst Fund. Mountain Nazca and several Chilean angel investors also contributed to the round.

About Destacame

Destacame allows middle and lower socioeconomic segments to prove their credit worthiness by using positive data gathered from credit-like services such as utilities and telecoms companies. Destacame was launched in Chile on August 2015, currently has +170,000 users and has processed +10,000 credit applications. It was founded by Sebastian Ugarte, Augusto Ruiz-Tagle and Jorge Camus while they were finishing their MBA at MIT. It currently has 15 employees and offices in Chile and Mexico. More information, please visit

About Accion

Accion is a global nonprofit dedicated to building a financially inclusive world with economic opportunity for all, by giving people the financial tools they need to improve their lives. We are building the next generation of top-tier microfinance institutions, and over more than 50 years have helped build 65 such institutions in 32 countries on four continents that today reach millions of clients. Our impact investing initiatives are pushing beyond microfinance to catalyze more than 30 innovative start-ups dedicated to improving the efficiency, reach, and scope of financial services for the poor. And our Center for Financial Inclusion is helping to build a stronger industry with high standards and broad engagement. Currently, our work spans nearly two dozen countries, including the U.S., where we are the nation's largest nonprofit microfinance network. For further information, visit