SOCAP Conversations: The State of the Inclusive Fintech Field

The Inclusive Fintech Track at SOCAP17

David and Colleen.png

We are excited to announce that Catalyst Fund and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are supporting a content track on Inclusive Fintech at SOCAP17. David del Ser, Director of Inclusive Fintech for Catalyst Fund, and Colleen Briggs, Executive Director of Community Innovation at JPMorgan Chase & Co. sat down with the SOCAP organizers to discuss the state of the inclusive fintech field and the sessions they are developing for SOCAP17. Read the interview

Originally published on the SOCAP blog on September 12, 2017.

Register for SOCAP17 to attend the Inclusive Fintech Sessions and learn more.

Catalyst Fund and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are sponsoring the Inclusive Fintech Track at SOCAP17

The AI-Driven Bank in Emerging Markets


Article written by David del Ser and Alexandre Lazarow

If you think artificial intelligence is a thing of the future, ask yourself why your Amazon homepage looks different from ours or how Google translates websites on the fly. Consumers in developed and developing countries are benefiting today from these smarter types of software. In particular, the subfield of Machine Learning is making rapid strides in everything from detecting rare types of cancer to correcting our grammar. In essence, software development is transitioning from a process where humans figure out a few rules for the machines, to one where the machines learn the many implicit rules from the existing data. Continue reading.

An Interview with Alexandre Lazarow of Omidyar Network


Catalyst Fund recently had the opportunity to speak with Alexandre Lazarow, CFA, Principal, Investments at Omidyar Network and member of the Catalyst Fund Investors Advisory Committee (IAC) about the Catalyst Fund model, fintech startups, innovations and InsureTech. Read his interview on our medium blog

What is the Investment Climate for Fintech in Emerging Markets?

A positive outlook according to our investor network


We recently had the opportunity to survey the Catalyst Fund Circle of Investors, which connects our startups to a wider group of investors and also acts as a channel for sharing our insights about the investment climate for fintech in emerging markets. The Circle of Investors are optimistic about funding for inclusive fintech. Results of the survey provide insights into what investors think about inclusive fintech, investments and emerging markets. Read more

Originally published on the SOCAP blog on August 22, 2017.

Register for SOCAP17 to attend the Inclusive Fintech Sessions and learn more.

Catalyst Fund and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are sponsoring the Inclusive Fintech Track at SOCAP17


Building Trust in Digital Financial Services: The Promise and Challenges of Inclusive Fintech in India

Photo by The White Ribbon Alliance Flicker Creative Commons

Photo by The White Ribbon Alliance Flicker Creative Commons

India is at the forefront of building an ecosystem that encourages innovation in digital financial services for low-income customers. New technologies have created new opportunities to expand access to financial services and empower consumers. But many digital solutions are slow to scale as consumers often distrust what is unfamiliar. Building trust with low-income consumers underpins the success of any digital financial product. So, from product design to product delivery, how can financial service providers build and maintain customer trust in digital solutions?

Tailored to Indian fintech startups, financial institutions, investors and development practitioners, join Catalyst Fund for an afternoon for a panel discussion and workshop on how to design for trust in digital financial services along the customer journey.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017


The Grand Ball Room, Leela Palace Hotel


  • 1.30 pm: Registration
  • 2:00 pm to 2:10 pm: Welcome by Maneesha Chadha, Head of Global Philanthropy, J.P. Morgan
  • 2:10 pm to 3:00 pm: Panel - The Promise and Challenges of Inclusive Fintech in India: Why Trust Matters
  • 3:00 pm to 3:15 pm: Coffee Break
  • 3:15 pm to 6:15 pm: Workshop - Designing for Trust in DFS
  • 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm: BFA Networking Reception

Panel: The Promise and Challenges of Inclusive Fintech in India: Why Trust Matters


Maelis Carraro, Associate at BFA, and Program Manager, Catalyst Fund 


  • Maneesha Chadha, Head of Global Philanthropy, J.P. Morgan 
  • Rohit Bhatia, CEO, Paylatr
  • David del Ser, Director of Fintech Practice at BFA and Catalyst Fund
  • Smita Aggarwal, Director of Investments, Omidyar Network

Workshop: How to design for trust in DFS?

The workshop explores the key elements of trust in digital financial services and how companies can integrate it at every step of the customer journey. Participants will walk away with practical tips on how to create customer trust from product design to product delivery. 

Practical workshop Facilitated by:

Maelis Carraro, Catalyst Fund Program Manager

Workshop Materials

Read the Catalyst Fund Design for Trust Toolkit

Networking Reception

Brief Remarks from:

  • David del Ser, Director of Fintech Practice at BFA and Catalyst Fund
  • Rajesh Bansal, Senior Advisor at BFA

Speaker Profiles

This event is organized by Catalyst Fund, J.P. Morgan and BFA and is by invitation only. Contact us to request invitation here.

A Spotlight on Inclusive Fintech @SOCAP 2017


Catalyst Fund in partnership with JPMorgan Chase & Co, is hosting the first spotlight on inclusive fintech at SOCAP. 

  • When: October 10-13, 2017
  • Where: Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA

SOCAP is the world’s leading conference on social capital markets—a gathering where powerful ideas are sparked and game changing partnerships get started. The conference brings together social entrepreneurs, impact investors, funders, business leaders and other innovators and problem solvers from across the world. Now in its 10th year, SOCAP is a catalyst for much needed change, creating a vibrant market for ventures that support people, planet, and profits.

Here are some of the upcoming panels organized by Catalyst Fund:

(Session dates and times confirmed as of 9/15/2017)

Risky business: How can we lower risks to scale innovative fintech companies?

One of the key challenges for impact investors is figuring out the level of risk involved in early-stage companies. But what if that risk could be somewhat removed to pave the way for more money to flow in innovative solutions? In this session investors and startups of Catalyst Fund will discuss ways to de-risk investments in fintech startups in emerging markets by working with a group of like-minded investors, funders, entrepreneurs and fintech specialists.

Date & Time:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017
10:45am - 11:45am PST


Berit Ashla, VP, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors


  • David del Ser, Program Director, Catalyst Fund and Inclusive Fintech Director at BFA
  • Tahira Dosani, Managing Director, Accion Venture Lab 
  • Frank Schutte, CEO, Mobilife
  • Adam Sorensen, Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 

Scaling FinTech for Inclusion around the world

FinTech innovators have the potential to increase access to, improve the quality of,  and reduce the cost of financial services for the underserved at scale. But to scale successfully, they need access to different kinds of capital in their growth trajectory. This session explores the capital and resources needs of inclusive fintechs. Startups at different stages of venture development, funders, and investors speak to the challenges of identifying the right capital at the right time.

Date & Time:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017
2:30 pm - 3:30 pm PST


Vikas Raj, MD, Accion Venture Lab


  1. Christopher Sheehan, CEO, WorldCover
  2. Allison Lu, VP of Credit, Tala 
  3. Alex Lazarow, Partner, Omidyar Network 
  4. Jacob Haar, Managing Partner, Community Investment Management

Hype or Reality? AI for Financial Inclusion

Artificial Intelligence is today’s buzzword. AI has the potential to reduce costs, boost client engagement and improve business decision-making. When targeting low-come customers, AI can mean better-margins, higher employment rates and manageable fees on financial services. But how is AI currently benefiting fintech companies and what challenges are they encountering? This session covers how fintechs, financial institutions and Silicon Valley investors view AI’s potential in global financial services and the implications for low-income customers.

Date & Time:

Thursday, October 12, 2017
11:00 am - 12:00 pm PST


David del Ser, Program Director of Catalyst Fund and Inclusive Fintech Director at BFA 


  1. Felipe Cunha, CEO, ToGarantido 
  2. Sheel Mohnot, Partner, 500 Startups
  3. Qiuyan Xu, Chief Data Scientist, Cignifi

Designing Inclusive Financial Products that Build Trust

Trust is the backbone of business success and it is ever more important when offering digital financial services to low income customers. From product design to product delivery, how can startups build and maintain trust with their customers? This panel discusses the key elements of trust building in inclusive product design, the challenges faced by early stage companies and a roadmap to build trust along the customer journey.

Date & Time:

Thursday, October 12, 2017
2:45 pm - 3:45 pm PST


Maelis Carraro, Program manager of Catalyst Fund and Associate at BFA


  1. Rohit Bhatia, CEO, PayLatr
  2. Kristen Berman, Common Cents Lab
  3. Michael Mori, Dalberg Design Impact Group (DIG)

Powering Solutions for a Financially Healthy America

Since 2015 the Financial Solutions Lab has supported 27 companies who are building products that improve the financial health of American consumers. Companies from the Lab's first two graduating classes raised over $135MM in follow on capital and are now serving nearly 1.5MM Americans. This session will explore some of the learnings and insights from this program which will have relevance for grant-makers, investors and entrepreneurs Featuring founders from the Lab, the session will highlight how technology is improving the financial health of American consumers through innovative distribution and servicing models that open up new markets and could have broad long-term implications on the U.S. financial services industry.

Date & Time:

Thursday, October 12, 2017
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm PST


Ryan Falvey, Managing Director, the Financial Solutions Lab at the Center for Financial Services Innovation 


  1. Colleen Briggs, Executive Director of Community Innovation, Office of Corporate Responsibility at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  2. Morgan Conbere, Co-Founder and CEO of Token Transit 
  3. Nico Barawid, International Partnerships, Nova Credit
  4. Jerry Nemorin, CEO and Founder of Lendstreet

Below are other Catalyst Fund events taking place during SOCAP

The Catalyst Fund and JPMC Reception and Demo Day at SOCAP

  • When: Wednesday, October 11 at 7pm to 9:30pm PST
  • Location: Sartle Library + Embark Gallery
  • Program: Demo Day of Catalyst Fund companies and networking
  • Request invitation by contacting Kelly Nguyen:

Visit the Catalyst Fund + JPMC Exhibitor Cubicle/Lounge at SOCAP (tentative)

  • Location and information TBA

Racing into Machine Learning: Data Readiness and the Developing World


While machine learning has become more widespread and has been applied across different industries, few organizations have the adequate expertise to utilize the technology properly. Before jumping into a #machine learning investment, stop and consider your data and how a strong data foundation should be used to inform the insights from machine learning. Read about #datareadiness to start off on the right foot. 

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