Webinar Series: The Catalyst Fund Toolkits

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Launching a startup is not easy, especially when you don’t always have the right resources and tools to help you succeed. The Catalyst Fund Toolkit offers you tools across three main areas: customer trust creation, risk management and product/market fit. These tools are tailored to the needs of startups that serve low-income customers in emerging markets, through our experience working with early-stage fintech companies around the world.

As the manager of Catalyst Fund, BFA, is pleased to host this special webinar series covering each of these toolkits in the coming weeks:

Webinar: Design for Trust

Trust is an essential factor in financial transactions, but what is trust made up of? Fintech companies providing digital financial services often find it difficult to build trust with their customers because of a lack of physical contact. However, managing the principles of competency, appearance, control, transparency, & commitment can be great drivers for building trust with customers.


February 14, 2018

10-11 AM EST

Webinar: De-Risk your Fintech Startup

Running an innovative startup is not without its set of risks and challenges. But understanding these risks, monitoring and managing them with mitigation strategies can help lower a company's risk profile. The second webinar of the series provides a framework for de-risking internal and external factors, while helping founders and CEOs see the overall picture of their firm's health and how to take action on their high priority risks.

The panelists for this webinar include Maelis Carraro from BFA and Jonathan Duarte, CEO of Escala Educacion. 

ESCALA is a Catalyst company and works as a higher-education savings program for lower and middle-income families in Colombia. Jonathan is passionate about growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Colombia and is an Industrial Engineer from Georgia Institute of Technology (USA) and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Maelis manages Catalyst Fund at BFA and has previously worked directly on microfinance product development for Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, on development and climate change policy issues for the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD), and impact investing for Global Partnerships, a not-for-profit impact investing fund dedicated to alleviating poverty in Latin America.



March 15, 2018

10-11 AM EST

Webinar: Get to Product/Market Fit

One of the biggest questions early-stage companies have to answer is whether their product is right for their targeted market. Product-Market Fit can be thought of as the measure of how well your product satisfies the market. The Product/ Market toolkit covers the startup journey from the moment a startup identifies a pain-point, a passion or a hunch, and go all the way up to the final stage of optimization and scale up. Scaling up would not be possible for startups without a perfect combination of visibility, desirability, and feasibility of the product, in the market they are serving.


TBD. You can pre-register below and we will contact you when date is finalized.

Catalyst Fund Toolkits for Early-Stage Ventures

View webinar presentation below

View webinar presentation below

Customer-centric design, agile product management, and innovative technologies are helping fintech ventures create better and more targeted value propositions for their customers, especially in emerging markets. How can early-stage ventures harness this powerful combination to win over their customers and ensure their businesses thrive? Working closely with inclusive fintech startups at Catalyst Fund, a philanthropic fund aiming to accelerate fintech innovation in emerging economies, supported by Gates Foundation and JP Morgan Chase & Co., they have distilled practical insights on how to support companies as they grow. They have built tools that enable startups to build trust with their customers, assess risks and develop mitigation plans, achieve product-market fit and apply machine learning strategies. Maelis Carraro, program manager of Catalyst Fund, will give ANDE members an overview of these tools and show how other enterprises could utilize these frameworks for their own business needs and aspirations. Learn more about our toolkits.

Webinar recording during ANDE Sector update at min 31:31


Maelis Carraro | Senior Associate | BFA

Maelis is a Senior Associate at BFA. She is the Program Manager of Catalyst Fund, an innovative fund supporting early-stage inclusive fintech startups in emerging markets with grant seed capital, mentorship, and tailored business advisory services. Maelis joined BFA from the International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group), where she advised financial institutions in emerging markets on business strategy, digital product development, and customer acquisition strategies to serve underserved and low-income customers. Maelis previously also worked on impact investing to support small and medium enterprises in Africa and Latin America for Global Partnerships and on microfinance product research for Grameen Bank and the OECD. Maelis also co-founded RemitMas – a digital remittances service for Latino immigrants in the US, which sparked her passion for entrepreneurship and fintech. Maelis holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and a Master in International Affairs from Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. She received her BA Cum Laude from University College London, where she majored in Political Science and Economics. 

Jane del Ser | Senior Associate | BFA

Jane is a Senior Associate with the Insights & Influence team at BFA. Her areas of expertise include product management and marketing and strategic marketing communications. She brings over ten years experience working with startups, social enterprises and nonprofits leading Strategy, MarCom and Product in hi-tech, mobileand social innovation. Jane most recently served as Managing Director at Center4, an initiative in NYC to increase uptake of technology by health and human service nonprofits to transform how services are deliveredand improve outcomes for people served.

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.