Blog Post

Six Steps to an Intelligent AI Strategy: The AI Readiness Toolkit

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Are you a startup seeking to prepare yourself for artificial intelligence (AI), but don’t yet have a concrete strategy in place? Perhaps you are a well-established data-centric organization that wants to assess return on investment and areas of strength and weakness. Or you are an investor looking for a way to quantitatively assess your portfolio. Catalyst Fund’s new AI Readiness Toolkit can help you.

BFA is determined to de-hype AI and bring it into practical terms so that more startups can benefit from its power. To this end, we have developed the AI Readiness Toolkit to guide startups to approaching AI in a systematic way. This toolkit builds on BFA’s “AI: Practical Superpowers” Report, which gives startups a high-level readiness framework to orient on the step to take towards “Practical AI”.

Continue reading here.


Meet the Five Startups Shaping the Future of Inclusive Fintech in Emerging Markets

Through Innovations in e-Commerce, Blockchain, Mobile Money Integrations, and Agrifintech

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At Catalyst Fund, we have been working with a wide range of startup companies to bring much-needed essential financial products and services to improve the lives of people on low incomes. We are proud to announce the five latest “inclusive fintech” companies to join Catalyst Fund: BancoMare, Hover, Leaf, payAgri, and Sokowatch. These startups are tackling enormous challenges to bring more accessible, affordable, and appropriate financial services to the 1.7 billion underbanked customers in Africa, India, Brazil, and Southeast Asia.

There has been progress in financial inclusion over the past 5 years, with 515 million people gaining access to a bank or mobile money account, bringing the percent of adults globally with bank to 69 percent. However, too few people on low incomes actually use financial services, and we are yet to see the variety of products that can truly improve the financial health of these customers. We invested in these startups because their solutions can accelerate financial inclusion by: 1) overcoming infrastructure barriers currently limiting mobile money innovation; 2) facilitating partnerships among ecosystem players such as digitizing data for financial service provision; and 3) bringing tailored products to the most vulnerable people through advanced technology.

Read more about these companies here

Building Trust, Engagement, and Loyalty: Five Ways to Innovate Like a FinTech

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What can startups and companies do to build trust, loyalty, and engagement with customers? Catalyst Fund identified five strategies that enable companies and startups to innovate like a fintech.

Five ways to innovate like a fintech

  1. Keep the design simple and adapted to your customer base.

  2. Prove your abilities to users.

  3. Give users a sense of control in managing their actions.

  4. Be transparent about what you do and why.

  5. Commit to doing what is right for the customer.

Learn more about designing inclusive products here.

Risky business: how to de-risk your fintech startup before it’s too late

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Co-written by Elizabeth Davidson

Early identification of key risks can help fintech startups invest in the business support they need early on before a risk takes down the business. These risks can scare off investors, who want to ensure that entrepreneurs understand the key challenges they face. Instead of waiting for entrepreneurs to identify key risks, early stage investors can work with startups to tackle these risks before or in conjunction with their investment.

Catalyst Fund has taken just this approach. By working with our entrepreneurs to identify risks, we can tailor technical assistance to solve these risks so that investors are more confident in the future success of the business.

Our Risk Framework as a Focusing Device

Our Risk Framework as a Focusing Device

Taking an honest look at their own key risks can be difficult for entrepreneurs, who may be too deep in the weeds to step back and look at the bigger picture. This is why the Catalyst Fund developed a risk diagnostic to help startup leaders get a better grasp on their challenges, and understand those within or outside of their control. The tool offers a checklist of possible mitigation strategies for the entrepreneur. Read more here.

Timing isn’t quite right for SaaS startups in Africa

Source: Alrami.info

Source: Alrami.info

Let me tell you how I failed to build a scalable SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) startup in Africa.

Remember the hockey-stick growth chart? This is what an entrepreneur signs up for and what investors want to see.

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But let’s face it, hockey-sticks are not part of the reality in Africa… not yet. So why are software-as-a-service startups not taking off? Three reasons:

  1. 1. Businesses are competing for the investor dollar, not for superior tech

  2. 2. Economies of scale can only work at scale

  3. 3. Scaling across the continent is harder than it sounds

Read more here

How social entrepreneurs can strike partnerships with big companies

It can take a lot of effort to get a partnership off the ground. Image: REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder

It can take a lot of effort to get a partnership off the ground. Image: REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder

While the opportunity is clear, the bad news for growing social enterprises is that closing a technology partnership is time-consuming and risky.

Some social enterprises may be able to endure the long time horizons, but for many early-stage ventures, investing in a partnership with a larger, better-resourced player, with extensive due diligence and decision-making processes, may be a deal-breaker. These delays can be a death knell for early ventures that do not have the time or capital.

At the same time, not all partnerships are valuable. Startups need to carefully understand the potential of a collaboration by analyzing mutual benefits and determining which processes and priorities will dominate the relationship. Our partner, Accion Venture Lab, offers additional strategies for “Enterprise Sales for Fintech Products and Services.”

A quick guide for social enterprises to land successful partnerships, read more.