Announcement

Finance's helping hand: making refugees self sufficient

                        (Source: The Banker) 

                        (Source: The Banker) 

"The world's refugee camps are often home to displaced entrepreneurs who set up small enterprises, driving the business case for financial services. But getting providers to take notice is a tough call, exacerbated by problems of access and identity, James King reports."

Through its investments and global partnerships, the Omidyar Network is tackling one of the biggest obstacles around refugee IDs – that of interoperability. In essence, this is the difficulty facing a refugee or migrant when every service provider or agency they encounter requires a different form of identification. Developing a foundational and interoperable form of ID would enable refugees to access a far wider suite of services and opportunities. But to achieve this, regional and global co-operation from various stakeholders is needed.

“We want governance structures that allow the interoperability and portability of digital IDs across multiple markets,” says Ms Anderson. “There are a variety of stakeholders working to address somewhat different aspects of a similar problem but often in silos. Identity is an issue that needs to be solved at scale. For this to happen, actors must work in a more collaborative and consensus-building way,” she adds.

Reaching this endpoint will take time and will demand an effective intersection between technology and regulation. In the meantime, other private sector actors are looking at the steps that can be taken on the ground. Increasingly, issues of refugee financing are attracting the attention of fintechs and start-ups who have been sold on the business case. Leaf Global Fintech, a Nashville-based business, is a case in point.

Co-founded by Nat Robinson and Tori Samples, both of whom had prior experience working with refugees in Africa and the US, Leaf aims to address the refugee challenge virtually. The company, which is focusing on Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, partners with local banks and mobile money operators to ensure the safe passage of funds for a refugee crossing the border between two jurisdictions. It achieves this by using blockchain technology. 

Ms Samples says: “There’s a lot of hype around blockchain. We are using it to facilitate cross-border transfers rather than storing any value on it.”  For example, a user in the Democratic Republic of the Congo can open an account with Leaf via SMS, cross the border to Rwanda and receive their savings through a partner institution. In doing so, the company is addressing one of the key impediments facing mobile money networks in the region.

“Mobile phone penetration across east Africa is high. Mobile money accounts are growing much faster than bank accounts. That’s also an avenue that we are looking to tap into. But the issue with mobile money is that it doesn’t cross borders. The issue with that is that it’s offered through national telcos,” says Mr Robinson.

Continue reading here

(Leaf is a #CF20 company and is an integrated financial services provider whose mobile platform enables the conversion of physical to digital fiat currency through blockchain technology. Refugees deposit cash at a mobile money agent in their home country and then send that money into a Leaf account. The company stores the transaction on the blockchain and works in partnership with regional banks to safeguard currency.)

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.

DATE & TIME:

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.

 
 
 

DATE & TIME:

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.

DATE & TIME:

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

Why We Invested: Meet the newest Catalyst Fund Companies

Abalobi: The fisher's journey

Abalobi: The fisher's journey

What we’re seeing in insurtech and digital credit

We’re excited to announce the latest companies to join the Catalyst Fund portfolio! Our new cohort of inclusive fintech startups is innovating in two promising areas: insurance technology (“insurtech”) and digital credit. As a group, these companies exhibit strong founding teams, experience working in emerging markets, and a resolute commitment to reach the underserved. As an early-stage accelerator committed to expanding innovative financial solutions for the the underbanked, we invested in these companies because they share the following qualities. Read more.

Harvesting wins Best FinTech Award at African Microfinance Week

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Catalyst Fund Investee Harvesting, won the FMO FinTech for Microfinance Prize of EUR 10.000 at the African Microfinance Week (SAM) in Addis Ababa, Ethopia. 

The jury consisting of FMO, the African Development Bank and Accion, chose Harvesting due to the scalability of its solution and that it uses satellite data information to fill a widespread information gap within the current financial system. This allows financial institutions to issue (new) loans to farmers and to better manage their agricultural portfolio since Harvesting provides information on farmers' crops, acres and production activities.

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 www.destacame.cl.

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 http://www.accion.org.