Catalyst Fund Project Team

The Catalyst Fund Project is managed by BFA, a global consulting firm that specializes in the development of financial services for low income people.

Management Team

Country Managers

Venture Builders

Maelis Carraro

director, bfa

Maelis is a Director of the Catalyst Fund program and Impact Ventures practice at BFA. She most recently managed OPTIX, helping financial institutions build better portfolios for their low-income customers. She joins BFA from the International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group), where she advised and worked with regional teams on microfinance projects globally and advised financial institutions on how to implement strategies for responsible financial inclusion to serve the under-banked. Maelis 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 alleviate poverty in Latin America. 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. Maelis speaks English, French, Italian, and Spanish.

David del Ser

director & ParTNER, BFA

David is program advisor to Catalyst Fund and partner at BFA. David brings world class high tech skills in growing areas to BFA to expand the company vision. He supports and promotes tech-enablement in the financial sector, and reaches beyond the financial services sector to other tech-related businesses and social investors.  David is also the founder and chairman of Frogtek, a business which provides app-based technology to enable small retailers in developing countries with better business tools. Frogtek was recently listed by the Wall Street Journal as having built one of five apps bringing the next billion online. He is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, an Echoing Green Fellow, and holds a dual Masters of Telecommunications from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Télécom ParisTech and an MBA from Columbia Business School.

Abby Butkus

associate, bfa

Abby is an Associate at BFA. She brings experience in project management and financial inclusion. Previously, Abby was the Finance Director at New Profit, a venture philanthropy firm. She also worked in East Africa with One Acre Fund, an agriculture distribution and financing social enterprise dedicated to increasing prosperity for smallholder farmers. Prior to that she was a researcher at CGAP and completed General Electric’s Financial Management Program. Abby holds a Master in International Development from Institut d’Etudes Politiques and a BS in Accounting and International Business from Villanova University.


Javier Linares

senior associate, bfa

Javier is a Senior Associate at BFA in Impact Ventures. He oversees and manages Catalyst Fund engagements, specializing on projects that include software development, product design and management, customer experience and data analytics. For six years prior joining to BFA, he built innovative technology solutions for mom-­and-­pop micro­ retailers in emerging markets such as Mexico and Colombia that helped them to track and control their business, create new revenues and be competitive. Most recently, he founded H-elium, a startup that offers low cost solar powered beach umbrellas to charge mobile devices.


Malika Anand

consulting associate, bfa

Malika is a Consulting Associate on the Knowledge Management & Influence team at BFA. She has worked in financial inclusion, corporate social responsibility, and user experience at CGAP, The Coca-Cola Company, and various social enterprises. She holds an MPAID from the Harvard Kennedy School and a BA from the University of Chicago, and was a Fulbright Fellow in the Dominican Republic. 


Akansha Kasera

MArketing specialist, bfa 

Akansha is a Marketing Specialist with the Knowledge Management & Influence team. She supports the implementation of BFA’s communication initiatives and content marketing strategy. Prior to joining BFA, she worked as a Marketing Communication Officer with Smile Foundation, a national level NGO in India with several livelihood programs and welfare initiatives. Before moving to the development sector, she worked with Zomato, a unicorn startup, as part of their external communication and product team. She holds a B.A. degree in English Literature from Jesus and Mary College, Delhi University (India).


Michelle Hassan

Senior associate, bfa 

Michelle is a Senior Associate at BFA. Prior to joining BFA, Michelle worked as a Research Director at Digital Divide Data, (a Kenyan based research company), where she was involved with a wide range of financial inclusion projects including the implementation of the Kenya Financial Diaries as well as the Tanzania Financial Diaries. Before Digital Data Divide, Michelle was involved with a range of research projects that sought to understand the financial lives of Kenyans, particularly through her work around Kenyan savings groups and through the Financial Landscapes study. Michelle holds a Master in Public Health with a focus on biostatistics and epidemiology from University of Nairobi.


Rasima Swarup

Associate, bfa 

Rasima is an Associate at BFA. As part of the Inclusive Fintech team, her work involves managing technical projects and applying skills in the areas of robotic process automation, data analytics, customer and service process mapping, and digital identity. Prior to joining BFA, Rasima worked with Deloitte’s Identity and Access Management practice in India and later in Australia as a Senior Analyst. Apart from building identity governance solutions for various financial institutions, her work involved extensive client relations and product management across multi-cultural and globally distributed teams. Rasima holds a Masters in International Business and Development Economics from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science from Manipal University (India).


Matt Grasser

Director, bfa

Matt is the Director of Applied Innovation practice area at BFA. He is a seasoned technologist and entrepreneur in the US startup scene. He founded and served in leadership roles in several NYC-based startups and more recently turned his attention to the developing world and is passionate about more pressing technology and data challenges in the financial and social inclusion space. Matt holds a BSc in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, and was pursuing a PhD in Physics when he withdrew to focus efforts on his growing startups: Bytemark, an international mobile payments and ticketing platform and LDLN, a post-disaster-oriented Locally Distributed Logistics Network that empowers “dark” communities without requiring an external power grid or internet/cellular infrastructure.


Ashirul Amin

senior associate, bfa 

Ashirul is a Senior Associate at BFA, specializing in forensic portfolio analytics of financial institutions, which provide savings and loan services to low-income clients. His work informs discussions around client segmentation, product sustainability, savings behavior and cross-sell by utilizing custom-built algorithms. He has worked on projects such as InFocus, GAFIS and OPTIX, and his work-related travels have taken him to Latin America, East and West Africa and South and South East Asia. He has previously worked at a financial services company focused on emerging markets and an impact investment firm. Ashirul has a PhD and MALD in Development Economics from The Fletcher School at Tufts University and a BSE in Computer Science with a focus on Artificial Intelligence from Princeton University.


Sebastian Barrera

deputy director, bfa 

Sebastián is a Deputy Director at BFA. His work specializes in conducting in-depth user research to ideate, design and prototype solutions that will inform new business and product concepts using human-centered design (HCD) methodologies. He joins BFA from the Design Impact Group (DIG), where he worked on a broad range of projects in East Africa and Latin America. His area of expertise includes human-centered design, ethnographic research and user experience (UX) for financial services. Sebastián holds a BA in Design from Los Andes University (Colombia) and an MFA in Design for Social Innovation from the School of Visual Arts in New York.


Anne Gachoka

associate, bfa 

Anne is an Associate at BFA. Previously, she was a Research Field Manager at Digital Divide Data where some of her responsibilities included defining expected results and using performance indicators and other processes/systems to monitor and track project completions, ensuring that research protocols were followed, and supervising field teams. She was the first staff member to join Kenya Financial Diaries project and is deeply steeped in the stories and histories of the respondents. Anne has six years’ experience in social and market research working in several other local research firms. She holds an undergraduate degree in Information Technology from Makerere University.

Shirley Mburu BFA (300x300) Pixels.jpg

Shirley Mburu

associate, bfa 

Shirley is an Associate. Since joining BFA she has managed multiple projects involving the coordination of external stakeholders and has also conducted trainings in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia. Prior to joining BFA, she worked for Centre for Financial Regulation and Inclusion (Cenfri) where she was involved in conducting financial sector diagnostics in Myanmar, Swaziland, and Lesotho using the Making Access to Financial Services Possible (MAP) diagnostics framework, and coordinated the FinMark Trust Progress Reporting. Shirley has also worked with Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship in analyzing the Kenyan social enterprise ecosystem with a focus on the agricultural sector. Shirley holds a Master of Commerce Degree in Development Finance from the University of Cape Town, a Post Graduate degree in Financial Analysis and Portfolio Management and a Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Accounting from the University of Cape Town.