The Catalyst Fund Inclusive FinTech program is managed by BFA, and was launched in 2015 with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, JP Morgan Chase & Co., and fiscal sponsorship from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. The fund was created as an accelerator that support tech innovators in emerging markets, who are building affordable, accessible, and appropriate digital financial solutions that improve the financial health of their communities.

The principal objective of the fund is to fill the critical capital, support, and talent gaps that limit innovation potential across emerging markets and foster the growth of inclusive solutions.

Their first phase was between 2015 and 2019, where the fund accelerated 25 inclusive FinTech startups in 14 emerging markets. As a result, over 90% of the initial companies are still operating, and have gone on to raise nearly 20x their investment.

The second phase start in 2020, where Catalyst announced the expansion of the Inclusive FinTech program, with support from The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and PayPal, to accelerate 30 additional early-stage Fintech startups operating in India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, and South Africa.

In this phase, the fund recognized the necessity to support the environment of the startups in which they operate, and developed a method to accelerated innovation ecosystems, which including unlocking capital from global and local investors, creating pathways to scale for startups via partnership with corporate innovators, and filing talent gaps trough internship programs.

Catalyst Fund offers three main areas of support: accelerate inclusive tech companies building solutions for undeserved; accelerate tech innovation ecosystems in emerging markets; and share insights and evidence on how inclusive tech innovations benefit the undeserved.

The program has seven investment criteria when selecting FinTech companies, these are:

  • Tech-enabled innovation
  • Inclusion & scale
  • Additionality
  • Stage-fit
  • Geography
  • Diversity
  • Learning potential

The FinTech Accelerator targets sectors based on their potential to benefit underserved communities, thought access to financial health, essential services, and new forms of work.

Below, we have provided a summary of the progress and prospects of eight FinTech startups of Catalyst Fund portfolio.

Destacame

CEO: Sebastián Ugarte

Founded: 2014

Market: Chile & Mexico

Product: Alternative Credit Scoring Platform/B2C

Sponsor: Accion Venture Lab

The digital financial management platform is an alternative credit scoring that uses data such as bill payment histories for basic services, to assess individual payment capacity and creditworthiness to low-income individuals. Destacame has pilots with nine financial institutions, has partnered with five utility companies, and has already amassed over 2 million registered users.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

ToGarantido

CEO: Felipe Cunha

Founded: 2016

Market: Brazil

Product: Micro-insurance platform/B2C

Sponsor: Accion Venture Lab

The broker offers digitally provides access to high quality and affordable insurance products from different insurers to serve the immediate needs of the low-income customers.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

PayGo Energy

CEO: Nick Quintong

Founded: 2015

Market: Kenya

Product: Liquefied petroleum Gas (LPG)/B2B-B2C

Sponsor: Accion Venture Lab

PayGo Energy offers a gas meter and distribution system that enables users to access clean and efficient fuel at a low price. The company provides smart metering technology that eliminates upfront fuel costs, enables customers to access modern fuels on a pay-as-you-go basis and allows them to monitor their fuel usage through a smart metering system.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

Sokowatch

CEO: Daniel Yu

Founded: 2016

Market: Kenya & Tanzania

Product: E-comerce & Digital Lending/B2B

Sponsor: Quona Capital

The FinTech goal is creating the largest e-commerce network of goods and services for informal retailers across emerging markets. Due to the challenges that face Informal retailers in Africa for product availability, access to capital and data management.

While focusing on the opportunity to reach the 10 million plus informal retailers across African cities selling over $175B of consumer goods every year, Sokowatch helps retailers solve these challenges by offering free on-demand delivery of products through a digitized ordering platform and subsequent access to credit based on order history.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $75,000

Abalobi

CEO: Serge Raemaekers

Founded: 2016

Market: South Africa

Product: Fisheries management and value chain mobile applications/B2B

Sponsor: Quona Capital

Abalobi is a social enterprise with global applicability, which is building equitable, sustainable, and climate-smart small-scale fisheries, powered by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). These “ICT4Fisheries” enable inclusive, human rights-based and integrated fisheries’ governance from “hook to cook,” empowering previously excluded fishers and communities.

The mobile app services include a fully traceable marketplace for seafood, fisher-to-fisher mentoring, system-hosting, digital financial inclusion services, data-driven and transdisciplinary science, Safety-at-Sea, Climate Change adaptation, capacity building and partnership driven support program.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

Leaf

CEO: Nat Robinson

Founded: 2017

Market: Rwanda, DRC, Burundi

Product: Virtual banking platform/B2C

Sponsor: Accion Venture Lab

Leaf is an integrated financial services provider whose mobile platform enables the conversion of physical to digital fiat currency through blockchain technology. This virtual bank was designed to help refugees transfer assets across borders safely.

Users can deposit cash at a mobile money agent in their home country and that money will be deposited in a Leaf account, after that the company stores the transaction on the blockchain and converted the money into virtual currency. Finally, when the user settle into a new country can receive their assets in their mobile money wallet and convert them back to cash.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

PayAgri

Chief Performance Officer: Rajkumar KVM

Founded: 2016

Market: India

Product: Agri Value Engine (AVE) Platform/B2B-B2C

Sponsor: Gray Ghost Ventures

This Agri-FinTech startup brings together key players in the Indian agriculture value chain to facilitate trade and funding flows to promote inclusive growth. PayAgri’s primary platform, Agri Value Engine (AVE), connects farmers and buyers by removing inefficiencies in the value chain, such as middlemen, cash-based transactions, and misinformation.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

Hover

CEO: Ben Lyon

Founded: 2018

Market: Global

Product: Payment infrastructure (Android SDK)/B2B

Sponsor: 500 Startups

Hover’s proprietary and patent-pending technology enables developers to build on mobile money even when APIs need for payment integration does not exist. It is a company focused on the intersection of mobile apps and mobile money. Their tech could be used as a lightweight version of the internet that could bring the next billion people online.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000