In our previous article, Food for thought – Crop Insurance Gets a Makeover we spoke about WorldCover, the emerging market agricultural insurance firm leveraging blockchain technology and machine learning democratise the insurance process. WorldCover, in fact owes some of its success to the Catalyst Fund, an early stage innovation grant investment vehicle run by global strategy consulting firm Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA) and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and JPMorgan & chase Co. WorldCover was amongst the selected few companies making up Catalyst’s first cohort, and received both capital and consulting. The Catalyst Fund now boasts a group of 20 innovative and impactful companies aiming to produce inclusive FinTech products.

Below we have provided a brief summary on all 20 start-ups, but in the coming weeks we will publish more in depth articles on the history, progress and prospects of some of the companies.

All the companies, in addition to a capital grant will also work with BFA to identify specific advisory engagements towards strategic milestones and a growth trajectory.

Catalyst Companies 

Atikus

Summary

CEO: Kate Woska

Founded: 2013

Market: Rwanda

Product: SaaS solutions & credit insurance

Sponsor: Gray Ghost Ventures

Atikus is a financial inclusion company that helps financial institutions in developing countries better identify, quantify, and mitigate their operational and credit risk. Atikus’ solutions combine data analytics, digital platforms, and risk transference, seeking to transform the way they acquire, analyse, and adopt credit clients. By maximizing their financial and operational capacity, Atikus can help financial institutions reach more clients and improve economic opportunities for low-income individuals. With its social objectives in mind, Atikus’ interventions have a specific focus on supporting micro-enterprises and SMEs owned and operated by women, youth, and rural/agricultural individuals.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $75,000

Destacame

Summary

CEO: Sebastián Ugarte

Founded: 2014

Market: Chile & Mexico

Product: Alternative Credit Scoring Platform

Sponsor: Accion Venture Lab

Destacame is an alternative credit scoring platform that uses data such as bill payment histories for basic services, to assess individual payment capacity and creditworthiness. Founded in 2014 in Chile, Destacame has pilots with nine financial institutions, has partnered with five utility companies, and has already amassed over 17,000 registered users.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

Escala

Summary

CEO: Jonathan Duarte

Founded: 2012

Market: Colombia

Product: Higher Education Savings Program

Sponsor: Quona Capital

ESCALA is a higher-education savings program for lower and middle-income families in Colombia. ESCALA combines a savings program with support services, arranged through ESCALA partners, to increase access to higher education for low and middle-income families in Colombia and Latin America. Their ultimate goal is to generate upward social mobility and reduce the income inequality gap in Colombia and Latin America.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

PayGo Energy

Summary

CEO: Nick Quintong

Website: www.paygoenergy.org

Founded: 2015

Market: Kenya

Product: LPG energy

Sponsor: Accion Venture Lab

PayGo Energy is a metering solution and distribution system that enables customers to access clean and efficient fuel at a low price.

PayGo Energy 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

WorldCover

(See previous article)

WorldCover received $250,000 from Catalyst and is sponsored by Omidyar Network.

Comunidad 4Uno

Summary

CEO: Miguel Duhalt

Founded: 2015

Market: Mexico

Product: Online Human Resources Platform

Sponsor: Accion Venture Lab

Comunidad 4Uno (C4Uno) is an online platform that distributes tailored and market-based financial products to low income and financially excluded domestic workers.

The company aims to be the largest and most reliable financial product distribution channel for the low income population in Mexico by 2020.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

Flowigo (formerly Grafica)

Summary

CEO: Yoann Berno

Founded: 2015

Market: Kenya

Product: Modular SaaS Solution for solar distributors

Sponsor: Quona Capital

Grafica was a company of Catalyst Fund in 2016. Now, Grafica’s founder Yoann Berno will serve as the CEO of Flowigo.

Flowigo is a modular software-as-a-service solution for solar distributors, offering an affordable and scalable cloud-based platform that integrates with the best service providers in the market (Internet of Things, CRM, Inventory Management, Data Analytics, and Credit Scoring) to meet the needs of companies as they grow.

In 4 weeks, Flowigo analyzes internal business requirements, recommend the right service providers, integrate, configure and deploy. Businesses can rely on a modular network to scale.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

Harvesting

Summary

CEO: Ruchit Garg

Founded: 2016

Market: India and Africa

Product: Agricultural data analytics software

Sponsor: Omidyar Network

Harvesting is enabling financial inclusion for farmers by providing actionable insights to financial institutions via its software-as-a service (SaaS) solution. Harvesting processes massive amount of global data sets, such as weather, satellite, agronomic data, and applies machine learning algorithms to help reduce risks for crop insurance and lending companies.

Harvesting aims to be the Agriculture Intelligence Engine, which will help bring speed, accuracy and transparency across the agricultural value chain, accelerating the development of fair financial products and services for farmers worldwide.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

PayLatr

Summary

CEO: Rohit Bhatia

Founded: 2016

Market: India

Product: Micro-credit mobile payments platform

Sponsor: Gray Ghost Ventures

PayLatr is a recurring micro-credit mobile platform offering interest-free monthly credits to low-income households in India to easily pay for retail transactions without cash, credit cards or other pre-paid means.

On average, a middle-income household in India spends about 7,000 – 9,000 rupees at any neighborhood store. More than 95 percent of transactions are in cash because most stores do not accept cards and/or users do not have credit cards. Often, households experience cash crunch issues by using up most of their cash for grocery shopping. PayLatr offers monthly credit to improve their household cash flow by providing recurring monthly credit lines at various merchants, via mobile money.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

Smile Identity

Summary

CEO: Mark Straub

Founded: 2016

Market: Africa

Product: KYC Software Biometric Solution

Sponsor: 500 Startups

Smile Identity intends to be the best KYC (Know your Customer) software biometric solution for mobile app developers that require scalable, flexible and user-friendly customer authentication to protect identity and prevent fraud.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

Abalobi

Summary

CEO: Serge Raemaekers

Founded: 2016

Market: South Africa

Product: Fisheries management and value chain mobile applications

Sponsor: Quona Capital

Abalobi is a social enterprise based in South Africa 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.

Abalobi services include a fully traceable marketplace for seafood with a «story,» 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. Uptake of the technology happens through the co-design process, and a grassroots but global advocacy movement by fishers using Abalobi. They want to develop sustainable fisheries using transformative processes, innovative technology, value chain upgrading, supported by a traditional fishers’ knowledge base.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

Asaak

Summary

CEO: Kaivan Sattar

Founded: 2016

Market: Uganda

Product: Mobile credit for SMEs

Sponsor: 500 Startups

Asaak is a mobile technology and data science company that is focused on providing microloans to small- and medium-sized businesses in Uganda. Asaak deploys an automated technology and data platform that powers both direct and partnership-based lending.

Asaak provides collateral-backed loans to small- and medium-sized businesses in Africa, bridging the $130B credit gap that currently exists. Their mission is to close the credit gap in emerging markets through a mobile technology-enabled marketplace while creating a new asset class for global investors.  Asaak started with a single lending product for farmers and has now quickly moved into government contractors, real estate, agriculture, energy access, and women entrepreneurship funding programs.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

MobiLife

Summary

CEO: Frank Schutte

Founded: 2015

Market: South Africa

Product: Mobile life insurance

Sponsor: Omidyar Network

MobiLife is Africa’s first 100% ‘built for mobile’ life insurance, using the power of smartphones to bring effective insurance solutions to low-income consumers.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

Rukula

Summary

CEO: Reeza Zarook

Founded: 2014

Market: Sri Lanka

Product: Households goods credit provider

Sponsor: Gray Ghost Ventures

Rukula was born out of the need to include the excluded. Rukula (loosely translated from Sinhala to mean a ‘small support’) offers small loans for household consumer durables and electronic items to financially excluded communities in Sri Lanka to enhance their quality of life.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

ToGarantido

Summary

CEO: Felipe Cunha

Founded: 2016

Market: Brazil

Product: Micro-insurance platform

Sponsor: Accion Venture Lab

ToGarantido 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

Banco Maré

Summary

CEO: Alexander Abulquerque

Founded: 2016

Market: Brazil

Product: Financial Services App

Sponsor: Omidyar Network

11M people in Brazil live in favelas and are currently overlooked or under-served by traditional financial service providers. Banco Maré is a blockchain powered digital financial services platform for low and moderate income consumers living in the favelas. Banco Maré offers bill payments, top-ups, P2P transfers, TEM Saude, a health assistance plan, and debt payment assistance. The platform is accessible via a mobile app and supported by local agents called Kioscos– local shops that offer all of Banco Mare’s services and provide customer support.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

Hover

Summary

CEO: Ben Lyon

Founded: 2018

Market: Global

Product: Payment infrastructure (Android SDK)

Sponsor: 500 Startups

According to GSMA Intelligence, there will be 3.3B smartphones and 1B mobile money accounts in emerging markets by 2020. In 2016, mobile money gross payment volume totaled US$269B with a 72 percent compound annual growth rate. A developer offering a fintech or other solution built on mobile money rails often takes 6 – 18 months to integrate a single mobile money service with their app. Hover offers a technology solution that reduces the time to one hour for all mobile money services.

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 the only company focused on the intersection of mobile apps and mobile money, globally. Hover’s 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

Leaf

Summary

CEO: Nat Robinson

Founded: 2017

Market: Rwanda, DRC, Burundi

Product: Virtual banking platform

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. 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.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

PayAgri

Summary

Chief Performance Officer: Rajkumar KVM

Founded: 2016

Market: India

Product: Agri Value Engine (AVE) Platform

Sponsor: Gray Ghost Ventures

PayAgri is an agri-fintech startup that 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. PayAgri seeks to create opportunities for farmers to build assets by generating verifiable and traceable data, which helps lenders make informed lending decisions.

Amount Granted by Catalyst Fund: $100,000

Sokowatch

Summary

CEO: Daniel Yu

Founded: 2016

Market: Kenya & Tanzania

Product: Logistics delivery solution with credit line

Sponsor: Quona Capital

Sokowatch was founded with the goal of creating the largest e-commerce network of goods and services for informal retailers across emerging markets. Informal retailers in Africa face huge challenges around 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

What lies ahead…

The amazing work carried out by BFA and the Catalyst Fund essentially allows companies who would normally lack access to capital and consulting, to effectively facilitate change in their chosen industry. This presents exciting opportunities not only for the funded companies, but also for the people who will benefit from their products.