About Catalyst Fund

Supporting inclusive tech innovators in emerging markets

 

History

Catalyst Fund first launched as a global accelerator for inclusive fintech startups in 2015, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and JPMorgan Chase & Co., and fiscal sponsorship from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. It was created to support early-stage startups who are building affordable, accessible and appropriate digital financial solutions that improve the financial health of underserved communities in emerging markets. 

Catalyst Fund aims to fill important gaps in the innovation ecosystems across emerging markets, including: lack of patient capital to test and iterate products in-market, lack of skill sets to rapidly build viable solutions for underserved customers and lack of personal connections with global and local investors and corporate partners. The program tackles these challenges by offering a combination of catalytic grant capital, bespoke venture-building support from market and sector experts and access to a global network of investors and corporate innovators, while sharing insights, learnings and toolkits with the broader inclusive tech ecosystem.

Phase 1

2015 to 2019: Catalyst Fund accelerated 25 inclusive fintech startups across 14 emerging markets. Over 90% of the initial companies are still operating, and have gone on to raise nearly 25x the amount invested in them, and reach more than 2.5 million (and counting) low-income customers globally. 

 


 

Phase 2

January 2020: Catalyst Fund announced the expansion of the Inclusive Fintech program, with support from The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and JPMorgan Chase & Co.,  to accelerate 30 additional early-stage fintech startups operating in five key markets: India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, and South Africa, by 2022. Our portfolio companies have raised over US$81M in follow-on funding, unlocking capital in their markets to return $25 for every $1 invested in the program. 

Catalyst Fund also recognized that accelerating startups alone is not sufficient. The environment in which they operate also has to be conducive to their growth, which means capital, talent, partnerships and regulatory barriers have to be addressed. Catalyst Fund developed a method to accelerate innovation ecosystems in emerging markets, including unlocking capital from global and local investors, creating pathways to scale for startups via partnerships with corporate innovators, and filling talent gaps through an  internship program sourcing quality talent from universities and talent networks in our key markets.

 


 

Program scale

October 2020: Building on the learnings from and success of Catalyst Fund’s flagship Inclusive Fintech Accelerator, in 2020 we are building on the core elements of our model to launch additional programs where fintech can be a force for good. We are creating a family of programs with new partners in an effort to support tech innovators across additional key areas where we see embedded fintech approaches as crucial to developing better and more impactful solutions that can improve the livelihoods and resilience of underserved customers.

In October 2020, we launched the Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator in Ghana, with support from Mastercard Foundation, in partnership with MEST. The program aims to improve the livelihoods and financial resilience of informal micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in Ghana – who have been hardest hit by the impact of the COVID-19 economic crisis – by scaling digital commerce companies. The accelerator will select six innovative companies that can enable informal MSEs to reap the benefits of digital commerce and accelerate them over two years.

Catalyst Fund continues to focus on accelerating the innovation ecosystems in each of these focus markets in order to enable even more inclusive tech companies to grow and reach underserved populations. It also continues to gather and share learnings and insights with the ecosystem to spur more tech innovation in emerging markets.

 

Learn more about Catalyst Fund Programs

Inclusive fintech startups video series: Produced by Innovate Finance and BBC Storyworks

Hear how fintech innovation is transforming financial health in Africa, from the customers served by Catalyst Fund portfolio companies Sokowatch, Turaco, Abalobi and Spoon Money.

WATCH VIDEOS

Mission 

Our mission is to facilitate the development of tech-enabled solutions that improve the financial health and overall wellbeing of low-income populations.

Accelerate

Accelerate inclusive tech companies in emerging markets via venture building services led by industry experts, patient capital, and facilitation of 1:1 investor and corporate connections.

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Grow

Grow local ecosystems by building and sharing knowledge resources, and facilitating circles of investors and corporate innovators in focus countries.

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Share insights

Share insights gleaned from our direct work with tech innovators, industry trends and proof points on new business models, to spur more innovation for inclusion.

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