Inclusive fintech

The Catalyst Fund Inclusive Fintech Accelerator supported early-stage innovators in emerging markets who are building affordable, appropriate and accessible inclusive fintech solutions designed for the world’s 3 billion underserved.

Partners + supporters

The Catalyst Fund Inclusive Fintech Accelerator was managed by BFA Global and fiscally sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. The flagship program was supported by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), JPMorgan Chase & Co., PayPal, and FSD Africa. It was originally launched in 2015 with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Investor Advisory Committee (IAC)

Six leading fintech and emerging market investors from around the world formed the Inclusive Fintech Investor Advisory Committee. They managed sourcing for our early-stage fintech accelerator. Each member nominated one high-potential startup for the program in each cohort, and mentored and supported that company throughout their journey with Catalyst Fund. They then evaluated de-risked startups from Catalyst Fund for investment. The IAC included:


Mitigating the Valley of Death

Many startups experience a “valley of death” at the early stage, during which they run out of capital before they can reach product-market fit, sufficiently refine their product and generate traction with customers. We filled the funding and support gap during this testing and iteration phase, bringing early-stage startups to the point where they’re investment-ready, with up to £80,000 in flexible grant capital.

Investment Criteria

Investors considered seven criteria when selecting fintech companies.
Preference was given for local entrepreneurs from the five focus markets and for women entrepreneurs.

Tech-enabled innovation

Startup has an innovative product and business model enabled by technology

Inclusion & scale

Potential to scale and meaningfully increase financial inclusion and financial health of excluded populations


Grant resources would substantially impact team’s ability to test and improve their product


Product is at MVP stage or built, has at least one customer, working to achieve product market fit


Target market/operations of the startup is in emerging markets, focusing on Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India, and Mexico


Preference for teams led by local and/or women founders, with local teams in the country of operation

Learning potential

Potential for insights from the company to meaningfully contribute to a learning agenda to advance the collective knowledge of the industry

Investment theses

The Catalyst Fund Inclusive Fintech Accelerator targeted sectors based on their potential to benefit underserved communities, as well as the extent to which we could have a catalytic, tipping point effect for startups working in those sectors through our acceleration process.

 We were focused on supporting tech innovators across key areas where embedded fintech approaches are crucial to developing better and more impactful solutions, including:


Financial health

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Essential services

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Platforms and new forms of work

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Focus countries 

We select startups operating in five key markets: Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Mexico and India. These countries are home to fintech startup hubs within their regions, but their populations also demonstrate significant gaps in financial health. 


Meet our startups

Catalyst Fund has accelerated 61 companies across 15 markets globally since launching in 2015.



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