Catalyst Fund announces Circle of Corporate Innovators

Fidelity Bank, Ecobank, Sterling Bank, Access Bank, and the VFD Group among the first to join the Circle as pioneer members
Authored by: Thea Sokolowski
June 15, 2021 - 3 mins read

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 15, 2020 – Global inclusive tech accelerator Catalyst Fund, managed by BFA Global, today formally announced its Circle of Corporate Innovators, with its first members, Fidelity Bank, Ecobank, Sterling Bank, Access Bank and the VFD Group. This growing network of leading corporate innovators across emerging markets has already partnered with tens of startups to create new digital products. Catalyst Fund will accelerate their efforts by enhancing their capacity to source, assess, test and continue to bring new innovations to their customers across Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Mexico and India.

The Circle of Corporate Innovators is a collaborative, global community of organisations – from major banks and telecommunications companies, to FMCGs, logistics providers and more – that share Catalyst Fund’s goal of developing inclusive tech innovations in emerging markets. One key element of the Circle’s offering is to facilitate corporate-startup partnerships, which can better enable startups to reach scale, while providing market leaders with access to and data on the last mile.

Members receive bespoke support, including:

“Corporate leaders have a significant role to play in facilitating the growth of inclusive tech in our markets. They bring a deep understanding of the market and its nuances, as well as a wide user base with whom they’ve already built trust. These industry leaders, however, stand to benefit from the agility, innovation, and flexibility offered by startup solutions, which can enable them to provide more value to their customers and accelerate their own journey towards digital innovation,” said Maelis Carraro, Managing Director, Catalyst Fund. “The goal of the Circle of Corporate Innovators is to actively facilitate and de-risk these partnerships, equipping both innovators and startups with the tools and expert support they need to better discover technical and commercial synergies, while sharing learnings and insights with the wider industry. We’re excited to welcome strong innovators like Fidelity Bank, Ecobank, Sterling Bank, Access Bank, and the VFD Group as pioneer members of the Circle.”

Successful startup-corporate partnerships are already demonstrating benefits for both sides. Unilever has partnered with Catalyst Fund portfolio company Sokowatch in East Africa, enabling them to reach millions of new consumers through Sokowatch’s network of tens of thousands of informal retailers. Bamba is working with BBVA to deliver bank accounts and other financial products to 8,000 domestic workers in Mexico. Mobilife’s partnership with Standard Bank in South Africa has allowed for 7,000+ life insurance claims to be processed.

“As a proprietary investment firm with a very significant commitment to improving financial services delivery across Africa, partnering with Catalyst Fund is an opportunity to accelerate our vision of reaching the last mile with practical and empowering solutions. We are excited by the sheer possibilities that lay ahead,” said Gbenga Omolokun, Executive Director Group Risk, Compliance & Technology at VFD Group Plc.

“At Ecobank, innovation is a growth engine and at the heart of everything we do. We are committed to building and working with the entrepreneurship ecosystem across Africa to drive this innovation. The partnership with Catalyst Fund is a major step in building a framework for a productive engagement with startups and other key stakeholders to make this a success”, said Nvalaye Kourouma, Chief Digital Officer at Ecobank.

Catalyst Fund has already begun working with members of its Circle, offering innovation diagnostic workshops, facilitating partnerships with portfolio companies, advising on partnership strategies, and more. This is part of Catalyst Fund’s wider focus on ecosystem acceleration, which also includes a Circle of Investors with over 80 global members. Interested partners operating in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Mexico and India are welcome to contact the team to explore collaboration opportunities.


For further enquiries, contact Thea Sokolowski, Head of Marketing & Communications, Catalyst Fund:


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About Catalyst Fund

Catalyst Fund, managed by BFA Global, is an accelerator that supports inclusive tech innovators, and facilitates the growth of innovation ecosystems in emerging markets. Launched in 2016, with support from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today Catalyst Fund supports companies offering accessible, affordable and appropriate solutions across a range of sectors and key markets in Africa, South Asia and Latin America, to improve the lives of the world’s 3 billion underserved. All Catalyst Fund programs provide catalytic grant capital, bespoke venture building support from market and sector experts and access to a global network of investors and corporate partners, while sharing learnings with the broader inclusive tech ecosystem.

Current programs include the flagship Catalyst Fund Inclusive Fintech Accelerator, supported by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and JPMorgan Chase & Co., and fiscally sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and the Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator, supported by the Mastercard Foundation. Our current markets of focus include Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Mexico and India.

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