What have we learned about catalyzing inclusive fintech startups so far?

Authored by: Jonathan Duarte
April 4, 2017 - 3 mins read

Thoughts from the Catalyst Fund Panel at FLII 2017

On Feb 15th, the Catalyst Fund hosted a panel about supporting early-stage inclusive fintech companies at FLII 2017 (The Latin American Impact Investing Forum). Held in Mérida, Mexico and in its seventh year, FLII brings together investors, entrepreneurs, nonprofits and other ecosystem players working hard to bring real impact in Latin America.

The panel, Catalyst Fund: Our Approach and the Lessons Learned from Supporting Inclusive Fintech Startups, covered how the Catalyst Fund model compares to other accelerators or incubators and more specifically, how Catalyst Fund tailors its advisory engagements using a range of startup tools all the while rolling up their sleeves working alongside the startup teams. Speaking were some Catalyst Fund investees: Jorge Camus from Destacame.cl, Miguel Duhalt from Comunidad4Uno, myself, Jonathan Duarte Escala Educación, Catalyst Fund partner Mathieu Albrieux Accion Venture Lab and moderator Gabriela Zapata from BFA.

Catalyst Fund Panelists from left to right: Mathieu Albrieux (Accion Venture Lab), Jonathan Duarte (ESCALA Educacion), Miguel Duhalt (4Uno), Gabriela Zapata (BFA) and Jorge Camus (Destacame.cl)

We know that early stage inclusive fintech startups in emerging markets have difficulty raising capital to accelerate their traction and the lessons they learn are usually not shared widely. To address these challenges, the Catalyst Fund supports startups by 1) providing seed grant capital, mentorship from investors and 2) tailoring advisory engagements from a team of consultants in different expertise areas. The Catalyst Fund team is also carefully synthesizing lessons learned about this approach and the broader insights about inclusive fintech that could be applicable for the sector. For example, one of the learning resources focuses on customer trust creation in these markets. More importantly, as Catalyst Fund starts to wrap up its engagement with the first group of investees and looks to the next cohort, it’s thinking about how to synthesize the learning and how to continue building a pipeline of investment-ready inclusive fintech companies.

The panel also was opportune to describe Destacame’s journey from Catalyst Fund investee to recently closing its seed funding with lead investor Accion Venture Lab, which is one example of the role that Catalyst Fund plays in this investment continuum. Some of my own takeaways from the lively discussion validated what we as entrepreneurs know, and have to keep striving for. These takeaways are:

There are significant opportunities for inclusive fintech startups to innovate in the Latin American market with support from the right investors. As Catalyst Fund continues to support early-stage inclusive fintech startups, it will be interesting to see how the key strategic lessons and insights from this initiative get applied in the field while helping to create the right conditions for more investors to look to fintech in emerging markets.

Related Publications
Leave a Reply