Catalyst Fund has accelerated 38 companies across 14 markets globally since launching in 2016. We will continue to accelerate inclusive tech companies across key markets in the coming years – from early-stage fintech startups, to digital commerce companies, to those focusing on climate change adaptation and more.
Digitizing small and medium sized businesses in Nigeria
Providing underserved Mexicans affordable access to essential services
Providing digital financial services to India's gig workers
Offering affordable insurance to families in Mexico
Helping South African workers smooth cash flows through pay advances
Offering affordable and accessible healthcare coverage in Nigeria
The smartest way for Nigerians to plan, save, and invest
Providing secure online and mobile banking for SACCOs
Improving customer service for agri-input retailers in India
Improving financial health for underserved South Africans
Platform for mobile money agents enabling e-float lending and DFS
Micro-lending and savings platform for female, informal traders
Providing simple, affordable insurance for Africa
Enabling free, interoperable + mobile cross-border money transfer
Customer communications and retention platform for traditional financial institutions
Providing affordable and flexible credit for Brazil's gig workers
Enabling micro-savings for low-income people in Brazil
Offering digital financial services for low-income populations in Brazil's favelas
Enabling USSD services for Andriod developers
Providing blockchain-based virtual banking for refugees in Rwanda
Providing a full stack Agri-Ecosystem platform for farmers in India
E-commerce and credit platform for informal retailers
Providing access to quick, mobile-based credit
Mobile app suite improving the financial health of small-scale fisheries in South Africa
Africa’s first 100% ‘built for mobile’ life insurance
Mobile lending for low-income families in Sri Lanka
Insurance broker offering affordable insurance solutions
Providing insurance, savings + credit to domestic workers in Mexico
AI, remote sensing data and alternative data for agri-lending
Onboarding, verification and KYC tool for developers
Providing a mobile micro-credit solution in India
SaaS tools for solar businesses in Africa
Helping financial institutions better manage risk
Smart cookstove solution offering affordable access to clean energy
Providing affordable crop insurance for smallholder farmers
Digital financial management platform offering alternative credit scoring
Increasing access to higher education via automated savings plans
6 out of 10 businesses close shop every 3 years due to poor financial management. Flex was built to change that. Flex Finance allows businesses to create a digital footprint and bring expenses and operations online, while receiving insights that help them make smarter spending decisions and over time, save on extra, unnecessary costs. Flex Finance is committed to enabling more SMEs and solo entrepreneurs to make it past their third year, so they can continue to provide the income and jobs that sustain the vast majority of Nigerians.
Their simple, accessible mobile platform allows SMEs and solo entrepreneurs to manage and track their daily business expenses and finances. With an intuitive UI, operating the app requires little-to-no financial knowledge.
In México, over 15 million families and communities lack access to basic services like electricity, hot water and potable water. Graviti connects customers and essential service providers to democratize access for underserved families in México, starting with affordable solar water heaters. With a lack of flexible financing options, customers are excluded from the mainstream financial system.
Graviti brings providers and customers together via a marketplace. Its control meter is pre-installed on solar water heaters by the manufacturer to monitor usage. Using alternative data points, Graviti also assigns an alternative credit score to users and is able to provide affordable financing for otherwise excluded individuals, allowing for pay-as-you-go and pay-to-own models. Customers can make payments using the app or conveniently in-store using Graviti’s barcodes.
In India, it is estimated that by 2021, over 15 million gig-workers will be linked to digital platforms. While the gig sector is growing, the financial services that these gig-workers can access have not kept pace. KarmaLife was built to change that landscape and to create tailored financial products and services that gig workers need and want. The platform is instant, affordable, interest-free and leverages data and payment behaviours of the workers to offer additional rewards and benefits.
KarmaLife offers real-time access to credit for gig workers, based on their payroll account, via partnerships with the digital platforms they work for. KarmaLife operates an interest-free subscription model in which the platform or the gig worker can pay a flat fee and access credit equalling up to one-third of their monthly income. The company analyzes alternative data points and payment behavior over time to unlock higher credit lines for the workers.
Only 10% of Méxicans have life insurance, and only 7% have private health insurance today. As an industry, insurance remains misunderstood and complicated for users. Mango Life was built out of the urgency to change the insurtech landscape in the country and the rest of the continent. With a simple, user-first approach, the startup has reduced the underwriting process time from 15 days to 5 minutes.
Mango Life offers life insurance, retirement insurance, education Insurance and hospital medical expenses insurance, and is the first fully digital life and health insurance broker in México. They work with insurance providers to offer tailored and unique solutions with digitized processes to protect families against external financial shocks.
In South Africa, at least 50% of workers take out an unsecured loan between their payout days, and only 1 out of 10 have cash left after paying bills. The debt to income ratio is at 72%. To bridge the gaps, people often turn to informal lenders who charge an average of 27% interest against a principal of R1000, and find themselves in a debt spiral.
Paymenow was designed to even cash flows throughout the month by enabling access to already earned wages at a flat fee. At no additional cost to the employers, employees are able to withdraw a percentage of their earned wages when they need to, and the amount is deducted from the final salary amount at the end of the month. The company also uses a gamified structure within the app to take the users through a financial education journey and encourage better spending and savings habits in a month.
Nigerians spend $7.7 billion out-of-pocket for healthcare every year. These out-of-pocket expenses persist due to the underfunded public healthcare system and because traditional insurance providers are expensive and do not meet the needs and demands of the country’s changing demographic.
Wellahealth offers affordable healthcare coverage and financing to protect families from the financial shock that comes from unexpected health emergencies. Their financing options begin at 450 Naira (USD $1.16) and offer flexibility in the duration of the plans while ranging from individual to family cover. Their core products include coverage for malaria, typhoid and other infection tests and treatments, telemedicine, as well as hospital cash for families impacted by COVID-19.
A rising number of young Nigerians have access to mobile phones and internet services. However, they lack access to financial planning products and an understanding of how to use them.
Current solutions serve a niche population (only 1%) in the country, leaving room for a huge market that is currently underserved. Cowrywise provides access to financial planning and education, smart savings and quality investment products, targeted toward Nigerian youth.
Cowrywise is a digital wealth management platform. It uses technology to make financial planning, smart savings and investment products affordable and accessible to the underserved in Nigeria. Its mission is to democratize access to wealth management services.
SACCOs, or savings and credit cooperatives, create financial safety nets for un- and underbanked populations in Africa, who are often excluded by traditional banks by providing affordable access to savings and credit. Kwara offers a secure online and mobile banking solution for SACCOs in Kenya.
Today SACCOs serve millions of financially underserved customers, yet they still rely on manual management information systems that limit their potential to grow. Kwara enables them to better serve their members, acquire more members and increase their own revenues. Members in turn benefit from increased convenience via a customer mobile app, transparency, peace of mind and more complete credit profiles.
Farmart is a customer service and engagement app for agri-input retailers in India, to help them better reach the farmers they serve and grow their businesses. Through their app, merchants can send updates to farmers about inventory, new products, crop advisory and end of season stock clearing discounts, as well as track and manage credit repayments. Long-term, the team aims to improve the efficiency of the agri-supply chain across the country.
The team’s mission is to make agri-business a respectable, profitable and preferred choice of profession for the next generation
Meerkat aims to improve financial health for underserved consumers in South Africa, with savings at the heart. They have developed simple financial solutions that help consumers gradually reduce their reliance on debt and improve their savings habits, via debt counseling, easily accessible savings tools and replacing their credit life insurance with the Meerkat solution.
Meerkat is looking to reach individuals in South Africa earning between R5k and R50k who are over-indebted or have previously relied on debt to fund day to day expenses, or who have previously been unable to access a savings account due to the fees and minimum amounts.
Pesakit is a platform for mobile money agents in Kenya, empowering them to borrow e-float and add revenue sources, while providing a new channel for digital financial services to reach low-income populations.
Mobile money agents represent the face of mobile money services around the world. Yet, they face challenges when it comes to liquidity and financial planning. Pesakit seeks to tackle the inherent supply-side challenges of mobile money and agency banking. Their platform eases an agent’s daily liquidity and operations pressures when it comes to both e-float and physical cash. They also provide access to additional revenue opportunities by enabling mobile agents to act as last-mile distributors for financial services on behalf of digital financial services providers.
Although they often have access to bank accounts, informal traders in South African townships have limited to no access to credit needed for their businesses. Access to wealth building savings and investment products is similarly limited as the nature of their businesses is not recognized by the formal banking system.
The result is a credit gap which Spoon Money helps to address. Spoon Money supports female informal traders by facilitating savings and providing credit to fund working capital. This enables traders to transition from precarious livelihoods to more stable and sustainable micro enterprises. By building a financial and credit history for these traders, this can facilitate greater inclusion and access to other relevant and value-adding financial products and services.
Launched in 2018, Turaco is an insurtech company offering simple and flexible insurance products to customers in Kenya and Uganda at extremely affordable monthly premiums, starting as low as $2/month. In addition to offering insurance direct to consumer, Turaco partners with other consumer-services businesses to reach a larger pool of potential customers and uses technology to distribute its products and verify claims. Its subscription model enables consumers to opt in for automated medical policy renewals which are bundled with their existing payments.
Turaco’s mission is to insure a billion people in 25 years, doubling the number of people insured in the world.
Chipper Cash is a mobile cross-border money transfer app. In Africa, due to high costs and interoperability issues, transferring money across borders is a major barrier for low-income populations who need to send money to family or business partners in other countries.
Chipper Cash offers a free, interoperable P2P transfer platform operating in 7 African countries (South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, and Nigeria).
Salutat was created to help traditional financial institutions and MFIs better serve and retain customers. It offered a customized and comprehensive communications platform to help the staff of financial institutions improve customer relationships and drive customer engagement, using NLP and advanced tech.
Zippi is Brazilian online lending startup who is rebuilding financial services in Latin America by establishing a neobank designed for the 30M+ gig and iWorkers in the region.
Zippi’s credit card and app help freelance workers to smooth their income and borrow as they need it, with rates adjusted according to their weekly income. The app enables them to track spending and expenses, so they can better manage their finances and plan ahead.
Grão is the first B2C micro-savings mobile app designed for low-income customers in Brazil. It offers an easy way to save and invest, enabling users to set goals, create a savings schedule and access better returns. Users commit to deposit an amount of savings into their Grão account, and Grão invests it in public bonds and other funds to generate interest. Grão also aims to serve customers who have never had access to formal savings channels through an offline cash-in channel.
Today 11 million people in Brazil live in favelas and are overlooked or under-served by traditional financial service providers. BancoMaré is a blockchain-powered digital financial services platform for low and moderate income consumers and small businesses in the favelas.
BancoMaré 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 Kioscos, or shops offering BancoMaré services. They make transactions leveraging their own cryptocurrency, Palafita, currently converted to Real at a 1 to 1 exchange rate. This approach secures payments in a high risk environment, eliminating the risks associated with carrying cash.
The team recently launched a pre-paid credit card for R$ 10,00 ($2.70) / month, which can be converted to mobile phone credit and can be used widely in shops and for purchases online. As well, they are enabling the digitization of small businesses via POS machines, which allow for cashless transactions and digitized accounting.
Hover’s Android API makes USSD-based services more affordable to illiterate and innumerate segments by enabling end-users to interact with financial and informational services via graphical user interfaces.
According to GSMA Intelligence, there will be 3.3B smartphones and 1B mobile money accounts in emerging markets by the end of 2020. A developer producing a fintech or other solution built on mobile money rails will take 6-18 months to integrate a single mobile money service with their app. Hover offers a technology solution that reduces the time to 1 hour for all mobile money services.
Hover’s proprietary and patent-pending technology enables developers to build mobile money featured even when no APIs exist. It is the only company focused on the intersection of mobile apps and mobile money, globally. Hover’s tech can be used as a lightweight version of the internet that could bring the next billion people online.
There are 65M refugees worldwide and 100M people living in crisis zones facing the risk of leaving their home countries without a safe way to transport their assets. Carrying multiple currencies in cash is risky as it attracts the attention of thieves and corrupted border guards.
Leaf is a virtual bank designed to help refugees transfer their assets across borders safely. It offers cross-border asset storage and transport via a mobile platform which enables the conversion of cash into virtual currency through blockchain technology while creating an economic identity.
Refugees deposit their money at a Leaf mobile money agent based in their home country. The company then converts the deposit into cryptocurrency for ease of transportation across countries. Once the refugees settle into a new country and have access to public ledger accounts, they can receive their assets in their mobile money wallet and convert them back to cash.
PayAgri is an agri-fintech startup that brings together key players in the Indian agriculture value chain to facilitate trade and funding flows. 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. Via PayAgri’s AVE platform, farmers are able to reduce input costs through collective bargaining, build their credit profiles, access affordable and timely funds and receive technical support from agri-experts to increase their yield.
In Africa’s cities alone there are more than 10 million informal shops selling over $180 billion worth of goods every year. These shops routinely stock out of products, have limited access to financial services and lack proper business management tools.
Sokowatch is revolutionizing access to essential goods and services for informal retailers in East Africa by enabling them to order inventory at any time via WhatsApp, SMS or mobile app, and receive free same-day delivery to their store, at below-market prices. Based on customer data, Sokowatch also offers merchants short-term credit to purchase additional inventory, enabling them to sell more.
The company aims to offer additional digital financial services, including health insurance, to further improve the financial health and financial resilience of these merchants.
African small business owners struggle with accessing capital to fuel their businesses’ growth, as loans are prohibitively small, representing a $130B credit gap. Africa’s only collateralized mobile fintech lender and Uganda’s first digital lender, Asaak offers African entrepreneurs and farmers access to quick, mobile- based credit. With an average loan size of $1,310, they provide SMEs with credit tailored to their unique needs.
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. The company plans to expand throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and emerging markets, offering a full suite of mobile financial services.
Abalobi, a fisher-driven mobile app suite, offers a “hook to cook” solution which gives small scale fishers in South Africa access to a fair market price for their daily catch, and the ability to accept digital payments. The mobile app suite and programmes include an electronic Catch Documentation and Traceability platform, a marketplace connecting fishers directly with local restaurants who can order their fish through the app and an integrated digital transactional system.
The team aims to launch additional financial services products that can further improve the financial health of the fishers they serve.
South Africa has a competitive yet highly inefficient life insurance industry, which has been unable to serve a number of South African consumers in the middle- and lower-income market due to its high price, complicated processes and inflexibility. MobiLife aims to improve the customer experience by bringing a number of market-first innovations into the South African insurance industry.
MobiLife is Africa’s first 100% ‘built for mobile’ life insurance, using the power of smartphones to bring effective and affordable insurance solutions to low-income consumers. It’s appropriately designed for underserved consumers, allowing them to skip premium payments whenever needed, without canceling their policy. In addition to life and health insurance, the team also offers estate insurance, and FoodSurance, which provides weekly grocery vouchers for families if a breadwinner should pass away.
Rukula offers small loans for household consumer durables and electronic items to Sri Lankan financially excluded communities to enhance their quality of life. The company scores customers using a proprietary credit scoring algorithm, which calculates a proxy for “stability.”
Based on this stability score, the company estimates the loan amount and repayment ability of each customer. Rukula makes the application process easy and accessible to low income customers by waiving the need for securities, guarantors or pay slips for seasonal professions.
ToGarantido acted as a broker that offered affordable health insurance and discounted health services for low-income families in Brazil through a tech platform that leveraged Artificial Intelligence and advanced data analytics. The firm provided a wide range of insurance products from eight different insurers, offering options and variety to users, and registration was entirely digital.
There are 3 million domestic workers in Mexico that currently lack access to financial services. Comunidad 4Uno is an online platform that provides tailored and market-based financial products to low-income and financially excluded domestic workers. Their service includes affordable insurance, savings and credit products and is currently distributed via employers of domestic workers.
Harvesting provides a software-as-a-service (SAAS) tool which allows stakeholders in the agricultural value chain to view, analyze and manage their agroclimatic business risk via precise data collection, data analysis and data reporting, while leveraging data points to better determine a farmer’s creditworthiness.
Harvesting processes diverse data sets, such as weather information and satellite imagery, and applies machine learning algorithms to provide and forecast accurate and dynamic information to agribusinesses and crop insurance companies.
The product offers innovative credit scoring for farmer financing, and continuous monitoring of farmlands to determine repayment risk on existing loans.
Smile Identity uses computer vision, machine learning, human review and local integrations to provide a complete KYC and user identification solution for emerging markets.
The fear of false identity has become a barrier to the development process for a majority of countries worldwide. To solve this issue, Smile Identity built a 3D selfie technology, SmartSelfie, that functions as an authentication tool for financial service providers and other businesses in emerging markets.
This tool is looking to replace password and digital fingerprint verification methods and can enable the democratization of access to finance and digital lending. Smile Identity intends to be the best KYC software biometric solution for mobile app developers that require scalable, flexible and user friendly customer authentication to protect identity and prevent fraud.
Flowigo provided SaaS services for inventory, customer review and other business management functions, to small African solar businesses in six African countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal. They deployed tools such as point-of-sale mobile apps, data dashboards, databases and integrations to enable these businesses better serve their customers. Flowigo was acquired in 2017.
Globally, 2.8 billion people do not have access to a reliable supply of modern energy for cooking. PayGo Energy offers a smart gas meter and distribution system that enables customers to access clean and efﬁcient fuel at a low price.
Major barriers to adopting LPG as the primary cooking source for low-income households include the high upfront cost of purchasing gas cookstoves, the required deposit to purchase a gas cylinder and high capital expense required to reﬁll an empty gas cylinder.
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 and trigger automatic refills via consistent providers through a smart metering system.
Natural disasters affect billions of people who lack insurance, causing underinvestment in productive activities and business. Farmers across the globe face the challenge of accessing affordable, custom-made insurance to protect against natural disasters.
Worldcover offers affordable micro crop insurance for smallholder farmers in Africa, protecting them against yield loss by using satellite imagery to monitor rainfall and effectively calculate risk. Their product is customized to farmers’ needs and encourages investors to “sell” insurance and make an unexpected return. WorldCover uses NOA satellite systems to monitor weather risks and trigger payments.
Crop insurance enables farmers to gain access to credit and services, invest in their most productive crops, stabilize cash flows even when there is drought and live without fear of financial shock.
Destacame is a digital financial management platform offering an alternative credit scoring system that gives low-income individuals in Chile and Mexico control over their data to build their financial capabilities and access financial products.
In Chile, Mexico, and throughout Latin America, many individuals do not have any reported information about their payment behavior and, for those that do, credit scoring is principally negative. Destacame solves this problem by aggregating and analyzing data from multiple existing sources, utilizing payment transactions, as well as geographic and socioeconomic information. Users can then access a variety of financial services, including credit, savings, insurance, bill payment and more.
The platform synthesizes the information and generates a score that an individual can use at their disposal. With users’ consent, Destacame can sell these scores to financial institutions, who are looking for better, faster and cheaper ways to extend credit and other financial products to the largely credit-invisible population.
ESCALA offered safe, automated savings plans to increase access to higher education for low- and middle-income families in Colombia. ESCALA customers also received benefits such as matching funds from their employers, savings and career advice and discounts at designated educational institutions. ESCALA was acquired in 2019.
"The Catalyst Fund team has shown us what can be possible. Thank you for the support, the strong work ethics, the selflessness and the candid views you shared with us. The experience has been incredibly value-adding and defines an important phase for us as a company."
“Catalyst Fund was a very clever solution, at the right time, and it resulted in a huge growth spurt for our business and follow-on investment.”
“Extracting insights from early data is fundamental to know you’re heading in the right direction. We were blind to our own gaps until we took a deep dive into our data with Catalyst Fund.”