Inclusive fintech startups are finding new ways to reach the three billion people who are left out or poorly served by the global financial system—often in ways that established companies and multilateral organizations can’t. In recent years, these startups’ innovations have protected millions of people with insurance for the first time; helped millions of consumers and businesses make quick, safe, digital payments; and pioneered ways to lend tens of millions to small businesses and their customers.
Today, these startups are leveraging their on-the-ground experience and adaptability to build financial resilience among vulnerable populations. For example, fintech startups in Accion Venture Lab’s portfolio are doing the following:
- Apollo Agriculture uses an innovative, tech-based business model to help Kenya’s smallholder farmers maximize their crop with a bundle of financing, farming products, optimized advice, and insurance. Apollo saw need for their products increase while the pandemic upended normal business conditions. Apollo continued providing high-quality farm products and financing, supporting farmers as they sustain their communities’ vital food supply.
- Toffee Insurance has successfully reached India’s uninsured by offering simple, specific policies covering risks that are most relevant to consumers, like dengue, malaria, bicycle damage, and theft. In response to COVID-19, Toffee answered a surge of need by introducing new products to help underinsured people build financial resilience and handle unexpected emergencies that may arise in the future.
- Pintek aims to democratize access to education in Indonesia through affordable and flexible credit for schools and students. Pintek partnered with an edtech platform to help Indonesian schools develop their online learning capabilities during the pandemic. Pintek is also in active conversations with their customers, sending out surveys to understand their needs and how the company can assist.
- Field Intelligence uses a combination of data-driven supply chain management software and delivery services to supply community pharmacies in Kenya and Nigeria with the right products at the right time. These pharmacies play a critical role in communities’ well-being by providing people with medicine, vitamins, and other essentials, but they face common business problems related to inventory, cashflow, and unpredictable demand—all problems that Field seeks to address.
Even before COVID-19, early-stage fintech startups faced numerous challenges to secure the capital and connections they need to grow their businesses and impact. That’s why, last year, we partnered with MetLife Foundation, Visa, IFC, and MIX to launch Inclusive Fintech 50, an initiative that identifies and elevates inclusive, early-stage fintech startups through a competitive process led by an independent panel of judges.
The initiative offers valuable visibility and credibility for the most promising inclusive fintech startups seeking to reach underserved markets—and the potential to direct needed capital their way and boost their impact. Inclusive Fintech 50 brings together selected fintechs with leading investors while also developing industry insights from aggregated and anonymized applicant data.
Inclusive fintech startups face even more challenges today
Today, these efforts to identify and elevate the most promising inclusive fintech startups can offer valuable support in a very challenging time. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed investment in fintech startups worldwide, and many early-stage companies are finding it difficult to access the capital, networks, and knowledge they need to grow and thrive. At the same time, investors, donors, and incubators needs market-level insights to inform their investment decisions.
Alongside our initial partners – and new partners BlackRock and Jersey Overseas Aid & Comic Relief’s Branching Out program – we’ve now launched the second year of the Inclusive Fintech 50. Now in the last week of receiving applications, Inclusive Fintech 50’s selection process again takes place through a competitive process led by an independent judging panel of experts from venture capital, technology, and financial services firms.
Selected fintechs will benefit from increased visibility, as well as the opportunity to connect with peers and position themselves for investment through connections to investors. Two of the selected fintechs will also receive cash prizes of USD 25,000 based on the judging panel’s assessment of their work to build financial resilience among low-income households and small businesses.
Elevating inclusive fintechs today can ensure they continue to find new ways to deepen the financial resilience of vulnerable communities around the world. Applications for the Inclusive Fintech 50 close on July 10. Interested startups can learn more and apply here.