Earlier this year, we welcomed Jasiel Martin-Odoom to the Accion Venture Lab team as Africa Investment Officer. Jasiel leads our investments in innovative inclusive fintech solutions in African markets and supports our portfolio companies in the region to scale their growth and impact further.
Prior to joining Accion, Jasiel was the Senior Investment Associate at Unreasonable Collective, a pledge fund focused on channeling diverse capital and support to Series A climate-tech companies. He has also provided fundraising and strategic support to over 100 growth-stage founders in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Jasiel shares his background and what excites him about where inclusive fintech is headed in Africa:
Tell us about yourself. What led you to impact investing?
I am Ghanaian, born and raised, but I have spent the last decade and some studying, living, and working in New York, London, and Europe. I live in Accra today, but I consider myself a bit of a global citizen. Impact investing caught my attention in graduate school as a way to leverage money as a vehicle to solve real problems while also incentivizing founders, stakeholders, and investors to remain committed to the mission of the founders’ company, with the potential for outsized returns as they grow.
What drew you to join the Accion Venture Lab team?
The biggest thing that sold me on the Accion Venture Lab team was the palpable commitment to backing founders who are building impactful companies around the world. I spoke to everyone on the team prior to joining and their depth of knowledge in our sector and passion for the potential of the work we do convinced me that this was the place I belonged.
What excites you most about where inclusive fintech is headed in Africa? What trends and innovations are you seeing in the region?
I get most excited by two themes: financial services access for informal workers and digitizing supply chains. In Africa, the informal sector employs over 70 percent of people and most industries where these workers find themselves are predominantly offline and cash based. There is a real opportunity to build a business supporting the informal sector, like our portfolio company, Khazna, whose smartphone app connects Egyptians in the informal economy to a variety of financial services, including loans, savings, and insurance. In Nigeria and Kenya, our portfolio company Field Intelligence is also leveraging tech to improve healthcare supply chains by helping small community pharmacies to manage their supply chains. The potential in this market is huge, and the trends I am seeing in the region confirm to me that we are just beginning to scratch the surface.
Another innovation that continues to evolve is decentralized finance (DeFi), and I’m interested to see whether or not DeFi technologies have the potential to drive financial inclusion in Africa. Accessing USD debt capital can get expensive for fintechs in Africa as foreign exchange (forex) rules and capital controls can be prohibitive. The illiquid forex markets and current hyperinflation environments combine to make it difficult for micro, small, and medium enterprises to access foreign capital needed for working capital. Crypto and DeFi technologies could be useful in solving this issue of illiquid forex markets. This is just one potential use case, but there are several interesting ways decentralization could potentially drive financial inclusion in Africa. I’m keeping my eye on how crypto regulations and startups evolve to resolve liquidity issues. My colleague Matt Schaar is exploring this topic more in the new season of Venture Lab’s Fintech for the People podcast.
What is your vision for the future of Venture Lab in the region?
My vision for the future of Venture Lab in the region is to expand our presence and impact on the continent as one of the leading fintech investors and backers of innovation. Finding and investing in the best deals – both in primary markets like Lagos and Nairobi and in emerging markets like francophone Africa and Ghana – will be important for us to achieve this. We can get there by building a founder-friendly practice that is committed to the success of our portfolio companies.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work, I’m active on Twitter sharing insights on the founder journey, African tech, and gender-lens investing. When I am not tweeting, I dance Kizomba and play tennis a couple of times a week.