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Risky business: how to de-risk your fintech startup before it’s too late

Posted By Akansha Kasera, Bankable Frontier Associates, Friday, April 6, 2018
Updated: Friday, April 6, 2018

By Maelis Carraro and Elizabeth Davidson

If you’re a fintech entrepreneur, it’s probably not news to you that failure is more likely than success. After all, an estimated 70% of tech startups fail, typically within the first two years after their first round of financing.

Catalyst Fund has been working with inclusive fintech startups, a field that presents unique challenges for entrepreneurs, over the past two years. In many countries, it is a sector that presents more regulatory constraints, limitations as to how companies can handle information, and stringent operational and capital requirements.

Different startups, common risk challenges

Despite working with a wide variety of fintech startups across different geographies and sectors, we have seen some themes emerge on the most common risks that can pose a threat to the success of the business at the early stage. All startups mention they lack the financial and human capital they need to grow their businesses. “Finding funding is a huge burden. The average startup CEO spends 70% of his time fundraising, which remains the number one challenge faced by local startups,” says Yoann Berno of Flowigo.

Finding people with the right skill sets who are willing to give up more secure job alternatives is also big barrier, yet fundamental to raising capital and ensuring smooth execution. “The biggest challenge is getting the team with the right skill set at first, especially when you’re a young company and don’t have a system or protocol for hiring and then you start growing rapidly,” says Destacame’s Jorge Camus. “It then gets challenging to manage the team, train them and really build a culture that allows you to get to your goals.”

Over 70% of our fintech entrepreneurs also noted that not getting to product-market fit is a major challenge they face. They felt they did not have a full understanding of their customers needs to build strong value propositions. Additionally, 40% mentioned they faced technology risks, including lack of accessible data to refine their products, and 33% pointed to specific ecosystem dynamics that might threaten their business ability to scale.

Want to mitigate risks? Start early!
Early identification of key risks can help fintech startups invest in the business support they need early on before a risk takes down the business. These risks can scare off investors, who want to ensure that entrepreneurs understand the key challenges they face. Instead of waiting for entrepreneurs to identify key risks, early stage investors can work with startups to tackle these risks before or in conjunction with their investment.

Catalyst Fund has taken just this approach. By working with our entrepreneurs to identify risks, we can tailor technical assistance to solve these risks so that investors are more confident in the future success of the business.

Taking an honest look at their own key risks can be difficult for entrepreneurs, who may be too deep in the weeds to step back and look at the bigger picture. This is why the Catalyst Fund developed a risk diagnostic to help startup leaders get a better grasp on their challenges, and understand those within or outside of their control. The tool offers a checklist of possible mitigation strategies for the entrepreneur. Here are a few strategies we applied through our technical assistance engagements:

Understand your customer to offer strong value propositions
For Miguel Duhalt at Comunidad 4uno, that meant better understanding what his customers valued most about its product in order to focus on high value customers and tailor their offering. When we first met 4Uno, a financial services distribution platform offering insurance, health benefits and payments services for domestic workers in Mexico, they struggled with picking the right product offering for the right customer segment. After working with them on customer research, we helped them segment their customer base to refine their product offering and marketing strategy. Since then, they tailored product packages for insurance to specific client profiles and also offer salary payment services via an app, which resulted in a growth spurt.

Figuring out the right way to engage with customers is also a challenge for entrepreneurs in these markets and a big risk to the company’s ability to take off. How can a mobile-based startup communicate its value proposition clearly and consistently with a rural customer base when only 50% own phones and only 20% are literate? WorldCover, a platform providing insurance to low-income farmers around the world, used a marketing MVP, or minimal viable product, composed of simple and clear images to cater to the illiterate majority of potential customers. They tested various solutions, from SMS systems to a “microphone man” going to communities to play a recorded message and frequent community meetings. Community meetings, with 95% attendance rates, allowed WorldCover to maintain a human touch with customers. Farmers trusted WorldCover more after more face-to-face interactions because “an impostor wouldn’t show up at your house every week after taking our premium money,” said WorldCover’s CEO, Chris Sheehan.

Build a product vision and roadmap that meets your business needs
On the other hand, PayGo, a pay-as-you-go gas solution in Kenya, realized they were struggling with technology risks. They needed to integrate with a scalable payments solution, track key gas system indicators, and find tools to measure, monitor, and run their field sales team and customer service, yet they did not have the tech skills in the team build the necessary back-end software technology. We worked on designing their product architecture and built a new version of the app they are still using today. “The architecture we built with Catalyst still holds,” says Nick Quintong, PayGo’s CEO. “It was fundamental for a team that doesn’t have software expertise to bring someone in to show us how it can be done with off-the-shelf software modules.” Without these key technology investments early on, PayGo would not be poised for the growth it’s enjoying today.

In Colombia, we helped Escala, a savings fund for corporate employees and their children, with similar challenges. Initially, technology was holding Escala back and preventing them from reaching more clients who could benefit from their services. We worked with Escala to identify and integrate the right tech processes to match their stage and helped them avoid spending important resources on expensive and unnecessary CRM tools. 


“We believe ESCALA Educación’s story proves that a model like CF is very valuable to get a company investment-ready.” 

Escala used their new tech structure to more successfully manage their two sets of clients — companies and their employees — and to raise a seed round, which included members of Catalyst Fund’s Investors Committee such as Accion Venture Lab. “We believe ESCALA Educación’s story proves that a model like CF is very valuable to get a company investment-ready,” said Tahira Dosani, co-managing director of Accion Venture Lab, at the SOCAP conference this year. “ESCALA combines a strong management team and exciting customer acquisition and engagement strategies” says Vikas Raj, co-managing director of Accion Venture Lab.

Get the timing right
Unfortunately, not all risks can be mitigated. For Flowigo CEO Yoann Berno, “timing is everything.” Flowigo, a SaaS company seeking to enhance operations of pay-as-you-go product distributors in Africa, faced timing risks that ultimately backfired. Its markets lacked the client density necessary from them to scale, and key infrastructure issues like connectivity posed an ongoing challenge. SaaS companies like Flowigo need dense networks of businesses to flourish, but in Africa, industries that count more than a few dozen major players are rare. Scaling a SaaS business while addressing 10 to 15 customers is a hard sell. Ultimately, Flowigo succumbed to the timing risk, deciding to pivot and wind down this line of business.

Overall, while not all risks are avoidable, you can’t avoid the risks you don’t know about or aren’t focused on. So for fintech startups and investors alike, identifying and mitigating risks early is key to success. To get started on identifying your fintech startup’s key risks and think of your mitigation plan, check out Catalyst Fund’s new risk diagnostic.

You can also check out De-risking your Fintech startup webinar where we go over the toolkit and risk assessment for Catalyst Fund companies here

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Tags:  Business  emerging markets  entrepreneurship  finance  impact investing  inclusive business  inclusive innovation  Incubation  Risk; Risk Assessment; ANDE Members  SGBs; Environment; accelerators; energy  social business  social enterprise  social entrepreneurship 

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AXiiS is closing the gap with 6 billion (USD) in assets under management ready for SMEs to access finance Today!

Posted By Hitzel Trejo, Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade, Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Updated: Thursday, April 13, 2017
https://youtu.be/I4QvUzUwkxQ

About AXiiS:

Unique in its industry, Access and eXchange impact investment for Sustainability (AXiiS), is populated with local Financial Advisors based on their grounded work in the field with agriculture and forestry SMEs in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, ensuring sustainable investment ready cases.

Selected SMEs are profiled based on criteria ensuring their investment-readiness, while collecting relevant data on investment in agriculture and forestry sectors. It showcases blind profiles of SMEs and Financial Service Providers to ensure security and to enhance the matchmaking process.

To join or find out more, visit: www.axiis.ca

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Tags:  A Access to Finance  apps4africa  asset finance  banking  capacity development  climate resilience  emerging markets  Environment  environmental impact  finance  Global. Development  India; ANDE members  Investors  Latin America  news  nicaragua  Performance Measurement  Rwanda  Scale  SDGs  SGBs; accelerators; East Africa  SGBs; Environment; accelerators; energy  smaholder farmers  small and growing agrobusiness  smallholder farmers  smes  social impact  supply chain  sustainability  sustainable development  Tanzania  Uganda 

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​Agora Partnerships Launches Application for 2017 Accelerator Cycle 2 Class

Posted By Elysa Neumann, Agora Partnerships, Thursday, March 9, 2017
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKRdMGQbY_Q&feature=youtu.be

 
Agora Partnerships has launched applications for its 2017 Accelerator program.
 
Through its flagship Accelerator program, Agora Partnerships strives to accelerate the shift to a sustainable economy by providing entrepreneurs who are intentionally building businesses that solve social and environmental challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean with the resources they need to grow. Since 2011, 125 companies working in 19 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have participated in the Agora Accelerator, raising USD $52MM in capital and creating over 5,000 jobs. This year, in solidarity with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Agora Partnerships is aligning our Accelerator tracks to advance the SDGs.
 
The Accelerator is a 4-month program designed to provide high-potential entrepreneurs with the knowledge, network and access to capital necessary to create system change, through in-depth, personalized, 1:1 consulting; access to the Agora Partnerships’network of mentors, investors, and capital opportunities; and a global community of peers.
 
Agora’s Accelerator program is designed for companies who are solving social and environmental challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean, matching the following criteria: 
 
  • early or growth stage, past proof-of-concept; 
  • currently looking for investment to scale; 
  • legally incorporated as a for-profit structure with basic accounting systems in place; 
  • average annual income of USD $50K to $2MM; and, 
  • with a clear, measurable and sustainable impact.
 
Agora Partnerships looks to work with entrepreneurs who embody the leadership qualities of agency, empathy, curiosity and perseverance.
 
To apply to Agora Partnerships’ 2017 Accelerator click here.
 
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Agora Partnerships is a network committed to leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs by finding innovative ways to drive more human, social, and financial capital to the leaders and ideas that will make our world a better place. To learn morevisit: AgoraPartnerships.org

Tags:  Acceleration  accelerators  Agriculture  Business  Caribbean  central america  energy  Entrepreneurship  Environment  impact  impact investing  impact investment  innovation  Latin America  nicaragua  SGBs; Environment; accelerators; energy  small and growing agrobusiness  social ent  social enterprise  social entrepreneurship  social impact  sustainability  talent  Women 

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ASSAM-BASED TAMUL PLATES RECEIVES FOLLOW-ON INVESTMENT FROM ARTHA INITIATIVE & UPAYA SOCIAL VENTURES

Posted By Upaya Social Ventures, Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tamul Plates Marketing Pvt. Ltd. is announcing today that the company has come to an agreement with Artha Initiative and Upaya Social Ventures (both ANDE members) on an investment that will allow Northeast India’s leading producer of palm leaf tableware to significantly expand its operations across the region.

 
The deal is notable as Tamul Plates is the only established producer of disposable tableware in the Northeast - a region with more than 100,000 hectares of arecanut under plantation and one of the poorest areas of the country. 
 
“This investment is a recognition that Tamul Plates is well positioned to meet the growing demand for high quality, environmentally responsible, and ethically produced products,” said Tamul Plates CEO Arindam Dasgupta. “Working in the Northeast, the company benefits from a unique combination of access to the highest quality raw materials and a producer base that takes great pride in its craftsmanship,” said Dasgupta.
 
Tamul Plates produces and markets high-quality, all-natural disposable plates and bowls made from arecanut (palm) tree leaves and sells them under the “Tambul Leaf Plates” brand. The company’s clientele includes a mix of restaurants, fast food establishments, event managers, and direct-to-consumer retailers.
 
This investment follows a recent agreement between Tamul Plates and the Government of Assam to supply the equipment for and train an extended network of affiliate rural producers. The investment by Artha and Upaya will allow the Barpeta-based company to make use of that expanded affiliate producer network by diversifying its product line, expanding its domestic sales and distribution networks, and opening export markets for its products.
 
“It has been a highlight of the Artha Venture Challenge to uncover a pioneering and innovative enterprise in Tamul Plates,” said Artha Initiative’s Director Audrey Selian.  “We are particularly happy to be co-investing with Upaya, and look forward to continued efforts in collaboration sector-wide through our AVC and ArthaPlatform.com programming,” said Selian. Artha Initiative is associated with Switzerland-based Rianta Capital Zurich.
 
Disposable arecanut dinnerware is hygienic, chemical-free, compostable, microwave safe - and in high demand among urban consumers around the world. The production and sale of natural arecanut dinnerware not only reduces the deforestation and pollution associated with the production of traditional disposable dishes, but also provides a viable livelihood to disadvantaged communities.
 
“Upaya has been very impressed by the work of Arindam and his team over the past year, and believe that the company’s growth plans will benefit both customers and producers alike,” said Upaya’s Director, Business Development Sreejith Nedumpully. “We are proud to join the Artha Initiative in backing this promising enterprise, and are exciting about the company’s potential,” said Nedumpully. Upaya was Tamul Plates’s first investor.
 
This co-investment in Tamul Plates is the first deal completed under the formalized collaboration framework between Artha and Upaya that was announced in November 2014. Per that agreement, the two organizations are working together to deploy seed capital to help SGBs scale and create employment for the poor, share best practices around sound financial management, and disseminate tools and training for the benefit of India's wider ecosystem.

 

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Tags:  early stage ecosystem  Entrepreneurship  entrepreneurship ecosystems  impact investing  India  India; ANDE members  Philanthropy  SGBs; Environment; accelerators; energy  supply chain 

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Village Capital - October 2013 Update

Posted By Lily Bowles, Village Capital, Saturday, October 26, 2013

 

Village Capital has made four new investments over the past month, is launching three new programs (in India, Kenya, and the Netherlands), and has secured support to expand the Frontier Market Scouts program. Read below for the details:

1.Village Capital has made four new investments after the close of our most recent programs in India and the US.

  • The "Tech for Impact” program in Ahmedabad,India, in partnership with CIIE at IIM-Ahmedabad, participating entrepreneurs selected iKure, which enables better last-mile health treatment through wireless monitoring devices, and Edsix, which provides quality education for the poor through an adaptive learning technology. Learn more about both enterprises in this recent Times of India article.
  • This summer’s program in Louisville, KY,marked the first formal pilot of our”Problem-Based Approach.”Instead of developing programs around industries or geographies, the VilCap team has found it most effective to organize programs around the actual problems enterprises are solving–in Louisville, we focused on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the agricultural supply chain. One outcome: the two peer-selected companies–Spensa Technologies, which cuts farmers’ pesticide usage through smart insect monitoring, and Solar Site Design, which makes it easy and inexpensive for any home or real estate owner to design and implement a solar project–are building great businesses generating real impact, even though they don’t self-label as "impact” enterprises. These companies were highlighted in a fun Forbes article:"Surprise! You’re a Social Entrepreneur.”

2.New programs launching inIndia, Kenya, and the Netherlands this fall–and you’re invited to come meet the enterprises (dates and locations below).

  • "Edupreneurs,”a program Village Capital is operating in partnership with the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, features 15 top ventures providing affordable BoP education solutions in India. Learn more about the program here; join usSaturday, October 26th in Delhi for our Customer Forum; or save the date for ourVenture Forum: November 23rdin Bangalore.
  • Village Capital-Netherlands, in partnership with Impact Hub-Amsterdam and DOEN Foundation, kicks off next week. Join Executive Director, Ross Baird, to learn more about the program and Frontier Market Scouts-Netherlands (DeBaak Institute), hosted atImpact Hub on October 31st.

3.Do you know anyone eager to get build a career in impact investing? We’re excited to announce that, with the support of Shell and the Hitachi Foundation, we’re expanding the Frontier Market Scouts program.

The Frontier Market Scouts program, which Village Capital co-founded with the Monterey Institute for International Studies and Sanghata Global, has been a leading entry point for professionals into the impact investing sector. Over the past three years, impact investors such as Invested Development, Unitus Seed Fund, and Accion, as well as enterprises in our portfolio and elsewhere have provided an on-ramp for aspiring professionals.

Thanks to Shell and the Hitachi Foundation, Village Capital has been able to expand the Frontier Market Scouts program globally. Starting with this January’s training, there will be three campuses (with more to come):

  • The Monterey Institute for International Studies
  • The Sorenson Center for Global Impact Investing(University of Utah)
  • De Baak Institute(Netherlands)

If you know someone interested in a career in impact investing, please encourage them to apply to the Scouts program by October 15th–link here.

That’s all for now – we hope to see you at one of our programs or events over the coming months, ANDE members and friends!

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Tags:  accelerators  ANDE Members  early stage ecosystem  emerging markets  Entrepreneurship  High-Growth Entrepreneurship  impact investing  mentoring  Mexico  SGBs; Environment; accelerators; energy  social business 

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Guardian Newspaper Interview with Peter Damian Mbama

Posted By Oluwatosin Kukoyi, RegCharles Finance and Capital Ltd, Friday, April 19, 2013
Hello all, 
Please find below the link to an interview conducted by Guardian Newspaper with Peter Damian Mbama (MD/CEO, RegCharles Finance and Capital Ltd) on the Control of Inflation and Determination of MPR.
 
http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=119205:determination-of-mpr-inflation-control-need-new-strategies-says-mbama&catid=31:business&Itemid=562
 
Happy Reading!

Tags:  accelerators  Access to Finance  Africa  Agriculture  ANDE Members  early stage ecosystem  East Africa  Entrepreneurship  Environment  Financial Times  Grants Rockefeller  impact investing  inclusive business  Incubation  Philanthropy  Philanthropy; impact investing  SGBs; Environment; accelerators; energy  Social entrepreneurship  supply chain  sustainability  Women  Youth 

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Cultivating Small Business and the Environment: Building on the work of New Ventures

Posted By Jenny Everett, Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cultivating Small Business and the Environment: Building on the work of New Ventures

Last month, I spoke at a World Resources Institute/New Ventures event to mark the launch of Voices of the Entrepreneurs, a new publication outlining both the challenges and solutions to the growth of environmental enterprises in emerging markets.
This report is a departure from WRI’s more traditional data-driven reports because it focuses on many of its successes and insights from working with entrepreneurs during the past 13 years. It also was a bit of a bittersweet moment because WRI has decided to conclude its role as the global coordinator of the six New Ventures affiliates, which will now continue as independent organizations.
As I reflected both on the work of New Ventures to date and the comments of panelists, I shared three thoughts with the group:

Read the full article: http://www.nextbillion.net/blogpost.aspx?blogid=3071

Tags:  SGBs; Environment; accelerators; energy 

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