Two Nigerian startups, WellaHealth and Flex Finance, are among the seventh cohort of Catalyst Fund—a global inclusive-fintech accelerator.
The other startups in the cohort are Mango Life and Graviti from Mexico, Paymenow from South Africa, and KarmaLife from India. Each of the six startups will receive an equity-free grant of £80,000 (~$100,000).
Also, over the next six months, the selected startups would have access to expert support, investors, and innovators that can help them to scale.
Catalyst Fund was launched in 2016 and it is managed by BFA Global. Headquartered in Kenya and the United States, BFA Global is a 14-year-old consulting firm. It provides research, advisory and data analytics services. BFA Global has offices in Lagos, Johannesburg, Paris, Madrid, New Dehli, Mexico City and Medellin.
(BFA Global is currently hiring for the role of Country Manager in Ghana).
As a global inclusive fintech accelerator, Catalyst Fund aims to advance financial inclusion for the underserved population. In 2018, it received $15 million from UK aid and JPMorgan Chase & Co. As a result, Catalyst Fund expanded its scope.
Now, Catalyst Fund aims to support 30 startups from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India, and Mexico over the next three years (2018—2021).
In January 2020, six startups from those countries joined Catalyst Fund. Cowrywise (Nigeria), Pesakit and Kwara (Kenya), Meerkat and Spoon (South Africa), and Farmart (India). It is noteworthy that Cowrywise is the first Nigerian startup to join the global inclusive-fintech accelerator.
Meanwhile, unlike previous cohorts which had thoroughbred fintechs, the seventh cohort is a miscellany. For instance, WellaHealth is a healthtech startup and Mango Life is an insurtech startup.
Catalyst Fund said its Investor Advisory Committee (IAC) handpicked the startups in the seventh cohort. The IAC members include Anthemis, Quona Capital, 500 Capital, 500 Startups, Flourish Ventures, Accion Venture Lab and Gray Ghost Ventures.
Yemi Olulana, Founder and CEO of Flex Finance, revealed to TechCabal that Accion nominated his startup. In October 2019, Yemi had won $100,000 at an event organised by Accion.
Answering why the seventh cohort is a mixed bag, more specifically, Catalyst said: "We are focusing more on businesses building solutions that go beyond financial access and inclusion. We are focusing on solutions that improve the overall financial health of underserved consumers".
The Director of Catalyst Fund, Maelis Carraro, said, "We believe we are facing a catalytic moment during which there is an opportunity to use technology to help low-income consumers and small businesses recover from the impact of COVID-19 and build greater financial resilience for the future".
She continued, "If we support the right companies now – from those finding new ways to provide affordable health and life insurance, tools that can digitize micro and small businesses and provide new income opportunities, and to those that can enable affordable access to essential services – these innovations can grow to play a critical role in improving financial health globally".
According to a BFA Global survey, up to 80% of people are uncertain about their financial wellbeing. The survey was conducted among vulnerable populations in eight global markets.
Meet the six startups in the seventh cohort of Catalyst Fund
With the seventh cohort, Catalyst Fund has supported 31 startups from across the world. It brags that its portfolio companies collectively serve two million people and micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises in underserved communities.
On average, according to Catalyst Fund, startups that participate in its accelerator programme raise 10x of the equity-free grant they receive in follow-on investment. Cumulatively, since completing the programme, Catalyst Fund portfolio has received $63.2 million follow-on funding.
Catalyst Fund is supported by JPMorgan Chase, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Department of International Development, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.
The seventh cohort of the global inclusive-fintech accelerator includes four fintechs, one healthtech, and one insurtech startup.
1. Flex Finance
Flex Finance is a budget and expense management platform. It enables small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to manage and track their expenses. Business owners with little or no financial knowledge can also use the platform.
Founded in August 2019, Flex Finance has received $100,000 pre-seed funding from Accion Ventures Lab. In April 2020, Flex Finance released its Android app. As of press time, the app has a record of 1,000+ downloads.
Yemi Olulana is the founder and CEO of Flex Finance. "We are committed to enabling more SMEs to make it past their third birthday", Flex Finance profile reads. "Using our inbuilt AI, business owners receive insights that help them stop waste, save money, and make smarter spending decisions".
Graviti is a Mexican startup focused on providing access to basic services.
Founded in 2019, Graviti has received $500,000 seed funding from 500 Startups, GBM Ventures and Toushka Capital. Its co-founders are Yusef Jacobs Kuri (CEO) and Miguel Calderón (CTO).
"We’ve created a marketplace that enables us to sell solar water heaters or purification systems with financing", the co-founders said. "This enables low-income families to pay for these products in cash through weekly instalments".
Graviti's mission is to make sure every Mexican family can meet their basic needs like electricity and potable water through sustainable technologies.
OnionLife Private Limited, an Indian company, powers the KarmaLife platform. It uses artificial intelligence to provide financial solutions to blue-collar (or gig) workers with fluctuating cash flows. KarmaLife co-founders are Rohit Rathi and Naveen Budda.
4. Mango Life
Mango Life is a Mexican startup providing life, health, retirement and education insurance. Its co-founders are Maik Schaefer (CEO) and Francisco Reyes (CMO/CTO).
Mango Life participated in the 2019 Startupbootcamp programme. It has also closed two rounds of investment. First in July 2018 and, in May 2019, it received $300,000 from Manuel Rivero, CEO of Banregio.
"We are now raising a Series A round of $6 million to get our insurer license", Shaefer said. "This will enable us to launch our products, apply superior pricing intelligence and run it on a connectivity-based IT platform".
Paymenow is a South African financial wellness and inclusion platform. It enables employees to have early access to already earned wages. Its co-founders are former rugby players Bryan Habana and Deon Nobrega. They played for the South African national rugby union team (AKA Springboks).
Earlier this month, Paymenow received $231,000 seed investment from Viamedia.
According to its website, Paymenow integrates with the employer’s payroll system to enable employees to cash out a percentage of their earnings. Any amount they take before their payday will be deducted from their salary.
"Our vision is to initially ease the burden inflicted by payday and microlenders through affordable, real-time, access to cash", the website states. "And then educate and assist [South Africans] in reaching [their] financial goals".
WellaHealth is a Nigerian healthtech startup providing affordable healthcare plans. It provides micro-insurance for malaria, typhoid, and Lassa fever. And it recently added a cash plan that helps subscribers to pay their hospital bills up to ₦100,000, and accidental death cover up to ₦80,000.
Both the malaria plan and cash plan can be accessed with as low as ₦700 per month.
WellaHealth was founded by Ikepme Neto in 2017. It has participated in Techstars and Google for Startups Accelerator. The startup has also received $120,000 pre-seed funding.