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Catalyst Fund Announces New $15 Million USD

Catalyst Fund
Photo from twitter.com/CF_BFA

Catalyst Fund, managed by BFA Global and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), today announced a new £12 million GBP ($15 million USD) commitment from UK aid and J.P. Morgan to advance financial inclusion for underserved people across the world. Over the next three years, the inclusive fintech accelerator will support the growth of 30 additional startups across five key emerging markets for fintech innovation: Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India, and Mexico.

The announcement is taking place alongside the UK-Africa Investment Summit, which is being hosted by the Prime Minister and brings together businesses, governments and international institutions to showcase and promote the breadth and quality of investment opportunities across Africa. In addition to its expansion, Catalyst Fund is announcing its latest cohort of inclusive fintech startups, including:

  • Pesakit – Kenya-based app for mobile money agents
  • Kwara – Kenya-based online and mobile banking platform for Savings + Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs)
  • Cowrywise – savings and investment tool targeted toward Nigerian youth
  • Meerkat – South Africa-based debt counseling and savings product
  • Farmart – India-based digital credit platform for farmers
  • Spoon – South Africa-based savings and credit offering for women-owned, subsistence enterprises

“We’re thrilled to enter the next phase of this journey, building on lessons learned over the last four years, to position ourselves as the best partners for innovators building affordable, accessible and appropriate solutions designed to improve the financial health of underserved populations in emerging markets,” said Catalyst Fund Director Maelis Carraro. “The additional support from UK aid and continued support from J.P. Morgan will enable us to deepen our local footprints and ecosystem development role in each of our key markets, as well as welcome new partners that can support our mission.”

£12 million GBP ($15 million USD) expansion

Despite marked progress on reducing poverty over the past decades, nearly half of the world’s population lives on less than $5.50 a day. With the additional investment from UK aid and J.P. Morgan, Catalyst Fund will support the development, growth and reach of 30 new fintech solutions to boost financial inclusion for an additional 1 million underserved people in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India and Mexico.

Catalyst Fund is focusing on these markets because of their vibrant fintech industries which house a significant number of early-stage startups across Africa, Latin America and Asia, and the need to address critical challenges faced by local underserved consumers.

This new commitment will enable the program to apply lessons learned from accelerating startups in emerging markets over the past four years and focus on:

  • Providing critical pre-seed capital and bespoke venture building support;
  • Broadening the pool of investors who receive 1:1 connections with Catalyst Fund companies;
  • Accelerating the innovation ecosystems in each market to improve startups’ access to capital, corporate partnerships and talent; and
  • Sharing best practices toolkits, learnings and insights with the global fintech community to spur innovation across markets.

“With the support of UK aid, Catalyst Fund is connecting more fintech start-ups in emerging African markets with expertise and investment from the UK and around the world,” said UK Minister for Africa Andrew Stephenson. “This innovative work is crucial to changing the lives of people around the world by providing access to basic services like pensions, lending and health care. The UK-Africa Investment Summit will create more partnerships that will boost investment, jobs and growth to benefit both people and businesses across Africa and the UK.”

The new support from UK aid, in addition to the continued support from J.P. Morgan and fiscal sponsor Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, will enable Catalyst Fund to build on learnings and insights from the organizations’ home markets in London and New York.

“Financial inclusion is the cornerstone of resilient communities and households,” said Carol Lake, Head of International Markets Philanthropy, J.P. Morgan. “At J.P. Morgan, as part of our $125 million global commitment to financial health, we are supporting the development and growth of innovative fintech solutions that can help underserved people across the world save, reduce their debt and improve their lives.”

A history of impact

Catalyst Fund was created in 2016 with support from J.P. Morgan and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to support entrepreneurs building solutions that improve the financial health of underserved communities.

To date, Catalyst Fund has accelerated 25 fintech startups, who have so far raised over 10x the amount of grant capital they received and are serving over 1.2 million customers globally. Based on learnings so far, in the next phase Catalyst Fund will focus more on businesses who are building solutions that go beyond financial access and inclusion, to improve the overall financial health of underserved consumers.

Early-stage fintech companies across all emerging markets struggle to raise the capital and access the talent they need to test their solutions in-market. Catalyst Fund’s approach has demonstrated that a combination of flexible grant capital, tailored venture building support and curated introductions to investors leads to better growth outcomes for startups designing solutions for the underserved.

“Catalyst Fund is itself an innovative example of collaboration across sectors and assets,” said Melissa Berman, President & CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. “We are proud to be a part of an initiative that combines mentoring from impact investors, grant capital from committed donors and advisory services from expert consulting firm BFA Global.”