New fintech fund targets emerging markets

New fintech fund targets emerging markets

Anthemis Group's Udayan Goyal has teamed up with private equity veteran Matteo Stefanel in a bid to raise $250 million for a growth fund targeting fintech startups in the developing world. Finextra spoke to Goyal about the fund.

The Apis fund will focus on technology-led startups working in areas such as remittances, payments systems and microlending in Africa and Asia.

The venture will pool Stefanel's experience in emerging markets through his background as a senior partner at private equity firm Abraaj Group with Goyal's expertise in fintech, gathered as a founder of Anthemis Group, which has invested in the likes of Simple, Fidor and eToro.

Explaining the new fund, Goyal tells Finextra that over the last three years he has seen companies in frontier markets that are "really interesting and really challenging the way we think about financial services".

However, most of these firms are looking not for the early stage investment in which Anthemis specialises, but larger sums. "And so it became very clear there was an opportunity to pursue that in these markets and deploy capital," says Goyal. Which is where Stefanel, who spent five years at Dubai-based Abraaj working in emerging markets, comes in.

Goyal says that the fund will shy away from "balance sheet-heavy" areas such as banks and insurance companies, instead focussing on distribution - remittances, payments systems, card platforms, microlending and consumer finance.

There are two core aspects to Apis, says Goyal. The first is to help spread financial inclusion throughout Africa and Asia through innovative technology. The second is to get in on the ground floor at firms that could also make their way to developed markets.

He argues that because emerging markets don't have the established infrastructure - for example branch networks - that is seen in the west, more imaginative ideas win through.

Says Goyal: "As a result of a lot of really interesting business models being built in these [emerging] markets, there's something called reverse innovation going on. Which is that those business models that are being developed in those emerging markets, in those frontier markets, are now coming back to the developed markets."

He cites Grameen Bank, the microfinance giant set up in Bangladesh by Muhammad Yunus, which is now underwriting loans in the US, and mPesa, which has dipped its toe in Europe by launching in Romania.

"So you're developing technology in these frontier markets, you're bringing them back now to the developed markets. And that's a trend, that's a cornerstone of the fund because we see a lot of those trends starting to happen," says Goyal.

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