Digital Financial Services Lab (DFS Lab) today announced it would invest $250,000 in four separate fintech startups that are building products that help low-income consumers in developing markets. Inclusive (based in Ghana), Pula (based in Kenya), Pezesha, (based in Kenya), and Teller, (based in the United States), were each selected for financing after presenting their products at DFS Lab's Fintech BootCamp in Sri Lanka earlier this year.
DFS Lab, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, seeks to identify promising entrepreneurs and invest in companies that focus on consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
"We are excited to have the opportunity to invest in companies that are focusing on consumers in emerging markets," said DFS Director Dr. Jake Kendall. "Expanding access to digital financial services - especially for unbanked populations - can transform people's lives by providing them with money management tools that most of us take for granted. The companies we are investing in are creating cutting edge solutions that enable the delivery of financial services to low income people around the world -- we look forward to working with them."
Earlier this year, finalists representing nine companies from six countries (Canada, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Kenya, and the United States) went through an intensive 1-week bootcamp program to refine their solutions and present them to DFS Lab's board of experts in Negombo, Sri Lanka. In addition to financing, the companies selected receive six months of intensive mentorship and integration into a global network of top experts who have agreed to advise them.
DFS Lab is investing in the following companies:
Inclusive: Inclusive, based in Ghana, is an API that verifies financial identities across Africa -- even customers using non-smart phones. Financial institutions across Africa can plug Inclusive's API into their digital channels to achieve seamless user onboarding, eliminate redundant identity checks, access quality and secured data sources, and improve fraud detection and investigation all while providing the highest level of security. The most innovative aspect of Inclusive's approach is their goal to reach the lowest income populations, some of whom don't even have formal ID.
Pula: Pula is an insurance intermediary that implements data driven agricultural insurance. Pula assists hundreds of thousands of small-scale farmers across 6 countries in Africa. Farmers are able to safeguard their crops and invest in their farms through financial tools that take advantage of the rising use of mobile technology.
Pezesha: Pezesha, based in Kenya, is Africa's peer-to-business microlending marketplace, using analytics to match lenders with creditworthy low income micro businesses. The platform gives small business access to credit while generating strong returns to lenders.
Teller: Teller, based in the United States, is an artificial intelligence banking assistant that allows customers to communicate with banks through their favorite messaging platforms without needing to download a new app. Teller's chatbot can answer hundreds of financial questions, as well as provide advice on saving, budgeting, improving one's credit score, investing, and retirement. It also helps banks to automate the simple, repetitive questions that they receive, providing timely customer service.
Digital Financial Services Innovation Lab (DFS Lab) is an early-stage incubator that supports high potential entrepreneurs refine, grow and launch FinTech businesses in developing countries. Focused on empowering communities in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, DFS Lab delivers mentorship and strategic advice to early-stage start-ups pioneering transformative technologies that empower the poorest, profitably and at scale.
It gives entrepreneurs access to extensive networks and relevant, world class advice on how to build successful ventures that change the way low-income consumers interact with digital financial services. Funded by a $4.8 million three year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the initiative is housed at Caribou Digital, a specialist in building inclusive digital economies.