Digital Financial Services Lab (DFS), an early-stage incubator that supports high potential entrepreneurs refine, grow and launch FinTech businesses in developing countries, has announced that it will be investing a total of $250,000 in four fintech startups that are building products that help low-income consumers in developing markets.
DFS Lab is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and has invested more than $600,000 in 8 startups since its launch in 2015.
Earlier this year, finalists representing nine companies from six countries (Canada, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Kenya, and the United States) went through an intensive one week boot camp 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.
Among the companies to receive the investment are two Kenyan fintech startups, Pezesha and Pula, Ghana-based Inclusive and US-based Teller.
Here’s a short profile of each startup:
Pezesha is a African peer-to-business microlending marketplace. The startup uses analytics to match lenders with creditworthy low-income micro businesses, thus giving small businesses access to credit while generating strong returns to lenders.
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.
Inclusive is an API that verifies financial identities across Africa. Financial institutions across Africa can plug Inclusive’s API into their digital channels to achieve seamless user on-boarding, 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. Interestingly, the API works on all types of phones, even feature phones.
Teller is an artificial intelligence banking assistant that allows customers to communicate with banks through their favorite messaging platforms (SMS, Messenger, WhatsApp) 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.
“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.”