Fintech accelerator funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is investing in four African startups, bringing total to $1.2 million
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also known as the Gates Foundation, is the largest private foundation in the US, holding $38 billion in assets. The foundation is well-known for its work to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty, and expand educational opportunities and access to information technology all around the world. What many people may not know is that, the foundation also funded many technology accelerators. One of those accelerators is Digital Financial Services Lab (DFS Lab). DFS Lab accelerate fintech innovation in emerging markets.
DFS Lab is an early-stage accelerator 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, The Lab delivers mentorship and strategic advice to early-stage start-ups pioneering transformative technologies that empower the poorest, profitably and at scale. Today, DFS Lab announced it would invest $200,000 in four separate startups that are building financial service products for low-income and unbanked consumers in developing markets. Cherehani Africa (Kenya), NALA, (U.S.), Nobuntu, (South Africa), a fourth from Kenya, each received funding.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to invest in companies that are creating products that will improve, simplify, and enrich people’s lives,” said DFS Lab Director Dr. Jake Kendall. “Our current set of portfolio companies are using technology to create solutions for low-income and unbanked populations, providing high-impact advancement. We look forward to seeing these companies grow and encourage others to look at Africa and Asia for investment opportunities.”
DFS Lab seeks to identify promising entrepreneurs and invest in for-profit companies that focus on consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. In December 2017, finalists representing nine companies from six countries (Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Indonesia, Cameroon, France, 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 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 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.
Below are the startups DFS Lab is investing in:
- Cherehani Africa is leveraging mobile-based technology to provide credit and distribute personalized financial literacy content to women and adolescent girls who own micro-enterprises.
- NALA is building a Venmo-like interface to create a single, unified wallet for Tanzanian smartphone users.
- Nobuntu is a community-minded savings product designed to help South Africans prepare for their old age
- A fourth startup, still in “stealth mode,” that aims to be the most compliant digital lender in Kenya.
In addition to providing funding to early-stage startups, DFS Lab also 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. The accelerator is funded by a $4.8 million three year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the initiative is housedat Caribou Digital, a specialist in building inclusive digital economies.