According to a written statement, global microfinance institution Accion, has launched Venture Lab, a $10 million program dedicated to providing seed capital and management support to financial inclusion start-ups worldwide.
The initiative will seek out companies (20 investments over the next three years) that have completed research and development and are at the pilot/first-revenue stage. Investments will typically be in the range of US $100k-$300k, invested either as convertible debt or equity.
Seeking approximately, Venture Lab will focus on the following areas:
– Mobile financial services: Mobile phone-based financial services or business models built on branchless banking platforms, delivering services that include savings accounts, remittances, credit, and micro-insurance.
– Credit underwriting/delivery: Specialized credit assessment or delivery models to finance not only microenterprises, but also housing, education, SME, and energy initiatives.
– Internet and social media: Online or social media platforms for enabling financial access (e.g., peer-to-peer lending and social media-based financial services).
– Embedded financial services: Pay-as-you-go or lease-to-own energy products, modular housing and other ‘embedded’ financial-service models.
– New technology for BOP finance: Taking advantage of cloud computing, SaaS, Internet access, handhelds/tablets to improve the reach, cost, or quality of financial services to underserved customers, including customer relationship management, field force management, marketing/customer education, and analytics.
Geographically, Venture Lab’s mandate is global with preliminary research has focused largely companies in East Africa and South Asia. In the coming months, Latin America will also be a focal point.
The Lab will be directed by Paul Breloff out of Accion’s Washington, D.C. offices, with staff to be based in East Africa and India.