Accion, a non profit that supports microfinance institutions globally recently announced the launch of Venture Lab, an initiative dedicated to providing seed capital and management support to financial inclusion startups worldwide with a geographic focus of South Asia, East Africa and Latin America. The $10 million program will seek out companies that have completed research and development and are at the pilot/first-revenue stage. Investments will typically be in the range of US $100,000-$300,000, invested either as convertible debt or equity. The Lab will be headed by Paul Breloff out of Accion's Washington, D.C. offices, with staff to be based in East Africa and India. YourStory spoke to Paul to learn more about the startup fund.Are you looking to invest this year in India?
We are actively looking to invest and hope to make several investments this year. While we don’t have any particular targets with respect to India, we are quite excited about a number of opportunities there and there’s a good chance we would make an investment there before the end of the year. We are also actively recruiting a representative to be based in India, likely Bangalore.
What kind of startups would you be looking at ( stage , geography, sector ) ?
We will be looking for startups showing signs of breakthrough innovation in financial inclusion. We’re particularly excited about companies working on concepts related to mobile and branchless banking, credit underwriting and analytics innovations, social media-based financial services, and other models of solving financing constraints associated with energy, water and access to other basic needs. We will invest at a seed stage, post-R&D but often before the enterprise has proven the concept and generated significant revenue. We will remain geographically opportunistic but focus significant energy working with companies in India and East Africa.
Other than funding how will the initiative support investees?
We plan to adopt a “more than money” approach, and be hands-on with our investments to maximize the chance of their success. On any given day the exact nature of this support might vary, but we believe we can add particular value with relationships, financing, strategy, and access to networks for funding, talent, and business leads. We also plan to actively leverage the global Accion network, technical expertise in areas like technology, credit scoring, and risk management, and decades of financial inclusion experience to help our investee enterprises.
To find out more about the Venture Lab click here.