Fintech-focused Catalyst Fund planning further expansion after launch of digital commerce programme

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The fintech-focused Catalyst Fund accelerator is planning on expanding into more new verticals after launching a digital commerce programme in Ghana.

Disrupt Africa reported last month Catalyst Fund had partnered the Mastercard Foundation and MEST to launch its Inclusive Digital Accelerator programme in Ghana, the first expansion of its flagship inclusive fintech programme.

Catalyst Fund, which is managed by BFA Global, said the Inclusive Digital Commerce Accelerator was aimed at scaling digital commerce companies in Ghana, and managing director Maelis Carraro told the latest episode of Disrupt Podcast it had plans to launch further new programmes in the future.

“There are a couple of things we are working on right now to continue to expand in other sectors. We are seeing, for example, great opportunities in the climate space, to work on climate resilience for the most vulnerable, for example smallholder farmers or small fisher communities. And there are many others, the opportunity is limitless in this sense. Health would be another one that we would be interested in, where embedded fintech can be a force for good,” she said.

Explaining the rationale for the expansion, Carraro said the fintech sector had in recent times become more of an enabler, rather than a vertical. 

“It has touched multiple industries where non-financial companies also embed financial products to enhance their value offering. This is really transforming the financial industry at its core, and also creating new opportunities to impact underserved populations,” she said.

Launched in 2015 to accelerate early-stage inclusive fintech startups across emerging markets, Catalyst Fund aims to fill capital, support and talent gaps that would typically limit a startup’s growth in the early stages. It has worked with almost 40 startups so far, 90 per cent of which are still in business. 

“We are dedicated to filling that gap in the early phases where entrepreneurs don’t have enough capital to really test their product and build their teams, and on the other hand investors want to see that proof point so they can make a commercial investment. So we really wanted to bridge that valley of death, as we say, in the early phases of the entrepreneur’s journey,” Carraro said.

Carraro said the accelerator was different from other programmes, in that it really was “pro-entrepreneur”. Having been through several programmes herself as an entrepreneur, Carraro said she had found that most were not tailored enough. Catalyst Fund, however, does not have a “cookie cutter model”, and provides flexible capital that companies can spend however they like, combining that with very bespoke support from experts in various fields at BFA Global.

“It is super tailored, and super intense because we become extensions of the startup teams,” she said.

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The latest episode of Disrupt Podcast is available now, featuring in-depth interviews with Carraro as well as reOS co-founder Craig Buckley.

You can listen on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and all other podcasting platforms.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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