Women investing in the underbanked despite being underfunded

Advocacy for gender diversity continues. The advocacy drums are louder and louder every day. Twitter handles #mensupportingwomen, #metoo, #WeUniteWe and the 5th SDG dedicated to Gender equality, are just a few examples of campaigns. The Decade of Women was created as an action-focused campaign to support SDG5. Women investing in women is one not-for-profit campaign along those lines and All Raise.

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Source: All Raise

Techcrunch published recently the Q1 2018 global diversity investment report: Investing trends in female founders and showcased All Raise. Lots of statistics around funding of startups with females in the founding team or solo female founders. Looking at either dollars raised or number of deals. Checking seed deals which are leading indicators or later stage venture funding. Things look better if you look close enough and make an effort to pick one positive statistic for every disappointing one.

Here are some of my morning efforts:

 “$ invested in Q1 2018, into companies with at least one female founder were just 9% of venture dollars invested”

+  “$ invested in Q1 2018, were up 60% from $ invested in Q1 2017”

“$ invested in Q1 2018, invested in solo female founders were only 3% of venture dollars.

+   “Seed $ invested in Q1 2018, into companies with at least one female founder were 18% of all seed dollars, compared to 17% in Q1 2017”

Fintechs targeting the underbanked, led by female founders.

wobe Adrianna Tan is the co-founder of Wobe, out of Indonesia. Wobe ((pronounced ‘Woh-Bay’) offers to the Southeast Asian unbanked an to perform an e-wallet to make micropayments on their smartphones. The app also allows anyone to start a business by selling prepaid phone credit as well as electricity and water vouchers, a common practice in Southeast Asia.

Two years ago Wobe won the regional Southeast Asia Her Startup competition in Indonesia and then the Her Startup Global Finals Competition in California. As a result, Tim Draper who was a judge at the event, decided to invest $100,000 in the company’s seed round. Also, The Singaporean Wavemaker Partners fund had also participated in earlier funding rounds and was instrumental in introducing Wobe across the Draper Network (more details).

Total funding: $1mil Seed round

WalaTricia Martinez is the co-founder of Wala, the financial app for the unbanked starting out in South Africa. With already 1 million users in the community that has grown organically, they offer a free remittance service, a no-fee service to buy airtime and internet data in over 10 countries, bot support, no-fee bill payments. Recently, Wala also launched its token, DALA, that is essentially tokenizing rewards for using the already free or no-fee Wala services. Dala ICO raised $1.2mil. Wala’s seed investment was from Newton Partners last fall.

Total funding: $1.2mil ICO, Seed + Newton partners undisclosed.

BitpesaWe all know about Bitpesa out of Kenya, already 4 yrs old, focused on using Bitcoin/Blockchain for cross border payments (FX and B2B). With offices now in  Lagos, Dakar and London. Elizabeth Rossiello is the CEO is continuously reminding us of the primitive state of banking in Africa, with horror stories of millions of bank transfers for trade being lost for a week, or local banks requiring $6,500 escrow payment to issue a credit card with $5,000 limit.

Total funding: $10mil

Source of funding figures = Crunchbase.

These are all real fintechs that have communities, apps that are fully operational, a solid addressable market, but seem to have as much backing as they deserve.

Efi Pylarinou is a Fintech thought-leader, consultant and investor. 

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