BOSTON and WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Accion today announced two new investments made through Venture Lab, its $10-million seed-capital initiative to invest in and support innovative start-up companies that help expand global financial inclusion for the world's poor.
Both companies are focused on developing new technologies that promise pioneering developments in mobile money, microinsurance and delivery models for the poor. The new additions to its portfolio are:
- Kopo Kopo, the world's first mobile money merchant services platform. Kopo Kopo makes it easier for small businesses to accept mobile money from customers to purchase goods and services. It is based in Nairobi, Kenya, with operations in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
- MeraDoctor, which helps low-income Indian families more easily access and afford healthcare – often the largest financial burden its clients shoulder. MeraDoctor's unique "health-plus-finance" model combines 24-hour advice from top-quality doctors with health insurance and discounts on tests and medicines to prevent poverty-inducing health shocks right from the first symptom. It is based in India.
"Kopo Kopo leverages and expands upon the market-disrupting success of M-PESA – a mobile money transfer platform used by over 70 percent of Kenyans," said Paul Breloff, managing director of Venture Lab. "The company allows merchants to accept M-PESA payments from customers, and it's developing a suite of analytical tools and additional services aimed at spurring the growth of their small business merchants."
Breloff continued: "Inadequate health care and catastrophic health emergencies are among the top causes of poverty in India – and among low-income people globally. MeraDoctor uses innovative processes and technology to combine 24-hour access to doctors with over 800 medical partners and low-cost insurance coverage, creating a high-value service with the potential to help millions of families across India avoid falling into poverty."
"Today, 2.5 billion people live in poverty and lack access to basic financial services," said Michael Schlein, president and CEO of Accion. "Funding innovative start-up companies serving people at the base of the economic pyramid is critical to helping them improve their lives. It's just one piece of the puzzle, but businesses like these bring services, technology and financial knowledge to those who need it most – and that is impact worth investing in."
Accion launched Venture Lab in April 2012 to support innovative young companies often considered "pre-investable" – that is, with a product or service ready to test the market but without significant revenue. Venture Lab provides either convertible debt or equity, typically in the range of US $100,000–$500,000, and provides support in areas such as strategy, financial modeling, fundraising, business development and human resources. Since its launch, Venture Lab has invested in seven companies in India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico and the U.S.
Venture Lab complements Accion's other impact-investment initiative, Frontier Investments Group, which focuses on more established but similarly disruptive companies with demonstrated revenue traction. Both investment vehicles are part of Accion's ongoing efforts to explore innovative business models to radically improve the efficiency and enhance the quality of financial-service delivery to the un- and under-banked.
Accion is a global nonprofit dedicated to creating a financially inclusive world where people have the financial tools they need to improve their lives. We are building the next generation of top-tier microfinance institutions, accelerating start-up companies that serve the poor through our impact-investing initiatives, and helping to create a strong industry with high standards. Over more than 50 years, Accion has helped create 63 microfinance institutions in 32 countries on four continents that today reach millions of clients. The Accion U.S. Network is the largest microfinance network in the United States and has served hundreds of thousands of clients with loans and support. For further information, visit www.accion.org.