Female-Founded Fintech Startups Dominate Catalyst Fund’s 2021 Cohort

By Jemima McEvoy Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Catalyst Fund has announced the eighth cohort of startups for its global accelerator program. The Inclusive Fintech Program is geared toward supporting inclusive technology innovators in emerging markets. By virtue of its mission, the accelerator’s cohorts always feature a diverse array of entrepreneurs and companies, but this year stands out for the high proportion of female-founded companies.

A woman standing in front of a chalkboard with a financial bar graph.

What Is Catalyst Fund?

Catalyst Fund is a global accelerator managed by BFA Global, which is a research, advisory, data analytics, and production innovation firm. The inclusive fintech program was launched in 2015 with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is financially sponsored by the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, with support from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, and JP Morgan Chase & Co.

The goal of the accelerator program, according to its website, is to support “underserved individuals and micro and small enterprises, and accelerate the local ecosystems around them.” Startups are nominated for the program by leading fintech and emerging market investors like Accion, Quona Capital, Anthemis, and BTV, which will then mentor and support that company through their journey with the Catalyst Fund.

Funding and Success

The accelerator program also provides fintech startups with funding, which can amount to up to $100,000 in flexible grant capital. In total, the Catalyst Fund has aided 37 different companies, according to TechCrunch. These companies have raised more than $122 million in funding since partaking in the accelerator program.

Due to its success in supporting fintech companies in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Mexico, and India, the startup incubator has secured more backing to continue with its operation. The UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and JPMorgan Chase & Co. funneled an additional $15 million in funding last year to help Catalyst Fund boost the number of companies it can support (the aim is 30 startups by 2022).

2021 Cohort

The 2021 cohort includes a total of six startups from Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. What’s particularly notable about this mix of companies is that most are mostly founded and run by women, who are still on the whole underrepresented in the fintech industry.

Among those picked is Koa, a Kenyan company that seeks to empower users through boosted financial control. Another Kenyan company receiving this investment is Lami, a startup that boosts access to insurance companies. Then from Nigeria, Indicina is a company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to ease lending, and Jetstream is a trade logistics company. Finally, out of South Africa, Kandau is a company building a platform for skilled home service professionals.

Final Takeaways

The Fintech Catalyst Fund is making a difference by funding entrepreneurs and companies that are often overlooked. What’s particularly wonderful about this year’s cohort is that it’s highlighting gender diversity as well as geographic diversity. Spotlighting and supporting a company with a female founder helps shift the grounds in a currently uneven playing field that stymies success for certain populations.

About the Author


Headshot for author Jemima McEvoy

Jemima is a journalist who enjoys reporting on business, particularly small business and entrepreneurship.

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