Working as a tech magazine, I meet many people with big, world-changing ideas. But despite the exaggeration, when I ask how they’re going to achieve their goals—or really if they’re already underway, who they’ve helped—the Zoom call often turns out to be really cool.
So when I meet someone who is making the lives of some of the most disadvantaged people in the world a better place, and they are using technology to do so, I get wildly excited.
This week I had the privilege of speaking with Michael Schlein, President and CEO of Axion.
Accion is a global non-profit organization committed to building a financially inclusive world. As Schlein explained, “We are dedicated to enabling the 3 billion people who have been left out of the financial sector – or poorly served – to improve their lives.”
Axion has been around for over 60 years with a legacy in microfinance and fintech impact investing. In other words, they invest in companies and services that provide financial services, particularly those that may be bankless, and unable to access micro-credit, or insurance. Accion offers a plethora of services including sponsoring two venture investment funds in Africa and a think tank on financial inclusion.
Serving and Uplifting Underprivileged Communities with Fintech
Crucially, Schlein explained, investment companies not only serve disadvantaged and minority communities but represent them at the local level.
It’s encouraging. According to Harvard Business Review, in 2019, 2.8% of funding went to women-led startups; In 2020, that fell to 2.3%, data from Crunchbase shows.
Worse, the figure of 2.8% was an all-time high. Again, within this funding, traditionally black and Latino women or those without university degrees go even less.
According to Schlein, Axion is often the first funder of financial companies helping the poor, after family and friends.
Schlein shared that the company’s investments in women-led financial services have an impact on the flow where women invest in women-led businesses, creating profits and good financial health.
This benefits not only them and their families but their wider communities.
A great example of a non-service business is Now Money. The company helps provide payroll services to employers of migrant laborers in the United Arab Emirates.
Instead of simply distributing cash cards, Now Money provides workers with a bank account, debit card and smartphone application. These allow them to make local payments, international remittances and cash withdrawals from local ATMs.
COVID-19 digitizes critical services at the forefront
The pandemic set off a perfect storm for the rapid acceleration of digital transformation. Many companies focused on remote healthcare. But Accion saw the disparity experienced by poorly accessed services like business credit and insurance.
Many mainstream providers are reluctant to serve the poor, making it difficult for people to achieve financial security. This created an opportunity for fintech startups and investors to make a difference.
Fintech platforms can help small businesses pivot
Covid-19 also created the need for a new business model. An example of this is GoodFind, an app and financial services platform in the US that helps people start and grow profitable food trucks.
Food trucks are much cheaper to launch than brick-and-mortar restaurants. This makes them attractive to people outside traditional hospitality. They represent all genders and ethnicities and do not require a university degree or fluent English.
COVID saw many restaurants limit their seating areas, giving many trucks an opportunity to expand their business. But the people driving the food trucks also need to be on top to keep themselves safe. They also need to tailor their trucks to the audience living at home.
Hence, GoodFind helps customers find food trucks through an app. In return, businesses can use the platform to find employees and acquire the necessary financial knowledge and tools to thrive. very quiet.
Maybe you’re the founder or CEO of a fintech startup that wants to create products that will fundamentally change the finance sector? Accion can provide a myriad of ways to create and deliver services that are not only beneficial but can also be highly profitable.
This is an incredibly exciting area of business where out-of-the-box ideas, good intentions and great technology can merge to create great things.
Do you know Michael Schlein, President and CEO? Acion, speaking at the TNW convention this summer? View full list of speakers Here,