WASHINGTON, D.C., October 27, 2021 – The Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) announced today the Inclusive Fintech 50 (IF50) competition’s 2021 cohort, recognizing 50 fintech startups that are leading the way in helping low-income customers and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic. IF50 is sponsored by Visa, MetLife Foundation, and Jersey Overseas Aid & Comic Relief, with support from Accion and IFC. The winners of this year’s competition join winners from previous years in representing a range of impactful ways in which fintech startups are helping vulnerable, underserved users improve their financial lives.
The 2021 winners were selected from a pool of 377 applicants, representing 77 countries, with Sub-Saharan Africa representing 44 percent of all candidates. The winning startups represent a range of product offerings, from credit solutions to payments providers and fintech infrastructure. An independent panel of 22 expert judges selected the fintechs through a rigorous process that evaluated their inclusivity, innovation, traction, and scale potential.
Participation in the competition provides startups with visibility and credibility among investors, as well as media and partnership exposure. Nineteen winners from the 2019 cohort have since raised a collective $182.5 million in investment.
IF50 winners will further benefit from introductions to investors, including the Catalyst Fund Circle of Investors, and exposure during CFI’s Financial Inclusion Week, November 1-4, 2021. Visa, an IF50 sponsor, will also provide winners access to Practical Business Skills, a global digital platform created by Visa to deliver free educational resources to help small and micro business owners make confident, informed decisions to run and grow their businesses. IF50 winners will also automatically pre-qualify for Visa Fintech Fast Track, a program that advances the process of integration with Visa and its network of partners, helping fintechs enhance and introduce new, innovative payment experiences. These tools, together with the networking and platform that IF50 provides, deliver invaluable opportunities for startups at the earliest stages of their journeys.
The IF50 application process revealed some key facts about how fintech startups have adapted to support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery.
Most applicants report a growth year despite difficult COVID lockdowns. This growth reflects growing confidence in the use of digital financial services, accelerated by a desire to limit social contact during the pandemic, as well as fintech startups’ ability to adapt to meet users’ needs.
The pandemic may have caused setbacks for some startups, requiring measures to support users such as extending credit tenures, providing grace periods, or even waiving fees. Even those that experienced setbacks, however, are now optimistic as they predict increased demand for their services.
The fintechs that raised investment funds this year reported larger deal sizes than those in the year previous.
Applications from women-led fintechs accounted for 27 percent of the pool but constituted 36 percent of the winners.
Full profiles of the fintechs can be viewed at www.inclusivefintech50.com/2021-cohort.