Scott Anderson

Accion’s Venture Lab: Open Ideas, Open for Business

Like any shrewd investor, the Accion Venture Lab of course wants to maximize success. But based on my meeting with Paul Breloff, managing director of the newly created initiative, gaining knowledge to leverage what truly works in market inclusion is just as important – even if that means a false start or two.

Breloff, the former vice president of Business Development and Strategy at SKS Microfinance in India, provided me with a run-down on the Venture Labs’ mission and modus operandi during the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs annual conference late last month. (Our video discussion can be found below).

Launched in April, the US $10 million seed-stage initiative is focused on for-profit enterprises with new products or business models that expand the range of high-quality financial services for people at the base of the pyramid. For now, businesses in India and East Africa are the focus. The typical investment will range between US $100,000-$300,000, and most will take the form of convertible debt or equity.

The Venture Lab is looking at mobile financial services or business models built on m-payment platforms, credit assessment, peer-to-peer networks or social media platforms that enable financial access, pay-as-you-go types of models for micro-leasing, or rent-to-own and micro-savings/payments/insurance products tailored for the BoP.

Potential investment companies should be past the R&D stage, but need not be profitable. The other prerequisite for investment the enterprise must have a full-time entrepreneur or a team in place, with a market or near-market ready prototype or pilot.

financial inclusion, microfinance