13 June 2017

back to overview

Success Breeds Success

The Technical Assistance Facility of the SANAD Fund for MSMEs, which supports small businesses and low-income households in the Middle East and North Africa, landed in Amman, Jordan in May to host its initial Fincluders Startup Challenge. The facility had no previous experience with this concept for identifying promising startups and ideas for spreading financial inclusion, but the first Fincluders event had already proven highly successful when it was introduced in late 2017 in Berlin by SANAD’s sister impact investor, the European Fund for Southeast Europe.

Finance in Motion advises both funds, and the lessons the leading impact asset manager learned in Berlin provided integral expertise when it came to preparing for the Amman event, which would feature a day of mentoring followed by a day of pitching business plans and concepts to an expert jury. Interest abounded on the news about the first Fincluders Challenge in the Middle East and North Africa, forcing the facility to winnow scores of entrants to 15 finalists. This select group received transportation to and accommodations in the Jordanian capital, where startup managers would meet experts from the financial and business world and vie for tens of thousands of dollars in cash prizes.

One goal for Fincluders was to connect successful startups and promising ideas with capital, so organizers invited major players from the region to take a look at the fledgling companies. The facility worked closely with Oasis500 a strategic partner for the event and Amman’s leading seed investor and business accelerator in the tech and creative industries. Finalists also had a chance to mix and mingle with representatives from Jordanian sponsors Silicon Badia and Dash Ventures, and leading venture capital firms Wamda Capital, Abu Dhabi; MEVP, Lebanon; BECO, United Arab Emirates; and Raed Ventures, Saudi Arabia. Additionally, finalists received mentoring at the Innovation Campus of Jordanian telecoms innovator Zain, another Fincluders sponsor.

After swapping ideas and experiences with mentors, finalists moved to Columbia University’s Global Center in the Jordanian capital to pitch their businesses to a jury of industry experts. The diversity of Fincluders entrants was echoed in the wide range of sectors the finalists serve and the variety of winning concepts, which focus on agriculture, small business financing, insurance, and land purchasing.

Ghana’s AgroCenta won first place and the corresponding cash prize of USD 20,000 for its online trade hub connecting farmers and buyers, real-time payments with mobile money technologies, and an on-demand logistics service. Jordan’s own liwwa secured second place and a cash award of USD 10,000 as the country’s first marketplace lender for small and medium enterprises, which aligns its business with the mission of the SANAD Fund. Third place and USD 5,000 went to United Arab Emirates-based Democrance, a micro-insurance provider for low-income populations. Ghanaian fintech BenBen earned honorable mention for its innovative solution to provide fast, easy access to blockchain-secured land transactions.

SANAD will continue to pursue avenues for promoting financial inclusion in the region and remain vigilant when it comes to ideas that can advance this goal.