Women’s World Banking is thrilled to announce the top four finalists of this year’s Fintech Innovation Challenge. The four finalists will compete for the Grand Prize in a live pitch event on May 25, 2023 in Mumbai, India, as part of the Making Finance Work for Women Summit.
This year, the Fintech Innovation Challenge attracted a truly global set of applications – 98 applications from 34 countries! From these 98 applications, our Advisory Committee sat down with 10 semifinalists in individual interviews to better understand their pitches, vision, business model, scale potential, financial viability, unique value proposition and more. Following this rigorous and thorough process, we selected the top four finalists to compete on stage in May!
Announcing the Four Finalists of the 2023 Fintech Innovation Challenge
GajiGesa (Female Founder’s Circle Participant), the largest employee benefits and productivity platform in Southeast Asia, seeks to empower low-income employees, especially women, to resolve financial stress through earned wage access and other add-on financial wellness services embedded in a holistic one stop solution for employees and employers.
Based in Mumbai, IndiaP2P (Female Founder’s Circle Participant) is a technology platform that is disrupting the credit market in India. It is committed to addressing the persistent biases that women seeking credit face by lowering the cost of capital and directly connecting individual investors to women microfinance and small business borrowers.
MeraBills (Female Founder’s Circle Participant) is a free-to-use gender-intelligent app designed to serve business management needs of women micro-entrepreneurs, providing software as a service for social impact. MeraBills works on a capacity-building led model of deployment that creates credible digital financial footprint and responsible ecosystem linkages for underserved women, who are often first-time users of technology.
Paycode’s groundbreaking technology combines biometric digital identity and affordable access to basic financial services to tackle the barriers of lack of identity, low connectivity and high cost. It brings financial inclusion and digital data to the unbanked last mile in Africa, with a strong focus on women.
All four finalists were chosen for their work developing innovative, groundbreaking solutions to accelerate effective usage of relevant digital financial services for low-income women. Each finalist offers a suite of impressive and diverse products, including an employee benefits and productivity platform offering earned wage access (GajiGesa), a P2P investment platform for microfinance and small business loans (IndiaP2P), secure payments via biometric identity validation (Paycode) and a business management app for women micro-entrepreneurs (MeraBills).
With applicants from three different countries from different regions around the world, including South Africa, India and Singapore, it tells us that there’s a real appetite for financial products designed specifically for women—and that this opportunity crosses borders and cultures.
Introducing The Female Founder’s Circle
And, with so many female founders in the Top Four— 75%! —it shows us that more women leaders are building products that specifically cater to the financial needs of women.
One inspiring story of a female founder’s dedication to improving the financial lives of women entrepreneurs in her country is finalist MeraBills.
MeraBills founder and CEO, Piya Bahadur, embarked on a 17,000-kilometer motorcycle expedition across India and the Southeast Asian peninsula. Engaging with the people who she met along the way, Piya was inspired by the resilience of the small business owners, especially the women entrepreneurs. Following her journey, she founded MeraBills, a business management app simple enough that even first-time technology users can leverage its features. MeraBills’ app is designed to enable her to make more money, run her business efficiently and sustain her business in the long run.
And so, to recognize the exceptional women in fintech who have overcome significant challenges to effectively lead a digital financial services innovation company, Women’s World Banking this year established the Female Founder’s Circle! Designed to help female founders gain the exposure they deserve and elevate their profile on a much wider scale using Women’s World Banking’s platform, the Female Founder’s Circle community also serves as an avenue for women founders to exchange ideas and experiences, helping them grow their organizations even further.
All semifinalists founded or co-founded was granted membership into this exclusive group. Of the 10 semifinalists this year, six* fintechs have joined the inaugural Female Founder’s Circle. See the full list below:
ARTH Digital: Shweta Aprameya (Founder)
GajiGesa: Martyna Malinowska (Co-Founder)
HAMWE East Africa: Stella Lugalambi (Founder & Managing Director)
IndiaP2P: Neha Juneja (Co-Founder & CEO)
MoneyMart Finance: Dr. Ethel Mupambwa (Founder & CEO)
MeraBills: Piya Bahadur (Founder & CEO)
More About the Fintech Innovation Challenge
We believe that fintechs are uniquely positioned to help close the digital financial services gap because they can provide products and services differently and can efficiently meet the needs of low-income women in ways that traditional financial services providers can’t or won’t. Additionally, digital financial services can serve as an on-ramp for low-income women to adopt and use a large suite of formal financial products and services, expanding women’s choices and their financial and economic resilience and empowerment. Low-income women represent a large, untapped market opportunity for digital financial services providers, especially for fintechs leveraging technology to close the gender gap in financial services.
And so, Women’s World Banking established the Fintech Innovation Challenge as a way to showcase later (Series A+) stage fintechs working to address the persistent challenges in serving the low-income women’s market. Our global competition advances solutions that accelerate effective usage of relevant and responsible digital financial services for low-income women including sending and receiving money, credit for women-led MSMEs, safety net products (savings, insurance and pensions) and beyond money (financial and digital capabilities).
Our aim is to provide a global platform, opportunities and resources for fintechs to grow their enterprise. The Fintech Innovation Challenge is a unique chance for fintechs to win mentorships, personalized UX design and investor consultations, membership to exclusive networks and priority access to fintech events attended by investors and partners around the world.
Thanks to the exposure and prizes the competition offered, previous winners have gone on to do exciting things. Past winners, Aflore, Pula Advisors, Tyme and myAgro, were given the exciting opportunity to compete in the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Global FinTech Hackcelerator during the Singapore FinTech Festival. Our 2019 Challenge winner, Pula Advisors, was selected as one of the three winners for their impactful, market-ready solution addressing a real industry need in three focus areas: financial inclusion, insurance and banking and finance.
The Fintech Innovation Challenge will culminate on May 25, 2023 with a pitch competition as part of the Making Finance Work for Women Summit in Mumbai, India, where the four finalists will compete for the Grand Prize. Finalists will deliver live pitches, followed by a Shark Tank-style engagement in front of our judging panel comprised of illustrious experts from financial services, technology, innovation and regulatory bodies.
The Grand Prize winner will be announced at the close of the Making Finance Work for Women Summit, and will receive priority access to key 2023 fintech-investor networking events powered by Elevandi, such as Point Zero Forum, Elevandi Connects and/or the Singapore Fintech Festival.
*Semifinalist Awaaz.De was co-founded by a woman, but this individual has since transitioned out of a full-time role.