Circle of Corporate Innovators launches to create startup-corporate partnerships

Nairobi-based tech accelerator the Catalyst Fund, managed by BFA Global, announced the launch of its Circle of Corporate Innovators on 15 June 2021.

The Circle of Corporate Innovators is a global network of organisations, including major banks, telecommunications companies and logistics providers, that share Catalyst Fund’s goal of developing inclusive tech. A key element of the offering is to facilitate startup-corporate partnerships to help startups reach scale while providing market leaders with access to up-to-date data.

Symbiotic startup-corporate partnerships

“Corporate leaders have a significant role to play in facilitating the growth of inclusive tech in our markets. They bring a deep understanding of the market and its nuances, as well as a wide user base with whom they’ve already built trust. These industry leaders, however, stand to benefit from the agility, innovation, and flexibility offered by startup solutions, which can enable them to provide more value to their customers and accelerate their journey towards digital innovation,” said Maelis Carraro, Managing Director of Catalyst Fund. 

Fidelity Bank, Ecobank, Sterling Bank, Access Bank and the VFD Group are among the first to join the Circle

The network seeks to enhance its capacity to source, assess, test and deliver innovations to customers in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, SA, Mexico and India.

Pioneer members include Fidelity Bank, Ecobank, Sterling Bank, Access Bank and the VFD Group and startups receive bespoke support, including:

  • Access to vetted, de-risked startup partners from the Catalyst Fund portfolio
  • Global technology industry landscaping
  • Innovation strategy development
  • Custom toolkits to help strengthen and streamline startup partnership processes
  • Deep dive startup partnership workshops with Catalyst Fund experts in products including digital lending and eKYC, and customer segments including MSMEs and gig workers. 
  • Knowledge sharing roundtables with other leading global corporate innovators 
  • Support in developing effective, de-risked partnerships with Catalyst Fund startups 

“The goal of the Circle of Corporate Innovators is to actively facilitate and de-risk these partnerships, equipping both innovators and startups with the tools and expert support they need to better discover technical and commercial synergies while sharing learnings and insights with the wider industry. We’re excited to welcome strong innovators like Fidelity Bank, Ecobank, Sterling Bank, Access Bank, and the VFD Group as pioneer members of the Circle.”

Successful partnerships are reaping benefits for both sides. Unilever and Catalyst Fund portfolio company Sokowatch in East Africa partnered to reach millions of new consumers through Sokowatch’s network of informal retailers. Bamba is working with BBVA to deliver bank accounts and other financial products to 8000 domestic workers in Mexico. Mobilife’s partnership with Standard Bank SA  has allowed for over 7000 life insurance claims to be processed.

“As a proprietary investment firm with a very significant commitment to improving financial services delivery across Africa, partnering with Catalyst Fund is an opportunity to accelerate our vision of reaching the last mile with practical and empowering solutions. We are excited by the sheer possibilities that lay ahead,” said Gbenga Omolokun, Executive Director Group Risk, Compliance & Technology at VFD Group Plc.

“At Ecobank, innovation is a growth engine and at the heart of everything we do. We are committed to building and working with the entrepreneurship ecosystem across Africa to drive this innovation. The partnership with Catalyst Fund is a major step in building a framework for a productive engagement with startups and other key stakeholders to make this a success”, said Nvalaye Kourouma, Chief Digital Officer at Ecobank. 

Catalyst Fund offers members of its Circle diagnostic workshops, facilitates partnerships with portfolio companies and gives advice on partnership strategies.

Catalyst Fund’s focus on ecosystem acceleration programmes include a Circle of Investors with over 80 global members. Interested partners operating in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, SA, Mexico and India are welcome to contact the team to explore collaboration opportunities.

For more information, contact Thea Sokolowski, Head of Marketing and Communications for the Catalyst Fund.

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Featured image: Christina @ via Unsplash


Lauren Daniels, Editor


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