Impact Investing Highlights 2019

Dec 16, 2019 · 5 min read

2019 was a productive year for the FINCA Ventures portfolio. We invested in two new companies (hopefully three if we can sneak in one more before year-end), MDaaS Global (our first investment in the health sector) and East Africa Fruits, and participated in follow-on funding for three of our portfolio companies: Amped Innovation, Good Nature Agro and Sanivation.

It was also a pivotal year for many of our investees as they experienced growth spurts — whether expanding into new markets or product types, harnessing outside talent for advisory support, leveraging technology to scale efficiently, or evolving business models to better capture market opportunity, our entrepreneurs have been keeping busy!

With the reflective spirit upon us, we wanted to highlight some lesser known facts about what each of our portfolio companies have been up to in 2019 to showcase the great work that they are doing (often under the radar) to innovate, grow and scale.

Amped Innovation: Energizing for 2020

Amped announced the close of its Series A raise in October to further develop a new generation of highly efficient DC appliances, focusing on televisions, cold-chain, water pumping and diesel generator replacement solutions that are affordable to low-income segments. While we know we promised “under the radar” updates above (and a splashy Series A announcement isn’t exactly that), Amped is the first company in which FINCA Ventures participated in both the Seed and Series A rounds, and we couldn’t be more proud of all the hard work that the Amped team has put in to reach this milestone, keep the business churning and enter into this critical new chapter of their business.

East Africa Fruits: Heightening Growth Prospects through Value Chains

What’s often lost in the numbers focused on aggressive sales growth and expansion is where all that money is going. In 2019, East Africa Fruits purchased over $1M worth of produce from its smallholder farmer supplier base. This puts money directly into the hands of growers to better support their farms and their livelihoods. The company’s impressive sales growth in Q4 2019 was supported by a needed capital injection (through a convertible note investment from FINCA Ventures and a flexible working capital loan from MCE) that helped to facilitate operational enhancements, including the buildout of a truck fleet to move produce more efficiently from rural farmers across Tanzania to vendors in Dar es Salaam, the nation’s commercial hub.

Eneza Education: Thinking Outside the Box

Eneza is wrapping up 2019 serving nearly 700,000 monthly subscribers, however, the company’s new CEO, Wambura Kimunyu, doesn’t want to stop there. To acquire more students and increase engagement, Wambura and the team have been running experiments and iterating to build Eneza’s presence. This includes the recent “Shupavu291” (the name of Eneza’s e-learning product in Kenya) national quiz competition for primary schools (Class 4–8) registered with the Ministry of Science, Education and Technology. Over 14,500 schools and roughly 49,000 students participated in the program, with the top five students winning KES 10,000 (~USD 100) each and one term worth of free access to Shupavu291, and the top school in each county winning KES 100,000 (~USD 1,000). It’s this kind of out-of-the-box thinking to engage students and teachers that will keep Eneza growing for years to come.

Benson (left) and Naomi (right) using Smallholdr, a mobile phone app leveraged by Good Nature Agro for farmer training and production tracking. Photo Credit: Alison Wright

Good Nature Agro: Mechanizing for Growth

Good Nature Agro (GNA) used 2019 to position itself for scale, more than doubling its revenue for the fourth-straight year. Through the commissioning of its new seed processing equipment (the first fully-mechanized seed processing line in Eastern Zambia!) to clean, grade, treat and package five tons of seed per hour, GNA has automated its processes to support operational rigor and fill orders more efficiently. Additionally, GNA utilized technology to systemize its outgrower network. It rolled out the Smallholdr app to customize training and financing packages for its farmers and to better track crop production. And, thanks to a partnership with FINCA Zambia and the utilization of MNO infrastructure, GNA began piloting digital financial services with its smallholder network to bring farmers into the financial fold. These new tools and systems are built for scale and will underpin GNA’s continued aggressive growth.

Ignitia: Professionalizing for Scale

This past year has been busy for Ignitia. The company’s tropical weather forecasting service launched in Nigeria, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, attracting over 135,000 users in Nigeria alone during the first five months of operating. This expansion helped Ignitia surpass the 1 million subscriber mark. As Ignitia’s operations scaled, there was an inflection point in which the team brought in two seasoned third-party experts to join their board (including a former leader at TechnoServe and McKinsey & Company). Sometimes, it’s not the sexy stuff, but rather the more fundamental components — like a healthy governance structure — that matter most when taking your company from point A to point B. It takes a lot of courage for entrepreneurs to bring in outsiders to help mature their vision, and the two new board members have already been instrumental in helping to build out Ignitia’s growth strategy, scouting for partnership opportunities and ensuring Ignitia adheres to good governance practices.

MDaaS Global: Starting a Chain Reaction

As the first BeaconHealth Diagnostics center in Ibadan, Nigeria continues to grow, serving roughly 2,000 patients quarter-over-quarter, MDaaS started to buildout a chain of diagnostic centers with the opening of its second center in Ilorin in November, and a third center in Osogbo on the near horizon. This growth is significant, not only testing the team’s ability to manage multiple centers at once, but also — and more importantly — enabling thousands more patients to access to affordable diagnostic services each quarter. With this accelerated growth comes the need to continue to monitor customer satisfaction at the clinic level, and MDaaS started working with FINCA International’s research team in Q3 to redesign a digital patient satisfaction survey to do just that!

Sanivation: Partnering for Expansion

Just over a year ago, the Sanivation team cut the ribbon on their first municipal-scale treatment facility in Naivasha, Kenya and performed data validation to get the treatment plant fully up and running by Q3 2019. To keep this momentum going, Sanivation partnered with Stantec, a global leader in wastewater treatment and fecal sludge management, to design the first cost-effective city-wide fecal sludge treatment plant in Kenya, with construction beginning in 2020. These types of partnerships, combining Sanivation’s operational chops with circular economy models and experience working on-the-ground with local water service providers, with the strong track record of a leading design firm, will help Sanivation offer sanitation services at scale to municipalities across the region.

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