Planting Seeds for a More Resilient Future

June 7, 2024
Pula’s Rose Goslinga meets with farmers in Kenya. Pula’s Rose Goslinga meets with farmers in Kenya. Photo courtesy: Pula

Interview with Rose Goslinga, President and Co-Founder of Pula

By Devon Maylie, IFC Communications.

Rose Goslinga didn’t start out thinking she would run a business — but today, she is the co-founder and president of Pula, an agricultural insurance and technology company that designs and delivers insurance and digital products to help smallholder farmers in Africa and other emerging markets to manage risks and boost their income. Since its inception in 2015, IFC-investee Pula has partnered with over 70 insurance companies, 20 reinsurance companies, and 100 distribution partners across the globe to reach more than 15 million farmers.

Agriculture insurance provides farmers with financial protection against production losses caused by natural events, such as drought, excessive rainfall, pests and diseases. In this interview, Goslinga discusses the seed that led her to launch her business, leading a team to thrive, and increasing startup funding for women founders. 

  • 90+
    insurance and reinsurance companies Pula partnered with
  • 100
    distribution partners added globally
  • 15 million +
    farmers reached

Question: How did you start your entrepreneurial journey?

Rose: I come from a family of missionaries and doctors. I remember when I told my father I wanted to study economics, his response was: “You want to make money?” But I’ve always been interested in finance, and in my first job as an economics fellow in Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture, all my pet projects were about how to get banks to lend to agriculture. At some point my boss said, “You know Rose, it’s great to do finance but we can never really do agriculture finance without insurance.” That planted a seed for me.

Question: What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

Rose: I started the first agriculture insurance pilot in Rwanda. After that, I started the insurance program for the foundation of the Swiss agribusiness Syngenta, growing their project from 185 to 185,000 farmers. Working on these projects made me realize that I was passionate about this and wanted to reach even more farmers.

When I started Pula in 2015, my co-founder and I didn’t have money and we didn’t raise any money for the first three years. We were really focused on what the business model would be and how the business would make money long-term.

It’s been a lot of twists and turns. Startup life is a rollercoaster, but last year Pula insured six million farmers in 2023 alone, bringing our number to 15 million farmers since we started.

Question: What has Pula achieved that you are most proud of?

Rose: Our company has a unique model. I think that is what I’m most proud of. Agriculture insurance in developing markets has struggled. The textbooks have usually failed. So, we needed to write our own textbooks, so to speak.

For example, we develop insurance for smallholder farmers, but we do not sell directly to farmers.  We develop insurance products, but we do not take on insurance risk. We develop comprehensive crop insurance against all risks. All these things were unheard of or were considered impossible.

To achieve this, our teams push to get banks, agribusinesses, and governments to sign up the farmers they work with. My team members take flights in the middle of the night to sit across from ministers of agriculture in the afternoon. Our actuaries work around the clock to ensure insurers are comfortable with our risks.

We welcome nonconformists, allow them to thrive and achieve the impossible and reward them well.

Question: Pula received funding from TLCom Capital’s fund TIDE, which has a goal of increasing financing for women entrepreneurs. Why is this important?

Rose: I deeply believe in diversity of minds and perspectives to build solutions. Diversity comes from people with different backgrounds. Background for me can be culture, education, gender, or country. Having different perspectives around the table when you must solve difficult problems is very valuable because you’re more likely to find the solution. So, for me, having women and our perspective around the table is just naturally valuable when we’re solving hard problems.

A Pula agent speaks with a farmer in Kenya. Photo courtesy: Pula

Question: What more can the private equity and venture capital sectors do so that women have the same access to funding?

Rose: I’ve always felt I needed to be double sure that what I was doing would make sense and make money. We tend to be more careful but that also makes us less visible and less ‘daring’ as compared to our male counterparts. But I’ve always felt that you have to use your weaknesses to your advantage. Being conservative and careful can also be seen as being robust and trusted. For the sector, my suggestion is that investors make the effort to get to know founders, sit down with them, tease out their achievements. It may take more time to find female founders, but I believe that it will be certainly worth the effort.

Question: What is your message to other women entrepreneurs?

Rose: I never think that because I'm a woman I can’t do something. I come to my meetings, work, and job prepared and I find that as long as I'm prepared, I can overcome anything that the world throws at me. Being prepared is a great skill. Do it and you will rarely fail.

IFC has invested in Pula through its investment in venture capital fund TLCom Capital's TIDE Africa fund with support from the We-Fi blended finance facility and with a direct investment announced in March 2024 in Pula’s Series B fundraise.

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