- Since 2016, IFC’s Startup Catalyst Program has supported more than 1,180 startups in 24 emerging markets by investing $60 million in more than 19 accelerators and seed funds.
- IFC’s investment has helped those startups collectively mobilize $4.5 billion in follow-on funding, driving innovation and job creation.
- IFC is now doubling the Startup Catalyst Program with a new pool of $60 million to support incubators, accelerators, and seed funds in the most nascent venture ecosystems, as well as those focusing on strategically important areas such as climate innovations, gender and inclusion.
Today, Moglix is a business-to-business procurement and supply chain transformation company valued at $2.6 billion. Yet like many startups in emerging markets, it began as a great idea with the need for capital.
Just a year after it was launched in India in 2015, Moglix crossed paths with an IFC-supported seed fund based in Singapore called SeedPlus, which provided young startups with seed funding and access to networking. The initial check from SeedPlus helped Moglix create a digital platform to address the fragmented, inefficient procurement system for buyers and suppliers of raw material, such as steel, cement, and packaging to small and medium sized enterprises. Moglix grew in the next two years and IFC invested directly in the company as it expanded across Asia and into shipping, logistics, SaaS solutions, and supply chain and export finance, becoming a unicorn — a privately held startup valued at more than $1 billion.
Rahul Garg, Founder and CEO of Moglix. Photo courtesy of Moglix.
“IFC is a fantastic partner because they have access to all emerging markets, enabling us to hold conversations across the world and learn about best practices,” says Moglix Founder and CEO Rahul Garg.
The platform that initially supported Moglix, IFC’s Startup Catalyst (ISC), was established to address funding gaps in underdeveloped venture capital ecosystems by investing in incubators, accelerators and seed funds across emerging markets. The program focuses on nascent ecosystems in the world’s poorest countries from the International Development Association (IDA) and countries facing fragility and conflict-affected situations (FCS).
ISC has helped create a pipeline of innovative companies with high-growth potential to receive later-stage investment. In total, it has supported more than 2,800 entrepreneurs, including 700 women, in 24 countries through 19 funds, including Flat6Labs Cairo and Tunis, Sarmayacar in Pakistan, Ibtikar in West Bank and Gaza, and Antler East Africa.
The program has mobilized 86 times of the amount invested from IFC’s own account. In addition to development impact, it has generated a value more than two times IFC’s investment amount and an internal rate of return of 28 percent. The startups the program invested in have raised a total of $4.5 billion in follow-on funding and have become key drivers of job creation and digital innovation across emerging markets.
IFC is now doubling the size of the ISC platform with a new pool of $60 million, 75 percent of which will go to IDA and FCS countries. Funding from the Blended Finance Facility of IDA's Private Sector Window, which helps mitigate investment risk, will help IFC increase its support for entrepreneurship in nascent venture capital ecosystems and bolster capital investment opportunities.
ISC will continue to focus on women-led funds, as only 11 percent of seed funding capital in emerging markets goes to companies with a woman on their founding team. For example, IFC was one of the first institutional investors for Ibtikar Fund, the only commercially focused early-stage venture fund in West Bank and Gaza. More than 30 percent of the companies the fund invested in were founded by women.
The expanded program will also focus on other strategically important areas such as climate innovations. Climate venture funding, for example, reached $37 billion in 2021, just 5 percent of the total global venture capital investment. IFC’s investment in innovative climate-tech could help bridge the funding gap in emerging markets, which are vulnerable to climate change.
ISC’s support for high-risk markets, which have seen an increased pipeline of startups, is part of IFC’s effort to develop digital economies and support startups with market expertise, access to global and local networks and capital, such as venture capital funds, private equity, and project finance. IFC recently launched a venture capital platform to invest $225 million in innovative tech businesses in Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, and Pakistan, which collectively received less than 2 percent of $643 billion of global venture capital funding in 2021. ISC’s focus on earliest-stage companies will help build a pipeline for the platform.
“We are helping build the next Moglix in IDA/FCS countries, and other underserved markets. Like with Moglix, we provide full-cycle support for promising early-stage startups, helping them move from incubating and seeding stages to established companies receiving direct investments from IFC and big private investors in our network as they grow in size,” says William Sonneborn, IFC’s Global Director for Disruptive Technology and Funds.
“Backed by IFC’s Disruptive Technologies and Venture Capital team and the expanded ISC Platform, we are eager to work with startups in emerging markets and give them the chance to grow and fund them directly as they become later-stage tech businesses, all while trying to address pressing challenges of our time” Sonneborn said.
The support is timely. Amid a slowdown in global venture capital investment, technology startups in emerging markets face challenges in raising funds. Venture capital investment in emerging markets rose significantly in 2021, but it was concentrated in a handful of countries and regions, including Brazil, China, India and Southeast Asia.
Incubators, accelerators and seed funds play an important role in the venture ecosystem. These early-stage investment vehicles provide startups and seed-stage entrepreneurs with much-needed capital, as well as the technical know-how, support, and mentorship to help young businesses survive and scale operations.
Dina el-Shenoufy, Partner and Chief Investment Officer of Flat6Labs. Photo courtesy of Flat6Labs
“IFC was the first major fund to invest in seed stage funds and support startup ecosystems in the Middle East and North Africa region,” says Dina el-Shenoufy, Partner and Chief Investment Officer of Flat6Labs, an Egypt-based accelerator supported by the program. “When we started in 2011, international venture capitalists wouldn’t even take our calls, because the Middle East at large wasn’t an attractive market for them, irrespective of stage. IFC had the foresight to see what we were trying to achieve, and today we do have international investors interested in Egypt. We could not achieve that without creating a pipeline of startups.”
One of the startups supported by Flat6Labs is Chefaa, a women-led online pharmacy in Egypt that offers medical supplies, medications, and health and hygiene products. The company received seed money and mentorship from Flat6Labs before they launched in 2018. Chefaa has raised more than $3.6 million in funding over five rounds to expand partnerships with 1,000 pharmacies, offering services to 7.5 million regular users who benefit from auto refills of prescriptions, dosage reminders, and the ability to consult an Arabic-speaking pharmacist at any time. The company is now expanding into Saudi Arabia with plans to extend services throughout the region.
“IFC has been with us from the beginning, supporting directly and indirectly,” says co-founder Rasha Rady. “They literally went miles to help us open lines of communications with potential partners we didn’t have access to before.”
Talented and innovative entrepreneurs in developing economies are eager to create the next Moglix, if given the chance.
“If I look at the goals of Moglix and the goals of IFC, there is a
lot of overlap in terms of development,” says Garg, citing the mutual commitment to empowering small- and medium-sized businesses, increasing sustainability, and improving gender equality. “Many tech businesses are
aligned with the goals of IFC, which makes for great partners.”
Published in December 2022