Cathay Innovation & Seaya Ventures’ First Joint Investment in Latin America

By: Alexandre Lazarow, Pablo Pedrejón, Costanza Carissimo

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the bedrock of most economies, representing about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide. However, the sector is incredibly underserved with access to finance being the “second most cited obstacle” stunting SME growth in emerging markets.

According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), 65 million SMEs in developing countries have an unmet financing need of $5.2 trillion every year — with Latin America (LatAm) being among one of the regions with the highest…


Why founders in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere are leveraging SPACs to take their companies public

Co-authored with Allen Taylor (Endeavor Catalyst)

Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

Last month, Grab announced it would go public via SPAC. This is an incredible milestone in the world of SPACs (“Special Purpose Acquisition Companies), a sector that has exploded in the last two years. Grab’s SPAC deal — valuing the company at nearly $40B — is the largest in history globally, more than double the previous record.

While that in of itself is noteworthy, it isn’t the punch line.

Grab is not a traditional Silicon Valley company. Instead, it is the leading super app in South East Asia, with a primarily emerging market user…


Earlier this year, we announced our investment leading the $20M Series B in Sidecar Health, a transformative health insurance company in the US.

Since then, the company has accelerated rapidly, and today is announcing a $125M round, led by Bond, Drive Capital and Menlo Ventures, with participation from Tiger, Greatpoint Ventures, and us at Cathay Innovation.

With this latest round of financing, Sidecar Health joins the highly coveted “unicorn” club (though while biased I prefer the term “billion-dollar Camel”) and is among a growing cadre of insurtech players looking to disrupt traditional insurance companies, including through fixing perverse customer incentives…


Entrepreneurship is the bedrock of the United States economy, with new small businesses responsible for all net new job creation in this country — a vital component that has proved more resilient in recessions and as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis. Entrepreneurship is also becoming a more popular career option. Consider these findings from Upwork’s 2020 study — over two million Americans have started freelancing in the last year and over 60% say that no amount of money would convince them to take a traditional job again.

While many small and medium sized businesses (“SMB”s) stay small, some do experience…


The US healthcare system is broken. On one hand, it is the most expensive in the world, costing around $8,000 per person a year and representing over 17% of GDP. Compare that to the average of comparable countries from France, the UK, Norway and others — which is less than half at around $3,000 per person. Relatedly, it is also one of the least distributed in the developed world — with nearly 9% of the population not having health insurance of any kind and far more having inadequate coverage.

On top of this, as the world continues to battle the…


Illustration: Nick Sheeran

We’re entering the desert. Which would you rather be?

Even before the coronavirus shocked markets, the sheen was starting to fade from Silicon Valley’s obsession with finding, funding, and building the next unicorn — the valley’s nickname for startups valued at over a billion dollars. The collapse of companies with runaway valuations like WeWork and Brandless exposed flaws with the valley’s preferred strategies of “blitzscaling” and relying on VC-subsidized products.

Meanwhile, startups outside Silicon Valley have been proving a different model of success. In emerging markets are companies we can learn from because they have survived harsh business climates with less capital and ecosystem support. These startups are more…


Originally posted December 2, 2015, on GSMA blog, and cross-posted to Omidyar Network.

Global access to power and clean water in emerging markets has long seemed unreachable. Last month, during the GSMA Mobile 360 Africa conference in Cape Town, a panel of experts discussed some emerging trends and transformative business models that could soon make water and energy more accessible for millions.

Today, 1.3 billion people around the world lack access to power. The great majority of them — about 600 million people — live in Africa. There, off grid consumers primarily burn kerosene to light up their homes, living…


Repost of my CIO Outlook Magazine article: https://www.insuranceciooutlook.com/magazines/October2018/InsurTech_Startups/

In Silicon Valley, the typical narrative around any innovation follows a similar pattern: [Insert industry] has not changed in [Insert arbitrary large number] years. They are still using [insert choice of antiquated technology: fax machines, excel sheets, mainframe computers] to conduct their business. Therefore, technology startups are poised to disrupt it — with a new approach, a new technology and a new attitude.

Insurance is no exception. Insuretech — the growing movement that applies technological innovation to disrupt insurance — is gaining steam. Last year alone, startups received over $2.0 billion in…


Repost of my TechCrunch piece: https://techcrunch.com/2018/11/27/the-innovation-supply-chain-how-ideas-traverse-continents-and-transform-economies/

Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

While Westerners often associate the invention of calculus with 17th century European luminaries like Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, its theoretical foundations actually stretch back millennia. Fundamental theorems appear in ancient Egyptian work from 1820 BC, and later influences sprout from Babylonian, Ancient Greek, Chinese and Middle Eastern texts.

Such is the nature of the world’s biggest ideas — concepts that arise in one corner of the world provide the scaffolding for future advancements. Realizing the true potential of any idea takes time and requires input from diverse cultures and perspectives.

Technological innovation is…


Repost of my Linkedin Piece: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/four-things-i-learned-entrepreneurship-from-84-year-old-lazarow-cfa/

Last year, my grandfather-in-law, Denis Daly, passed away. He lived 84 years, and in many ways had been living on borrowed time for the last 40 of those years, between diabetes, quadruple bypass heart surgery, multiple myeloma and so much more.

But oh, what he did with the time he had.

Although he never completed high school, he was a brilliant innovator. He became both a successful entrepreneur and regionally famous artist in our shared home province of Manitoba. He built and later sold one of the leading design companies of Western Manitoba. He…

Alexandre Lazarow

Global #VentureCapital @Cathayinnov, previously @OmidyarNetwork; author of Out-Innovate (HBR Press); professor @MIIS; outdoor enthusiast; raised on the Cdn

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