Author: Marissa Dean, Caribou Digital Investments

The digital tide rises globally. People everywhere are now interconnected, not just by infrastructure but also by platforms like Amazon, Alibaba, and Uber. For emerging markets some of this development is rightfully called progress — it’s good for livelihoods that a handbag maker in rural India can now sell her products throughout the country on Flipkart, and equally so that a software engineer in Nairobi can code or test software for Fortune 100 companies on Upwork. At the same time, some of the effects of digital platforms have been undesirable in both the Global…


Author: Marissa Dean, Caribou Digital Investments

The world needs more venture capitalists that not only take on risk but are also willing to wrestle with long-term issues that don’t necessarily yield quarterly profits. Through our research and advisory work, we as Caribou Digital have become acutely aware of the development challenges that emerging economies face in a digital world. Like many, we believe that the private sector is part of the solution, and we want to put our own money where our mouth is.

But more importantly, we want to demonstrate what we believe is meaningful investment in a disrupted…


Authors: Jessica Osborn and Marissa Dean

In 2018 FiDA conducted interviews with several key platforms in Africa looking at how platform business models are evolving in terms of financial services.

One of the most significant potential benefits digital platforms offer for financial inclusion is in redefining what it means to be an informal merchant or worker. Most Africans participate in the informal economy, sometimes beyond the purview of the state and tax authorities and often without secure contracts, benefits, or social protections.

Digital platforms are changing how informal merchants and workers trade. In turn, they are changing how visible and…


Author: Marissa Dean

In 2018 FiDA Partnership conducted interviews with several key platforms in Africa looking at how platform business models are evolving in terms of financial services.

Faced with a customer base that lacks bank accounts or who do not trust online payments, many e-commerce platforms have developed tools and processes that allow customers to pay in cash for most transactions. In this note, I argue that while this strategy is fueling growth in transaction volumes and active customers, issues with fraud, failed deliveries and late/uncollected receivables stemming from the use of cash are opening platforms up to substantial…


Authors: Jessica Osborn and Marissa Dean

E-commerce and online labor platforms could be good business partners for African financial services providers. This is especially true for banks whose scale makes them prime partners for digital platforms. Similarly, banks and other financial institutions stand to benefit from the large numbers of consumers and producers on platforms’ growing networks.

Our interviews with platforms and the evolution of their business models in terms of financial services, suggested that many platforms are enthusiastic about the potential to partner with banks and other financial services providers. For instance, Lynk, a local African services provider eager…


Authors: Jessica Osborn and Marissa Dean

We met with Lynk earlier this year to learn more about their platform’s impact on micro-entrepreneurs in Kenya.

In 2018, FiDA Partnership conducted light touch research to unpack platform business models, looking at how they are evolving in terms of financial services. Desk research synthesized information about the business model for more than 40 platform businesses active in Africa, with a few global players included for comparison. For a select number of these, we captured additional details about the platform participants’ economics (e.g. workers, merchants, etc.) Interviews with several key African digital platforms supplemented this information with insights and details around the challenges and obstacles that African digital platforms face, particularly in…


Authors: Jessica Osborn and Marissa Dean

The future works online. How can platforms overcome three areas where they’re struggling?

In 2018 FiDA Partnership conducted interviews with several key platforms in Africa looking at how platform business models are evolving in terms of financial services.

There are several important challenges that digital platform businesses are facing when trying to integrate financial services into their business models, but we saw three themes emerge from our recent research highlighting areas where Africa platforms are struggling.

  • Partnering with financial institutions has been difficult,
  • Platform users need to be educated about the financial services products on offer, and
  • Regulations are hampering, without equally incentivizing, platforms from exploring worker…


Authors: Jessica Osborn and Marissa Dean

In 2018 FiDA Partnership conducted interviews with several key platforms in Africa looking at how platform business models are evolving in terms of financial services. This blog discusses three important ways that platforms are changing the landscape for financial inclusion: Some platforms are advancing their core business by building physical networks and, as a result, now operate at the frontier of financial inclusion;

  • Platforms are standardizing transaction data and helping the financial services ecosystem figure out how to use it; and
  • Platforms are standardizing payments; worker pay, performance and incentives; and identity validation. As…


Authors: Jessica Osborn and Marissa Dean

In 2018 FiDA Partnership conducted interviews with several key platforms in Africa looking at how platform business models are evolving in terms of financial services.

As we explored platform business models, we found examples of practices that we hypothesize could impede the participation of the financially excluded. We discuss considerations for improving several business practices that could be problematic for financial inclusion, and we highlight three problems and offer suggestions for organizations to consider or areas for researchers to explore more deeply:

  • issues around platform participant payouts;
  • “pay-to-promote” practices and revenue streams; and
  • open…


Authors: Jessica Osborn and Marissa Dean

Why would a tractor company need to be in the insurance business? Why would a ride-hailing company start offering credit? It’s actually an old story. From store credit cards in the US and carnês de loja in Brazil, to Ally Financial—the bank started by General Motors—the line between financial services and consumer goods and services has always been blurry. We’re seeing this again: in the recent wave of platformization, platforms are getting into the finance game to support their core business. We’ve seen platforms leveraging financial services to:

  • Increase their user base by reducing…

Marissa Dean

Marissa Dean is a Senior Director at Caribou Digital.

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