The new fintech frontier: Financial health
Recently, I had written that the Turkish startup ecosystem is very small compared to other countries such as Germany, Portugal, Israel, the United States, and Canada, etc. However, the growth rate of the ecosystem is promising.
It is safe to say an ecosystem is only as strong as the players that constitute it and the Turkish startup world has two new and globally known players.
Last week, Village Capital (Vilcap) and MetLife Foundation in partnership with Bümed Business Angels (BUBA), hosted a financial health forum for early-stage fintech entrepreneurs in Turkey. During the two-day fintech forum in Istanbul, startups were eligible for grants totaling $20,000. Eleven startups were chosen to compete out of 40 applicants.
According to Vilcap’s website, financial health refers to a household’s ability to manage day-to-day cash flow, build resiliency against economic shocks and take advantage of opportunities. While financial access is a necessary first step to improving the financial lives of lower-income consumers, a whole suite of financial services and products are needed to realize consumer financial health outcomes such as short- and long-term savings, coping mechanisms to protect against economic shock, sustainable debt loads, and insurance.
MetLifeFoundation Program Manager Sarah Willis told me all the startups that were chosen to compete were selected according to their potential benefit to society and the level of their scalability. Willis added that Metlife does not directly invest in startups but helps them become noticed and make it easier for them to grow locally and internationally by means of the mentorship they received during the forum.
Another person I was privileged to talk to was Rob Tashima. He is the director of VilCap Innovations at Village Capital. He is no stranger to Turkey as he worked here for years before he moved out of the country. Village Capital is a seed-stage social impact fund that finds, trains and invests in underrepresented entrepreneurs around the world. VilCap Innovations offers advice, research and hands-on guidance to organizations around the world, to help them engage entrepreneurs, support innovation, improve sustainability and boost inclusion, using methodologies proven by Vilcap’s own investments.
Tashima underlined that with the right know-how and right partners, Turkey has great potential. He said all the startups he met during the forum were very keen on learning and growth. He also said the startups that were chosen fulfilled these requirements. They are located in or have significant operations in Turkey.
These startups improve financial health for low-to-moderate income families and promote economic empowerment. They increase the relevance and affordability of savings, credit, payments, and insurance. They lower the barriers for SMEs in supporting their employees and growing their businesses, and/or improve efficiency in supply chains and distribution channels across sectors through increased price transparency and access to other decision-driving market information.
In the end, out of 11 startups Tekkredi and Microfon were each awarded $10,000 dollars. Microfon is a crowd funding solution that helps students funded by personal donations and via banks. Tekkredi brings people together with banks for debt consolidation. I wish all the best to the winners and hope that both Metlife and Vilcap will be more active in Turkey’s startup scene.