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Bryan Habana’s fintech firm awarded R1.7m in grant funding

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Paymenow co-founders Brian Habana (left) and Deon Nobrega.
Paymenow co-founders Brian Habana (left) and Deon Nobrega.

Former Springbok player Bryan Habana’s fintech start-up, Paymenow, is one of six global start-ups that have been accepted into the global inclusive fintech accelerator Catalyst Fund.

Paymenow is a financial wellness app that allows low-income workers to access part of their earned wages before payday, providing access to much-needed liquidity while empowering them to avoid the costs and dangers of debt.

Paymenow’s participation in the seventh cohort of the Catalyst Fund acceleration programme provides the company with £80 000 (R1.7 million) in grant capital, bespoke and expert-led venture building support for six months, and networking connections with investors and corporate innovators that can help it scale.

The Stellenbosch-based company was launched last year by Habana and co-founders Willem van Zyl, Deon Nobrega and Gerry Potgieter, after they investigated similar offerings in the UK market and realised they were not compatible with local requirements.

Developed specifically for the South African market, Paymenow integrates into employers’ payroll systems and offers a way for South African low income earners to even out their cash flows throughout the month.

“The unencumbered grant funding will assist us in the short-term to expand our team as we look to hire an experienced client success manager to help with sales and account management, says Habana, who is also business development head ofPaymenow.

“More importantly, being accepted into Catalyst Fund gives Paymenow the validation we so vehemently defend. The accelerator and its investor advisory committee performed stringent due diligence to ensure Paymenow ticks all the boxes in terms of a fintech that enables responsible financial inclusion.”

Catalyst Fund is an ongoing accelerator for early stage fintech start-ups and the innovation ecosystem in emerging markets.

It is managed by BFA Global, supported by the UKDepartment for International Development and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Paymenow made its debut in SA’s hotly-contested ‘salary advance’ fintech market. However, it says with its business model revolving around responsible behavioural change, as well as its team’s in-depth knowledge and experience in the compliance and payments space, its value proposition can scale exponentially in a sustainable manner.

The mobile app, available from Android and iOS app stores, also offers financial literacy games and programmes to encourage financial wellness and inclusion.

Around 50% of workers take out unsecured loans between paydays, which come at extortionate interest rates of 27%, leaving workers spiralling into a vicious debt cycle, according to the company.

“Paymenow aims to address this through providing responsible access to earned wages, paired with financial wellness and inclusion education. Catalyst Fund gives us exposure to top tier venture capitalists and private equity funds that look to invest in disruptive fintech, especially in emerging markets,” comments Nobrega,MD of Paymenow.

All chosen start-ups in the latest cohort of Catalyst Fund are addressing critical challengesin emerging markets during COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has highlighted fintech’s vital role in widening access to financial services to the most vulnerable people,” says Kim Bromley, head of financial services at UK government’s Department for International Development.

“Catalyst Fund support will help fintech companies improve their resilience to future crises, enabling them to provide critical solutions to low-income customers through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.”

Other start-ups selected for the Catalyst Fund accelerator:

  • WellaHealth: Nigeria-based platform offering affordable healthcare coverage to protect families from the financial shock that comes from unexpected health emergencies, including hospital cover during COVID-19.
  • Flex Finance: Nigeria-based financial management tool that enables micro and small businesses to digitise operations and establish a digital footprint that can enable them to improve operations, and become eligible for credit lines and other financial services.
  • Mango Life: Mexico-based digital insurance platform offering affordable and accessible health and life insurance plans for underserved individuals.
  • Graviti: Mexico-based pay-as-you-go service which offers unbanked families access to sustainable household infrastructure appliances via affordable financing.
  • KarmaLife: India-based financial services suite enabling India’s growing population of gig and essential services workers to smooth uneven cash flows, stabilise incomes and access savings and insurance.
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