Frequently we hear talk about how startups are only catering to wealthier individuals in developed economies, or even the 1% (and sometimes, that’s true). However, there are many startups in the CB Insights database who are targeting underserved populations with healthcare, financial, or energy services tailored to these consumers’ specific needs. Here are 32 companies targeting those opportunities around the globe.
Oportun is a financial services company serving the credit and financial services needs of the US Hispanic market, aiming to help customers build credit and access mainstream financial products. The company offers unsecured credit to underbanked Hispanic families that lack FICO scores, credit histories, and traditional banking relationships.
Select Investors: DAG Ventures, Institutional Venture Partners, Greylock Partners
Total disclosed funding: $274.4M
LendUp is a direct lender and has created a way to use small loans as an opportunity for consumers to build credit and move up the financial ladder. Consumers who have poor or no credit can apply for and receive small short-term loans.
Select Investors: SV Angel, Susa Ventures, Data Collective
Total disclosed funding: $218M
Endless is a computer and operating system tailor-made for the developing world where a reliable Internet connection can be hard to obtain. The OS on the Endless One and Endless Mini computers comes with more than 100 free apps and powerful education, entertainment, and other tools that don’t require an Internet connection to use.
Select Investors: Undisclosed
Total disclosed funding: $23.3M
4. Better World Books
Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund book donation and literacy projects around the world. All of the company’s books are available with free shipping worldwide and every order shipped is carbon-balanced with certified green offsets.
Select Investors: Good Capital
Total disclosed funding: $22.5M
inVenture’s mobile finance technology is unlocking purchasing power in the world’s fastest-growing economies by providing a standardized global credit score for anyone with a mobile phone. The company’s mobile data collection tactics allow them to update credit scores in real-time to get customers in places like Africa a loan for the things they need, in less than five minutes.
Select investors: Female Founders Fund, Lowercase Capital
Total disclosed funding: $12.1M
Even is building a bank designed to help people living with the realities of 21st century poverty. Even manages savings to ensure that users receive steady paychecks and helps users budget and pay bills properly.
Select Investors: Homebrew, Slow Ventures, Khosla Ventures
Total disclosed funding: $12M
7. Branch International
Branch is a new way to access credit, banking services, and loans over a smartphone in emerging markets. The company’s mission is to deliver world-class financial services to the mobile generation and focuses on those who are traditionally underbanked.
Select Investors: Formation 8, Khosla Impact
Total disclosed funding: $10.4M
BeneStream works with employees to ensure employees have access to government benefits to which they are entitled like food stamps, Medicaid, and Child Health Plus.
Select Investors: BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners, Kapor Capital, Serious Change Fund
Total disclosed funding: $9.59M
BioLite develops and manufactures advanced energy products — including ovens that convert wood fires to electricity — that make cooking with wood clean, safe, and as easy as using modern fuels. These products provide electricity to charge cell phones and LED lights for off-grid use.
Select Investors: Acumen, Rose Park Advisors, RRE Ventures, White Road Investments
Total disclosed funding: $7.83M
10. Angaza Design
Angaza Design develops solar-powered household lighting and charging systems for rural developing markets. The company employs a “Pay-As-You-Go” system for users to pay when they have funds available without paying the expensive upfront costs usually associated with shifting to solar power.
Select Investors: Root Capital, Golden Seeds, Linseed Capital
Total disclosed funding: $5.58M
InstaReM provides and facilitates a platform for digital account-to-account cross-border payments within South Asia. The company’s instant remittance transfer service enables customers to overcome challenges such as opaque foreign exchange rates, hidden fees, and extended delivery timelines that have historically held back cross-border money flows in the region.
Select Investors: Vertex Venture Holdings, Global Founders Capital, Fullerton Financial Holdings
Total disclosed funding: $5M
Watsi enables users to directly fund low-cost, high-impact medical treatments for people in need. People can browse profiles on Watsi.org and connect with someone to support and donate to.
Select Investors: Jasmine Social Investments, TEEC Angel Fund, Tencent
Total disclosed funding: $4.72M
13. Raise Labs
Raise.me works with a network of colleges and universities, that will guarantee a certain amount of financial aid based on “micro-scholarships” awarded by the platform for students’ achievements throughout high school. This allows the students to see the guaranteed minimum amount of aid they’ll receive from an institution long before they apply. Raise also connects with students of underrepresented populations to help them understand the college process and encourage them to reach those goals.
Select Investors: First Round Capital, Owl Ventures, SJF Ventures
Total disclosed funding: $4.5M
WiseBanyan is trying to democratize money-management services. The company has created the first technology-enabled financial advisory service that does not charge fees, while creating and managing a fully-diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds.
Select investors: Village Capital, Sorenson Impact Foundation, VTF Capital, Financial Solutions Lab
Total disclosed funding: $4.4M
Frogtek helps the small shopkeepers in emerging markets to track and control their business decisions. With its Tiendatek software, a tablet and a barcode scanner, shopkeepers can register transactions, get useful metrics, and charge credit cards.
Select Investors: Invested Development
Total disclosed funding: $2.9M
Pigeonly provides services to inmates, allowing them to keep in touch using services like low-cost calling and sending letters and photographs.
Select investors: Y Combinator, Kapor Capital, Base Ventures
Total disclosed funding: $2.59M
17. Onko Solutions
Onko Solutions, founded in 2014, is a developer focused on tech that will contribute to the detection, prevention and treatment of cancer in underserved populations. The company is working on a cervical cancer screening device designed to replace the Pap smear, especially targeted towards developing countries.
Select Investors: Ambar Venture Capital, Angel Ventures Mexico
Total disclosed funding: $1.6M
18. Shift Labs
Shift Labs makes low-cost medical devices. The company builds on proven technologies for lower costs, and creates products that carry minimal technical risk. Shift Labs designs products geared to markets with underdeveloped medical infrastructure.
Select Investors: Y Combinator
Total disclosed funding: $1.34M
19. Glovax Biotech
Glovax is a vaccine company in the Philippines that imports, distributes, and retails a complete line of vaccines at an affordable price, with an aim to improve vaccine access for middle- to low-income Filipinos.
Select Investors: BDO Universal Bank
Total disclosed funding: $1M
SimpleCitizen is an online do-it-yourself tool for immigrants who need to file for a green card or other basic immigration documentation in the US. SimpleCitizen helps those filing avoid paying the high premiums associated with legal counsel.
Select Investors: Pelion Venture Partners, Apple Tree Partners, Kickstart Seed Fund
Total disclosed funding: $860K
Zidisha is the first online micro-lending community that directly connects lenders and borrowers, allowing families and small businesses to avoid the expensive fees associated with local banks/intermediaries.
Select Investors: Y Combinator
Total disclosed funding: $550K
Bee (incorporated as One Financial Holdings) provides bank accounts, debit cards and financial services that are aimed at people who live in low- and middle-income neighborhoods. Bee offers features such as no minimum balance requirements, no overdraft fees, availability of funds within a half-hour from deposits made via its mobile app, and cash withdrawals at any ATM.
Select Investors: FundersGuild, Blumberg Capital, AXA Strategic Ventures
Total disclosed funding: $250K
AlemHealth provides telemedicine and digital-health solutions designed and optimized for frontier markets. The company currently operates in Nigeria and Afghanistan where they provide infrastructure and services that connect hospitals and physicians across borders and specialties, helping to ensure that patients receive world-class healthcare at prices they can afford.
Select Investors: Startup Health Academy, WOMENA, NEST
Total disclosed funding: $90K
Nafham is the Middle East and North Africa’s Kahn Academy and the company’s digital classrooms are increasingly being visited by students in refugee camps within the region. The company offers more than 23,000 online videos covering Egyptian, Saudi Arabian, Algerian, Syrian, and Kuwaiti educational curricula.
Select Investors: Flat6Labs, Sawari Ventures
Total disclosed funding: $80K
25. Sparrow Mobile
Sparrow is a mobile company with its core mission being listed as “Digital Inclusion for All.” They are helping to bridge the digital divide in the US market with a “buy-one-give-one” mobile model, in which customers can donate their phone to a newer customer once they are able to do so. There is also a proprietary cloud platform that connects people living at or below the poverty line with the mobile economy and organizations addressing their needs.
Select Investors: 500 Accelerator
Total disclosed funding: $80K
5. Code Fever
The mission of Code Fever is to encourage more underserved minority students between the ages of 13 to 21 to code and create tech enterprises within their communities, helping to close the gap in technology education. They also hope to encourage more of these students to become leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields by increasing the number of young startup founders.
Select Investors: Knight Foundation
Total disclosed funding: $80K
27. Lekki Peninsula Affordable Schools (LPAS)
Nigeria-based Lekki Peninsula Affordable Schools (LPAS) provides education and extracurriculars to low-income families at a reduced cost.
Select Investors: Pearson, Village Capital
Total disclosed funding: $80K
Credilikeme sells short-term loans to Facebook users who lack a formal credit score. Credlikeme uses gamification and social networking to encourage users to engage in responsible payback behavior and build healthy credit histories. Credilikeme offers competitive rates, which also move lower as users complete loans on time.
Select investors: Pomona Impact and Village Capital
Total disclosed funding: $75K
Sanivation installs modern container-based toilets in peoples’ homes in Kenya’s rapidly urbanizing communities for free, and charges a small monthly fee to service them. Then, instead of dumping the waste, Sanivation transforms it into a clean-burning alternative to charcoal.
Select Investors: Growth Africa
Total disclosed funding: $40K
PledgeCents is the online fundraising platform for all schools and teachers to raise funds for any school or classroom need, focused on schools serving students from prekindergarten to 12th grade.
Select Investors: Tech Wildcatters
Total disclosed funding: $30K
Prepify is free, online and computer-adaptive SAT prep for any student, anywhere. Prepify aims to make high-end online SAT prep free for millions of underserved students by charging university recruiters for personal introductions to the platform’s top performers.
Select Investors: Seed Sumo
Total disclosed funding: $20K
32. Practice Makes Perfect
Practice Makes Perfect matches academically struggling elementary and middle school scholars with older peer mentors from the same high-need communities, and provides summer enrichment programs to keep students engaged with their academics.
Select Investors: Civic Accelerator
Total disclosed funding: $10K
Want to find more startups working in this space? Check out our venture capital database below.