Scaling Digital Innovation in Emerging Economies

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The GSMA has supported over 100 organisations with equity-free grant funding to test and scale digital technologies and business models that boost local ecosystems, improve livelihoods and drive prosperity.

This report first outlines scale in the context of low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and considers several pathways to scale as well as the fundamentals of scaling.

The report then looks back on the catalytic role that GSMA played in providing early-stage capital and support for 21 start-ups in Africa and Asia, who collectively represent the following sectors: AgriTech, Aquaponics, CivicTech, EdTech, Energy, FinTech, HealthTech, InsurTech, and Water.

It then delves into lessons learnt from their fundraising journeys and concludes with recommendations for key stakeholders: start-ups, investors and funding organisations, and accelerators and tech hubs.

Key insights include:

  1. There are several pathways to scale, depending on the start-up’s addressable market and the enablers and barriers within their ecosystem.
  2. The fundraising journey is a useful way to measure scale in LMICs, as the ability to raise follow-on funding demonstrates that investors believe a solution has early traction and has a sustainable and scalable business model.
  3. A combination of funding and technical assistance has supported start-ups on their journey to scale. The GSMA Mobile for Development team has provided start-ups with funding and technical assistance that has included navigating MNO ecosystems, networking and investor outreach and business and operational support.
  4. Digital start-ups in LMICs face distinct challenges pioneering innovative business models in complex economic environments, as they are often among the first to enter and develop a customer base in traditionally under-resourced sectors and markets.
  5. Partnerships with mobile operators can be the key to scaling. Strategic partnerships can provide value to both partners, as MNOs have reached the level of scale start-ups require while start-ups have the local innovation that MNOs need.

Read the full report to learn more!

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