coLABS is a gender-lens investment portfolio launched by US-based impact investor Gray Matters Capital (GMC). Gray Matters Capital (GMC) is an impact investing foundation that takes bets on extraordinary social entrepreneurs around the world. GMC’s mission is "Finding purpose with 100 Million Women." Today, GMC enterprises reach millions of underserved families, women and children across India, Africa and Latin America through the creation of innovative and affordable education products and services and by providing access to capital. So far, GMC boasts of 78+ enterprises founded, over 21million women helped and over $150 million in ventures and initiatives that have helped make education accessible to low-income markets and make strides towards greater gender equality.
As a catalyst to GMC’s mission, coLABS is an early stage, gender-focused investment portfolio that invests in innovative, and scalable enterprises that have the potential to dramatically improve the lives of women. coLABS’ “gender lens" strategy moves beyond focusing on individual women as leaders or a part of the management team. They strategically fund entrepreneurs and early-stage enterprises that provide services and/or products that intentionally impact women.
coLABs’ current focus is post-revenue ventures in East and West Africa with a ticket size of $100,000 to $250,000 through a revenue share financing model. Investments are based on four key criteria;
- Impact on women and girls: coLABs invests in enterprises that tackle a critical barrier faced by women. It is imperative for the enterprises to be intentional about impacting women and not a byproduct of their business model. This could be in the product and services of the enterprises, or the intentionality in serving women entrepreneurs.
- Scalable enterprises: The enterprise should have a scalable business model with a solid potential for rapid growth in the next 5 years.
- Innovative: The enterprise should bring something new to the market or and be innovative in who they serve (target market), how they serve them (model), and/or the door you’re opening for women (impact).
- Early stage: The enterprise should have completed their pilot, tested the idea, seen it to be sustainable and should find revenue share as the appropriate type of investment for their company.
Out of coLABS’ diverse portfolio; in Mexico, India and Pakistan, the United States and Africa as a whole, this list focuses on the companies on the African continent.
- SonoCare, founded in 2015, provides services spanning the spectrum of women’s health. With both fixed site and mobile solutions, SonoCare provides cost-efficient programs scaled to the needs of the hospitals, satellite clinics and healthcare providers. As of 2018, the startup has base in four Nigerian states, has screened over 26,000 women and found over 17,000 high-risk pregnancies. The aim was to have over 200,000 pregnancies screened by 2020. Also Read: Nigeria's SonoCare raises $250,000 from Gray Matters Capital.
- WomenChoice Industries, with headquarters in Tanzania, is a social enterprise established to provide solutions to menstrual and other feminine hygiene problems. It mostly manufactures and distributes low-cost, affordable menstrual hygiene management reusable sanitary towels. The startup received $200,000 seed funding from GMC coLABS. With this funding, WomenChoice Industries hopes to reach over 500,000 women and girls from low-resource settings by December 2022.
- Farmshine is a global agriculture platform where farmers, buyers and service providers can trade on mutually beneficial grounds. Founded in 2017 in Kenya, the startup received $250,000 seed funding from Gray Matters Capital. Farmshine enables women, who make up about 70% of its farmers, to gain more income by giving complete transparent pricing before planting and total freedom to determine their buyers. In this manner, the women who use Farmshine go from being casual subsistence farmers to entrepreneurial small traders.
- Kenya’s Taimba sources agricultural products directly from the rural small-scale farmers to the informal greengrocers and other establishments that may so require. This diminishes the need for middle-men and shrinks the agricultural value chain. In July 2019, the startup had 2,000 farmers in its portfolio. Women constitute over 83% of the greengrocers that Taimba caters to and the services provided help better their livelihood.
- ARED is a Rwandan based Platform as a service start-up known for its ‘Smart Business in a small box’ solar-powered kiosks. Most of these kiosks are operated by women and provide key services such as Wi-Fi, intranet solutions for offline users and phone charging services. The startup uses a micro-finance model to recruit, train and monitor the agents. With a report made in January 2020, ARED had 120 access points in Rwanda and Uganda, over 500,000 digital transactions and serving more than 200,000 customers. Also Read: Rwandan based ARED sets up shop in Uganda with Gray Matters Capital backing.
- Redbird Health Tech is a Ghanaian for-profit social enterprise enabling more convenient healthcare for patients. As a medical diagnostics distributor, it provides a wide range of health monitoring services with the benefits of convenience through community pharmacies. It received $250,000 seed funding from Gray Matters Capital in 2018 to extend its scale to 30 additional community pharmacies.
- Farmers Pride is an agritech startup and social enterprise in Kenya founded in 2016. It aims to improve the welfare and income of Kenyan farmers using their online-to-offline platform. It received $220,000 funding from Gray Matters Capital in November 2020. The funding is to help 500,000 rural farmers, most of which are women, to boost their income. Farmers Pride will also use the funding to create a robust farmer education programme.
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