This journey began in March when LAUNCH.ed made a call for applications to 3 Day Startup (3DS). It was an exciting three days learning how to come up with ideas, pitch, and work in teams. Even more exciting was the discovery that LAUNCH.ed is available to guide students through the business process (starting out, business plans as well as funding) up to two years after graduation. LAUNCH.ed also recommends opportunities and events to students and this is how I learned about the Georgetown-Santander fellowship. I applied because I realise how important continuous learning is, not to mention networking. It was an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and share our ideas on various topics.
The two-week workshop was very intense. It covered financial inclusion and the role of social enterprises in bridging gaps not covered by traditional public or private models. I discovered that the U.S has very high rates of financial exclusion with 88 million (28% of the population) people unbanked. We had lectures revolving around interventions against poverty in poor places. Bringing basic financial services to underserved consumers is a huge market opportunity, and a philanthropic one, too. Evidence suggests that even low-income people can save if they have structured mechanisms to do so. The greatest invention that has been used to fight financial exclusion has been M-Pesa which was invented in Kenya; M-Pesa is a mobile money transfer, financing and microfinancing service which has linked over 20million Kenyans (50% of the population) to financial services.
Away from the daily lectures, the two most notable projects to me were FinX and Capstone Projects.
The FinX Project was a half-day challenge which gave us a rare opportunity to go beyond simply hearing about the challenges that consumers face, and to experience first-hand the real-life constraints and options they encounter. We were assigned to teams and given a packet with checks along with a set of transactions to complete at local businesses. This entailed financial transactions such as cashing a check, acquiring and using a prepaid card, and sending money. We were expected to weigh decisions around fees, expediency, time, and transportation. This task opened me to the fact of how expensive it is to be poor in a country like the U.S. For example, it cost my team and I $5 to cash a $25 cheque; this is 20% of a day’s income.
Capstone Projects We were divided into groups and assigned tasks to complete. The teams were divided into borrow, spend, plan and save. The tasks entailed creating products/services tailored to serve the financially excluded focused around borrowing, spending, saving and planning for limited finances. My team (Team Borrow) came up with a Peer-Peer borrowing service which enabled consumers to borrow money for personal use as well as mortgages. My contribution to the group was the video which I made. (I learned how to make simple videos during the 3 Day Startup in March.)
I highly encourage students to take advantage of the facilities offered by LAUNCH.ed. The opportunities, growth, and knowledge I have gained has been amazing.
If you would be interested in 3 Day Startup or any of our other events or competitions click here for me information.