Matching investors with trainers
Atikus’ solutions are designed to serve both financial institutions and capacity building organizations. On the capacity building side, Atikus works with private, public and non-profit training organizations, including USAID, TechnoServe, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Ideally, these organizations are engaged in activities directly related to financial literacy education and/or business skills development, but the solution can be customized to serve a wide variety of development organizations. For capacity building organizations in markets like Rwanda, where Kate and her team are currently working with local businesses, Atikus’ solution allows these organizations to make good on their promise to link their small business clients with financial opportunities.
“Millions of dollars funnel into training programs that teach small businesses the concept of credit and how to use it, but that’s only one side of the equation. That education needs to be met with an uptake of those clients into the formal financial sector; however it is currently too difficult and too costly for financial institutions to find and evaluate these clients – many of whom are live in rural areas and/or are engaged in agricultural activities.
Our solutions track clients’ engagement and performance in these trainings and link them to financiers in Atikus’ customer network. We track correlations between training and financial uptake and performance, which provides the evidence financial organizations need to make decisions on where to invest. Conversely, capacity builders can quantify the value of their training, seeing which aspects of a training correlate with success.” – Kate Woska-Sirtori, Co-Founder and CEO, Atikus
Combining this demand-side data with the supply-side data collected from financial institutions brings Atikus’ solution together and makes its market impact a reality.
Adapting to the client
From a technical perspective, the application is built on a single core architecture with a changeable user interface that adapts to the type of client using the application. For a financial institution, the application functions as a data capture tool for loan data; for training organizations, it is a client or trainee management system. Together, the application is able to match data and facilitate connections between these organizations, empowering lenders with the insight needed to confidently invest in underserved markets.
“We’re completing an important loop for both types of clients. Capacity builders can help their clients put their training in action by linking them with financial opportunities. Then they can use the feedback data to improve their trainings and promote them across the market. From the perspective of a financial institution, the platform becomes a lead generation client outreach tool. Already enjoying lower costs and streamlined operations, they can now take advantage of more efficient, higher quality portfolio growth. It’s a win-win-win solution for the financial institutions, the capacity building organizations, and—most importantly—small business clients.” – Kate Woska-Sirtori, Co-Founder and CEO, Atikus
The value of partnership: Atikus, Microsoft, and Infusion
When first developing the application, Atikus knew it would be cost prohibitive for their organization to design the application from scratch. Through a personal reference, Atikus reached out to Infusion, a large Microsoft partner based in New York, which worked with Atikus to develop the first iteration of their solution.
“As a startup working in developing markets, we have never been cash rich. The idea of building these tools from scratch just wasn’t an option and would not have been a good business or technical decision anyway. It became clear that Microsoft’s toolkit—notably Dynamics CRM, SQL, and Azure cloud services—offered the power and flexibility we required, and Infusion was perfectly suited to help architect and build out the solution for us.” – Kate Woska-Sirtori, Co-Founder and CEO, Atikus
Atikus has begun working with several different clients, including the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). WCS is a unique client for Atikus because they take advantage of both sides of the solution as a single customer. WCS is using Atikus’ solutions to establish a revolving credit facility in Rwanda to encourage economic development in the communities surrounding Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest. The fund leverages partnerships with USAID and a number of financial partners to issue loans from the facility.
Simultaneously, WCS is training local communities in business development and financial literacy in the hopes of catalyzing new business development in the area. WCS is using Atikus’ solution to manage the loan portfolio and to track the communities’ engagement and performance in the trainings. But why does a conservation non-profit have an interest in financial inclusion?
“WCS is interested in financial inclusion as local communities often rely on natural resources for economic advantage when there is a lack of other, more sustainable, economic opportunities. WCS’ hypothesis is that generating new economic opportunities in the region will offer suitable alternatives to income-generating activities that harm nearby protected conservation reserves. As a paperless solution, Atikus is committed to green environmental practices, which made WCS a natural fit for us as a client.” – Kate Woska-Sirtori, Co-Founder and CEO, Atikus
By working with organizations like WCS, as well as financial institutions and capacity builders around the world, Atikus hopes to galvanize the work of small businesses and jump start local economies.