Dealflow | February 7, 2019

Orange’s venture fund backs financial inclusion startup Aire

Jessica Pothering
ImpactAlpha Editor

Jessica Pothering

ImpactAlpha, February 6 – Orange Digital Ventures, the venture investing arm of mobile network Orange, has backed U.K.-based fintech startup Aire’s $11 million Series B round. Experian Ventures, Crane Venture Partners, White Star Capital, and Sunstone Capital also invested in the round.

Aire is among a growing crop of new financial services companies trying to modernize and expand access to banking and credit. The company has developed a credit scoring and risk assessment model based on both traditional metrics and additional data points, like employment status, tenure, and income stability, which it collects through interactive virtual interviews. Data context is an important factor in the company’s business model—something that is “fully captured by commoditized datasets,” Orange Digital Ventures’ Bilal Djelassi and Moses Choi wrote.

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Orange Digital Ventures backed Aire as part of its mission is to “finance entrepreneurs from around the world whose ambition is to imagine, design and develop tomorrow’s services and technologies that are in line with Orange’s fields of expertise.”

The pool of mobile network-backed startups is growing as operators zero in on the opportunity expand access to mobile-enabled basic services and diversify their own business lines. Kenya’s telecom operator Safaricom started the trend nearly 12 years ago when it launched M-Pesa mobile money service, which is now actively used by 32 million people. The company also has a small startup fund that invests in startups “that use mobile technology as an enabler,” like farmer financing venture FarmDrive.

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As for Orange, the company has also backed Partech Africa, a fund to support African financial inclusion startups and ventures providing access to basic services, like off-grid energy companies Fenix and BBOXX.