In the third episode of The Portico Podcast I speak with Monica Brand Engel — a co-founding Partner at Quona Capital, a venture capital firm focused on fintech for inclusion in emerging markets.
If you’ve looked into EM fintech, you’ve probably come across Quona and their portfolio companies.
Sokowatch in East Africa, a working capital provider and last-mile distributor of fast-moving consumer goods to informal retailers;
Coins in the Philippines, a mobile, branchless, blockchain-based platform that provides unbanked and underbanked customers with direct access to basic financial services (and which was acquired by Go-Jek in 2019);
Or Konfio, a digital banking and software platform for SMEs in Mexico, which received a $100m investment from Softbank as well as a $100m secured credit facility from Goldman Sachs last year.
I was excited to get Monica on the podcast because she has built a career in two of the most compelling themes around: financial inclusion and financial technology.
Our discussion opens with her walking us through her career trajectory. We then talk about the convergence between philanthropic and commercial investment across emerging markets; the commonalities and idiosyncrasies across the markets in which Quona invests; the quality of fintech entrepreneurship in EM; the prospects for technological and business model innovation to migrate from emerging markets to the United States and Western Europe; and the biggest obstacles fintech startups encounter as they attempt to scale, among other topics.
I’m delighted to kick off the podcast with Aniko Szigetvari and Ik Kanu.
Aniko and Ik are the founding partners of Atlantica Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm focused on six of the largest markets in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Aniko has over 20 years of experience investing in emerging markets, of which over 17 have been focused on the technology, media and telecom vertical.
Aniko has been investing in Africa for the past 15 years and she has built up a wide range of contacts across the continent and other emerging markets. Prior to starting Atlantica Ventures (‘AV’) Aniko was the Global Head of the TMT group at the International Finance Corporation, where she managed a team of ~50 professionals who sat in eight regional hubs from Colombia to Singapore.
Ik has over 10 years of African private equity experience, with an additional nine years working in technology and consulting in the United States.
Prior to starting AV, Ik was a principal at Convergence Partners — an Africa-focused TMT fund — and before that he spent five years with Helios Investment Partners. At both PE funds, Ik was seconded to portfolio companies into temporary operational management positions where he troubleshot issues across different stages — from growth to turnaround. Ik is a Class 23 Kauffman Fellow, one of the world’s premier innovation, leadership, and venture capital-focused programs.
In our discussion, we talk about why Aniko and Ik decided to team up to found a venture capital firm, whether the continent is ready for institutional VC investments, how Africa compares to other emerging markets, and how Covid-19 is impacting the startup landscape in their target markets.