DreamStart Labs Awarded Innovation Grant to Support Women’s Groups in Emerging Markets

SAN DIEGO, April 8, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — DreamStart Labs, an award-winning provider of digital banking technology for emerging markets, announced it has been named a recipient of the  Women Saving for Resilience Innovation Fund. The SEEP Network’s Women Saving for Resilience program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, seeks to help underserved women in the developing world who have been disproportionately impacted by the global pandemic. The successful proposal from DreamStart Labs was one of five selected from nearly 300 submissions.

DreamStart Labs will use funding from this grant to develop two new technologies that build financial and social resilience for underserved women. The first innovation will provide personal credit scores to millions of unbanked people in the developing world, while the second will make it easy to deliver messages, trainings, and surveys to vulnerable, hard-to-reach communities.

The new technologies will be added to the company’s market-leading DreamSave app. DreamSave is an award-winning FinTech solution that helps unbanked people in emerging markets save money, access loans, and achieve financial goals through informal savings groups. The new DreamSave features will be piloted first in Benin, West Africa through a strategic partnership with TechnoServe, a leading non-profit that uses market-based solutions to help people lift themselves out of poverty. The new technologies developed for this grant will also be made available to all DreamStart Labs customers and partners worldwide.


The Problem: For nearly half the world, access to fair and safe credit is often out of reach – especially for women. Millions of people in emerging markets are addressing this problem by joining informal savings groups, which help unbanked communities build savings, and access small loans. Unfortunately, members who work hard to establish good credit history through these groups are still completely invisible to traditional lenders when they are ready for larger loans.

The Solution: DreamStart Labs will develop the world’s first data-driven credit scoring solution for informal savings groups. The new technology will analyze extensive demographic, financial, and behavioral data from the company’s DreamSave app to build credit scores at both the member and group level.

Unlike most alternative credit scoring systems, the new DreamSave technology will combine behavioral and social indicators with extensive financial data from loans made within informal savings groups. This data – which has traditionally been kept only in paper ledgers – has the potential to unlock an entirely new level of financial empowerment for hundreds of millions of unbanked people worldwide.

Using the new technology, DreamSave members will receive personal credit scores for the first time ever – along with helpful tips to improve their financial health. At a group level, savings groups will have better access to outside capital by leveraging group credit scores from DreamSave. And from a lender perspective, loan officers will be able to consider a wider range of creditworthy applicants who were previously rejected due to a lack of credit history.


The Problem: In most emerging markets, over half the population lives in rural areas with unreliable access to the outside world. When pandemics, natural disasters, and economic disruptions occur, critical communications to vulnerable populations are expensive and slow – if they happen at all. At the very time remote communities need timely information and support the most – they find themselves more isolated and cut off than ever.

The Solution: DreamStart Labs will add an innovative in-app communications technology to its market-leading DreamSave app. This new technology will make it easy for authorized non-profits and government partners to deliver targeted messages, trainings, and surveys to hard-to-reach populations with the push of a button. The next time members login to their digital savings group, any new messages or surveys will appear directly in the appropriate section of the DreamSave app in their preferred local language.

Communicating through informal savings groups is a highly effective way to reach rural populations – especially underserved women who make up 80% of members. For much of the developing world, savings groups serve as the primary community bank for rural families – meeting weekly to provide essential savings and loan services to members. When these groups digitize with DreamSave, a single Android phone can support an entire community, giving low-income members a cost-effective way to access modern digital financial services.

Integrating targeted messaging and survey technology into DreamSave will change the game for communications and data collection in emerging markets. Unlike existing tools which are limited to pre-registered phone owners, the new DreamSave technology will be able to reach otherwise inaccessible people as a seamless addition to their regular, weekly savings group meetings. Even members who don’t own phones will have access to precisely targeted communications through the shared group app.

Adding this technology to DreamSave will also result in improved data analytics for authorized non-profit and government partners. Responses to in-app messages and surveys will be automatically correlated with demographic and financial data from members, making it easy to identify those who require additional services. As with all data in DreamSave, the new in-app communication technology will comply with strict data privacy policies to ensure vulnerable populations are protected at all times.

Selected Quotes

“Our passion is to help underserved women in emerging markets achieve their dreams of a better life,” said Wes Wasson, CEO of DreamStart Labs. “We are delighted to be selected for this grant as we work with partners like the SEEP Network and TechnoServe to improve the resilience of vulnerable communities around the world.”

“TechnoServe is excited to partner with DreamStart Labs on this important initiative,” said Dave Hale, Director of TechnoServe Labs at TechnoServe. “This project is perfectly aligned with our strategic imperative to discover, test, and implement innovative market-based technologies that have the potential to transform the lives of millions of people in the developing world.”

About DreamStart Labs

DreamStart Labs (www.dreamstartlabs.com) is a social impact technology startup that helps people in the developing world achieve their dreams of a better life. The company offers award-winning digital banking solutions for underserved people in emerging markets, 80 percent of whom are women. Founded by former Silicon Valley executives, the company is a member of the Inclusive Fintech 50, honoring the Top 50 startups driving financial inclusion for 3 billion people worldwide. DreamStart Labs is headquartered in California and has operations in multiple countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

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Wes Wasson


About TechnoServe

As part of this grant, TechnoServe will pilot the new DreamSave technologies with rural savings groups through the BeninCajù program in Benin, West Africa. The new credit scoring features will be used by strategic micro-finance partners to provide deserving female entrepreneurs with small business loans – while the new in-app communication features will be used to deliver micro-trainings and surveys to improve market skills for women in remote agricultural communities. The ultimate goal of both new technologies is to create sustainable market-based solutions that help women in underserved communities break the cycle of poverty.

TechnoServe (www.technoserve.org) is a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty. A non-profit organization operating in 28 countries, it works with hard-working men and women in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses, and industries. By linking people to information, capital, and markets, it has helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities.

Founded over 50 years ago, TechnoServe has been named the #1 nonprofit for fighting poverty by the ImpactMatters charity ratings agency.

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SOURCE DreamStart Labs