ENVision mobile: Financial inclusion for microentrepreneurs

We are building business management tools for low-income microentrepreneurs who primarily sell consumer goods in cash.

Photo of Aneri Pradhan
0 1

Written by

Eligibility

  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States

Gender

  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

California: Oakland (94607), Los Angeles (90033)

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Development & Prosperity

Date Started

December / 15 / 2017

Organization Type

  • for-profit

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

Budget

  • $250k - $500k

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

http://www.envisionmobile.co

Twitter URL

http://www.twitter.com/ENVision_mobile

1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

Aneri is also the founder of ENVenture, an award-winning non-profit in Uganda that lends to microentrepreneurs to sell clean energy products. She developed ENVision to underwrite transactional data via a smartphone as ENVenture’s borrowers lacked a credit score. She learned, however, that microentrepreneurs in the U.S. face similar challenges, and decided to pilot in California given the lack of services and need for this locally. The Founding team's combined expertise of working with low income populations, technology, partnership and business development makes us a strong team to tackle financial inclusion for microenterprises in the U.S.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

In 2016, 40% of small businesses in the US were denied loans due to lack of loan-readiness. According to our interviews, most operate in cash, record on pen & paper, and do not generate receipts. Most have never received training in important business concepts such as inventory management or sales tracking and are unable to differentiate between revenue and profit, stalling business success. Solving this helps entry into the formal economy.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

ENVision mobile has developed an Android app offering simple and intuitive cost & revenue tracking for low-income microentrepreneurs who primarily sell consumer goods in cash. Our application enables users to run their businesses easily and for potential lenders to engage with them based on these records. ENVision mobile operates on and offline and is targeted at low-income microentrepreneurs, who generate less than $85,000 in revenue (not profit) per year and have less than 5 employees. ENVision Mobile’s main features currently are inventory management, sales tracking, ledger, and simple P&L reports. Since 45 Million Americans are without a credit score and 9 million households do not have bank accounts, our technology will enable a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) to engage more easily with applicants and to make faster data-driven decisions on loan applications. To make this a reality we are developing a cloud based dashboard that CDFIs and other organizations can utilize to see users businesses in detail and to track them once they are engaged. The combination of the app and dashboard will be the simple technology bridge between users and lenders.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

New to bookkeeping technology, microentrepreneurs like Tita, who operates a jewelry street stall in San Francisco, will be able to understand how her business is performing without any accounting knowledge. For example, Tita approaches a microlender for a loan, and they request her to download our free mobile app. She simply takes photos of her inventory and operational expense receipts and enters the details of each item. When she makes a sale, she enters the price sold at and inputs the customer’s details. Combining her business expenses with her daily sales entered, the app will track her revenue and cash flow. With Tita's permission, the lender has logged her phone number into their dashboard and can see her business traction in lieu of her non-existing credit score or business bank account, allowing the lender to underwrite based on her transactions. Tita can now see her margins.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

Mobile apps are not currently serving the needs of microentrepreneurs in the U.S., who typically are first generation immigrants, people of color, speak another language, and are struggling to get by. Our work is focused initially on supporting microentrepreneurs in cities, starting in Oakland & Los Angeles by targeting users and lenders through partnering with nonprofits who are serving this community, either through programs or financial services to promote and utilize ENVision mobile.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • immigration status
  • work status
  • language
  • race/ethnicity
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are many paid app based business tracking tools with our most similar competitor being Square from a payment and sales tracking perspective and GoDaddy from an entry level bookkeeping perspective. However, the similarities are minimal with no existing solution innovating on features for the clear needs of our target users. From a design perspective we focus on image based data capture, cash based users, the financially illiterate & our offline functionality for data conscious customers. Commercially we will be cheaper than other solutions and offer clear routes to potential lenders.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Currently we are in QA testing with a couple of partners in Oakland and Los Angeles and we currently have 100 Monthly Active Users. Our immediate focus is on engaging with app and dashboard users through qualitative research to understand what is important to them to enable correct decision making. By offering end users a free tool and training on how to use it we are adding value through helping identify if they are making a profit as well as building up a credit history they never previously had. By measuring sales revenue and growth we will be able to understand if there are productivity gains from use that result in revenue growth. By recording each user's inventory, we can understand how profitability relates to product selection. We will also be able to assess the wider beneficiaries impact by studying aggregated vendor and customer data and relationships between users.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

Our immediate need for scaling is to complete our organizational cloud dashboard and this is where the change challenge funds would be spent. Organizations, not end app users, will be our paying customers as a B2B company, and will be our route for rapid user acquisition. This is crucial as we need many users to enable big data driven insights through machine learning. We also aim to run digital marketing campaigns targeting traders and small business as social media is a popular tool used by microentrepreneurs. We will also be conducting targeted outreach to MSME ecosystem builders.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Trainings, Consultation
  • Open Sourcing

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We have received grant funding to date, but are aiming to close a private funding round in Q2 2018. We aim to achieve financial sustainability through monthly recurring revenue primarily driven by organizations paying to access our dashboard services. Our main risk is that we do not yet have a brand that ecosystem builders (customers) will recognize, though we plan improve that over time by contributing to thought leadership blogs on the topic of American MSMEs, which are rarely understood.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

Our co-founding team is comprised of a CEO, CTO, and CFO. Aneri Pradhan, as CEO, has over 10 years of experience advising microenterprises and working on technology innovation for emerging markets. Eric Obeysakare, as CTO, is a PhD candidate at Penn State in Information Sciences & Technology, a Fulbright Fellow, and served in the Peace Corps. Nick McNally, as CFO, is a chartered Accountant with previous experience with Ernst & Young. We aim to recruit UX and customer success roles in the future.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Communities of color
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Email

Organization name

ENVision mobile

Program Design Clarity

We work with our beneficiaries by getting their feedback on our application by presenting during business training programs. Not only do we answer questions, but we log feedback provided by beneficiaries to note in the improvement of our design. We are planning to carry out such activities in partnership with the incubators we are speaking to in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Approach to financial wellbeing: does your project focus on creating financial wellbeing through innovating on any of the following?

  • education / literacy
  • entrepreneurship
  • loans
  • merchant services
  • payment

Innovation type: Please select which of the following types of innovation best characterize your work

  • Process innovation (execution of a new or considerably improved production or delivery method)

Partnerships in detail: tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

We are currently discussing partnership with several Latino microentrepreneur incubators in California to understand the uptake of the application. The partnerships would be around promoting and teaching the app to their beneficiaries, and getting feedback as to how to improve the application to serve beneficiaries to become more financially literate. The incubators would be able to measure their impact over time with the use of our app and dashboard in observing profitability.

If you won the Unlocking ₵hange Challenge, how would you invest the prize money of $50,000?

The prize money will be invested in the development of our cloud based dashboard for organizations by hiring developers to support our CTO. This development is key as organizations are our primary source of end user data and revenue. We also will be investing in digital marketing to app end users.

Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions has the project received?

We are a 2018 Vodafone Wireless Innovation Project winner, receiving $100,000 in unrestricted funding. We also received $30,000 from Unilever and $28,000 from Doen Foundation in unrestricted grant funding.

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall, would you champion this entry as a excellent example to move forward to the next phase of the challenge and become a semifinalist?

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 33.3%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Yes/maybe - 66.7%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Is this entry IMPACTFUL on financial wellbeing?

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 33.3%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry SUSTAINABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 66.7%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 33.3%

No - 0%

5. What are some of the HIGHLIGHTS of strengths of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 100%

Clarity of Model - 50%

Clarity of Writing - 0%

Idea Originality - 50%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 100%

Impact measurement - 50%

Impact Potential - 100%

Financial Sustainability - 0%

Team - 50%

Partnerships - 0%

Potential to scale - 0%

6. What are some of the areas for IMPROVEMENT of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 100%

Clarity of Model - 0%

Clarity of Writing - 0%

Idea Originality - 0%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 100%

Impact measurement - 0%

Impact Potential - 0%

Financial Sustainability - 100%

Team - 0%

Partnerships - 100%

Potential to scale - 100%

0 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment