2.7 billion people worldwide do not have access to credit and services by banks or other formal financial institution. They are the unbanked and underbanked.
Most unbanked and underbanked people live in countries with developing economies. Many are living in poverty. It’s often impossible for them to prove their identity, open a bank account, access credit, own property, or even access healthcare. They are cut off from modern financial services and, by extension, the global economy.
In 2014, Ashish Gadnis witnessed these challenges first-hand. While volunteering in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he found himself in the middle of an argument between a local bank representative and a Congolese farmer. Because this farmer was a woman, and because she didn’t have proof of her identity, the representative refused to bank her. But he said he would bank Ashish.
“This lack of financial inclusion keeps people trapped in poverty,” says Ashish, BanQu Co-Founder and CEO.
Headquartered in Austin, Texas, BanQu (it’s pronounced BankYou) is an economic-identity technology solution. BanQu’s blockchain-powered secure platform helps provide unbanked people with a verifiable economic identity and transaction history. The company’s goal: create “dignity through identity” and enable a path out of extreme poverty for millions of people.
In the case of unbanked farmers, the BanQu platform can help them verify their land ownership, project their yield, net fair prices for their crops, and track their sales. All this information helps them form a verifiable economic identity, which they can leverage to progress beyond their current financial position. All that farmers need to use BanQu is a basic, SMS-capable cell phone.
In 2018, BanQu joined 100+ Accelerator — a sustainability accelerator by Anheuser-Busch InBev in partnership with Highline BETA. 100+ Accelerator is helping startups like BanQu accelerate a path to a commercial deal with AB InBev. The program’s pilot provides mentorship, training, and funding to speed paths to a pilot with AB InBev for the 21 participating startups.
Through the 100+ Accelerator, BanQu sees the potential to impact the thousands of small scale farmers AB InBev works with directly every year. Many of these farmers lack access to affordable financial products or business infrastructure. This limits their ability to provide an adequate income for their families. BanQu’s platform can offer these farmers a secure digital identity, while also increasing the visibility and traceability of AB InBev’s crop value chain.
The pilot partnership between the two companies focuses on farmers of cassava and barley crops used by AB InBev operations in Zambia and Uganda. The BanQu platform allows AB InBev to track its product through every step of the supply chain, from the small-scale cassava farmer to aggregated buyers to retailers. The record of transactions is etched on the blockchain. This real-time digital ledger offers AB InBev improved oversight, as well as the power to ensure that their supply chain is operating fairly.
“Through our collaboration with BanQu, we want to help small farmers access the financial tools that will enhance and grow their businesses. It is not only our social responsibility to lift up the entrepreneurs and communities that enable us to brew great beer, but it also helps us improve our own operations with better overall demand planning. BanQu is a win-win as it benefits society and our business.”
– Maisie Devine, Global Director AB InBev Sustainability Fund & Accelerator
Ashish says the biggest value for BanQu in participating in the 100+ Accelerator program has been the ability to dive deeper into the value chain when it comes to farmers. The hope is that the partnership will help BanQu accelerate its goal of enabling 100 million people out of extreme poverty by the end of 2023.
“Our goal is to strengthen this partnership across multiple crops and countries setting up a long-term, sustainable and responsible supply chain,” Ashish says. “AB InBev benefits when farmers are skilled, connected and financially literate. It couldn’t have been a better fit.”
The company’s mission is crystal clear: safe water for everyone, everywhere. It sounds lofty, but Spout’s deceptively simple-looking tech is actually a powerful tool for identifying potentially life-threatening water contaminants.
The smartphone-enabled device tests for the presence of lead in water that comes through a home’s taps. That data can then be used not only to improve water quality within the home but also to map water quality across the community and help prevent damage from water quality catastrophes like that in Flint, Michigan.
Since founding Spout in late 2017, Ari’s focus has been on refining the business model and establishing relationships that can help get Spout in homes around the world. To that end, Spout joined the inaugural cohort of 100+ Accelerator — a sustainability accelerator by Anheuser-Busch InBev and Highline BETA.
100+ Accelerator is helping startups like Spout accelerate a path to a commercial deal with AB InBev, while helping AB InBev meet its 2025 sustainability goals:
"Brewing great beer relies on natural ingredients and a thriving community. What could be more essential to that than clean water? We want to empower our consumers with the tools and information they need to ensure that the water coming out of their taps is safe to drink. Spout is making it convenient and low-cost to test water in-home or on-the-go so that our consumers can make better, safer decisions about the water they (and their families) are using every day.”
– Maisie Devine, Global Director AB InBev Sustainability Fund & Accelerator
Here’s Ari on the catalyst for Spout, its life-saving potential, and how 100+ Accelerator has changed his business.
I sold my last company and was looking to d do something radically different from what I had been doing. I was given an opportunity through the 10.10.10 Cities program to look at wicked problems. These are problems that you and I would look at as non- solvable.
Flint, Michigan was a big topic of conversation. How could we stop the wide-spread damage caused by the lead crisis from proliferating like that again? I realized that knowing what comes out of the taps in people’s homes is a key part of that prevention.
I leveraged my technical background to reimagine portable water quality sampling. I asked myself: could we build a device that consumers could use to simply and easily analyze water quality?
That evolved over the course of 10 days into an actionable idea then called the Waterlyzer: a handheld device that would connect to a smartphone and sent to consumers to be used in their homes. The plan was to crowdsource water quality measurements across a whole city – and eventually across the entire country – to build a data map and identify where bad-quality water is, and the failing infrastructure that carries it.
Ten days later, I had a 3-D printed prototype. Two weeks later I launched the company.
There are a lot of commercial-grade, very expensive products – $1000 or $2000 devices made for professional water technologists. Most of these solutions require water samples to be transported to a lab – which means more time and money are needed to get a result.
We built our device to be a faster, more affordable solution to allow consumers to test their water anytime and anywhere. With our device and a smartphone, our users know within minutes if there’s lead on tap in their home.
Spout has a unique model because we help consumers, but also leverage their help to crowd-source data from across communities to help utilities aggregate water quality data. By sharing results, users can help water companies map and isolate potential problems from service lines, and respond more quickly and comprehensively.
We applied to 100+ Accelerator not really understanding the program. When I began to see that it was a path to commercial relationships with AB InBev, I started to realize how the program could completely change our go-to-market strategy.
The 100+ Accelerator program has been exceeding our expectations. Our whole business model has changed because of the accelerator. We’ve even rebranded.
Working with AB InBev, we’ve seen that a new generation of executives is ready to really change the world. To have the opportunity to let my product be part of AB InBev’s sustainability goals is about more than creating a successful venture for the company. It allows Spout to be a part of a game-changing movement – which is every entrepreneur’s dream.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
AB InBev and 100+ were featured as part of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
Multinational brewer, AB InBev, has launched the 100+ Accelerator programme through which they are collaborating with entrepreneurs to co-create solutions that will help them reach their own sustainability goals, such as their circular packaging target. In parallel, AB InBev are supporting these entrepreneurs in scaling their sustainable innovations, through funding and mentoring.
Do Eat, which produces 100% edible and creative packaging containers, is one of the 21 initial start-ups chosen to participate in the programme. AB InBev will work with each of the start-ups to implement and scale their solutions across the AB InBev business and with their partners.
Majik Water, 100+ Accelerator cohort 1 startup, has been shortlisted contenders for the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa prize.
When Beth Koigi moved into her university dormitory in eastern Kenya, she was horrified that the water coming out of the tap was filthy and laden with bacteria. Within months, she had built her first filter and was soon selling filters to others. When drought hit in 2016 and water restrictions saw Koigi’s water supply turned off entirely, she began thinking about water scarcity and its relation to climate change.
“Going for months without any tap water became a very bad situation,” she says. “Where I used to live, we didn’t get any tap water at all, so even doing simple things like going to the toilet – I would go to the mall instead. Having no water at all is worse than just having unpurified water, so I started thinking about a way to not have to rely on the council.”
A couple months ago, 100+ Accelerator issued 10 challenges to scientists, technologists, and promising entrepreneurs around the world to help drive progress to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and our 2025 Sustainability Goals.
We received over 600 submissions from around the globe across all 10 challenges. After a rigorous review, 21 start-ups have been selected to join the first 100+ Accelerator class. Gathering in New York this week, the start-ups will attend a three-day workshop that offers lean start-up training, network advice, and technical expertise. The program is intended to provide the start-ups with the tools, resources and contacts they need to implement & scale these solutions across our businesses & partners.
We spoke to FoodBev media about the launch of 100+ Accelerator, to support, mentor and fund ten successful applicants so they can incubate, experiment and amplify their solutions at scale.
The world’s largest beer company said it wants to mobilise the world’s brightest minds –entrepreneurs, academics, scientists and technologists – to solve global sustainability issues and contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
In a statement, the company said: “We believe that global challenges need local solutions. Because we source, brew and sell locally through our companies around the world, we have a unique insight into issues that are directly impacting communities. And we are positioned to identify opportunities.”
We spoke to Beverage Daily about the launch of 100+ Accelerator, and the program's 10 focus areas.
Beer giant AB InBev today launches its ‘100+ Accelerator’: an accelerator program for start-ups working on the most pressing global sustainability issues. It will select 10 partners in its first round this year; investing $100,000 in each.
Highline BETA, in partnership with the global beer company AB InBev, has announced the launch of the AB InBev 100+ Sustainability Accelerator, a program dedicated to addressing global sustainability issues.
The AB InBev 100+ Sustainability Accelerator will invite academics, entrepreneurs, scientists, and technologists to develop solutions that tackle AB InBev’s sustainability goals related to water stewardship, responsible sourcing, product upcycling, smart agriculture, circular packaging, and climate change.
Highline BETA, which has been working with AB InBev to design and run the accelerator, said it will also provide mentorship, programming, and access to investors and partners to startups accepted in the program. Startups will also have the opportunity to receive follow-on investments from AB InBev and its partners at a Demo Day, and the ability to start a corporate partnership with AB InBev.