Stellenbosch-based fintech startup Paymenow has been accepted into Catalyst Fund, the global inclusive fintech accelerator managed by BFA Global, supported by UK aid and JPMorgan Chase & Co, and fiscally sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Paymenow’s participation in the seventh cohort of the Catalyst Fund acceleration programme provides the company with £80,000 in grant capital, bespoke and expert-led venture building support for six months and 1:1 connections with investors and corporate innovators that can help them scale.

Paymenow offers financial inclusivity through a responsible early access to wages platform, enabled via a secure mobile app, developed specifically for the South African market. It integrates into employers’ payroll systems and offers a way for South African low income earners to even out their cash flows across the month.

“Fifty percent of workers take out unsecured loans between paydays – called payday loans – which come at extortionate interest rates of 27% and leave workers spiralling into a vicious debt cycle,” says Paymenow co-founder and business development head Bryan Habana.

“Paymenow aims to address this through providing responsible access to earned wages, paired with financial wellness and inclusion education,” adds MD and co-founder Deon Nobrega.

Paymenow’s team includes Nobrega, Habana, technical director Willem van Zyl and head of software development Gerry Potgieter. Based in Stellenbosch, the company decided to develop its own solution after investigating similar offerings in the UK market and realised they were not compatible with local needs.

Says Habana: “The unencumbered grant funding assists us in the short term to expand our team as we look to hire an experienced client success manager to help with sales and account management.

“More importantly, it gives Paymenow the validation we so vehemently defend as it pertains to our ‘business for good’ ethos. Catalyst Fund and its investor advisory committee, which leads sourcing for the program, performed stringent due diligence to ensure Paymenow ticks all the boxes in terms of a fintech that enables responsible financial inclusion.”

Nobrega adds: “Catalyst Fund gives us exposure to top tier venture capitalists and private equity funds that look to invest in disruptive fintech, especially in emerging markets. A few international VCs have already made their formal introductions.

“Paymenow does play within a hotly contested ‘salary advance’ fintech market, however, with our business model revolving around responsible behavioural change as well as our team’s in-depth knowledge and experience in the compliance and payments space, specifically in SADC, we feel that our proposition is one that can scale exponentially in a sustainable manner,” he adds.

Paymenow is one of six fintech startups accepted into the seventh cohort, which includes companies from Nigeria (WellaHealth, Flex Finance), Mexico (Mango Life, Graviti), and India (KarmaLife).