The Financial Inclusion Initiative at Omidyar Network announced it has spun off to launch Flourish, a new venture firm focused on backing entrepreneurs whose innovations are helping people across the globe to capture economic opportunity and achieve financial health. The firm launches with a global team of 18 professionals and an existing $200 million portfolio across the US and emerging markets, as well as an additional $300 million at its disposal over the next five years. Flourish is an evergreen fund backed by Pam and Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay.
“We believe that capital, when deployed to create individual opportunity and change sectors, can shape a more inclusive economy—where everyone does better. That is at the core of Flourish’s mission,” said Tilman Ehrbeck, one of the three managing partners leading the new venture. “We have made remarkable progress in bringing people into the formal financial system, but that has not necessarily translated into better economic outcomes—that is the industry’s next challenge.”
In the past decade, more than one billion people have been financially included. Yet, in many emerging markets, more than half of working-age adults still live and work in the informal economy, often reluctantly self-employed without adequate resources or safety nets. In the US, the majority of households are not financially healthy, often living from paycheck-to-paycheck.
“As an industry, we have a better understanding of people’s complex relationships with money than ever before, and technology is creating new models for enhancing earnings, protecting against risk, and building wealth,” said Arjuna Costa, managing partner at Flourish. “To reshape economic systems and create opportunity for vulnerable people around the world, we invest in innovative technologies that give them more control over their financial lives.”
Flourish’s global portfolio includes more than 40 fintech companies helping low- and middle-income households and small businesses to improve their financial standing. Investment themes include digital-only, mobile-first challenger banks, including Chime (recently valued at $1.5 billion), Aspiration, Neon, Albo, and Tez; new insurance models, such as MicroEnsure, Kin, and Pula; and asset optimization tools, including United Income and Scripbox.
In addition, Flourish is pushing new frontiers with its investments. For example, Steady connects flexible workers in the US with gig economy jobs, helping them increase their earning opportunities, while optimizing their skills and available time. Juntos is re-personalizing the banking relationship in the digital age, creating AI-powered conversations over mobile in 20 languages across the globe.
“We back entrepreneurs with winning business models to responsibly harness the power of technology to improve their customers’ lives,” said managing partner Emmalyn Shaw. “Our portfolio companies represent a new generation of purpose-driven innovators, who believe in market-based solutions to empower individuals, and are pushing the boundaries to deliver on that belief.”
As a sector-change oriented firm, Flourish will also continue to support thought leaders in financial services, as well as forward-thinking regulators and policymakers. This work will build on existing engagements with ecosystem builders, that range from CFSI and FinRegLab in the US, to Alliance for Financial Inclusion and R2A Accelerator across emerging markets.