Australian private equity firm LeapFrog Investment raised $700 million for a new fund aimed at improving “the startup ecosystem” in financial services and healthcare in Asia and Africa.
The fund, with a lead investment from New Jersey-based Prudential Financial, takes LeapFrog’s total commitments to $1.6 billion, making it one of the largest private equity managers dedicated to impact investing.
“We are delighted to be supporting the largest equity fund by a dedicated impact manager in emerging markets,” said Philippe Le Houerou, CEO of International Finance Corp., the private-sector arm of the World Bank Group and a lead investor in the new fund, in a statement. “Together we will drive this investment toward financial inclusion and health access.”
LeapFrog provides startups with essential supports through its deep connections with banks and diverse portfolio, said Chris Sheehan, founder of crop insurance startup Worldcover. LeapFrog and Sheehan’s company are in talks for potential funding, he told Karma Network. Worldcover aims to help farmers mitigate losses caused by natural disasters by providing low-cost crop insurance in Africa via mobile phone.
The $700 million fund has already invested in five companies, including an East African healthcare services provider Goodlife Pharmacy, and an Indian digital payment disruptor NeoGrowth. Since being established in 2010, LeapFrog has made 33 investments in financial services, information technology and healthcare. It exited eight of them, including the $107 million exit of BIMA, a mobile micro-insurance company focusing on emerging markets.
“They’re in a very unique position to create an ecosystem of companies that relate to each other,” Sheehan said.
Sheehan recognizes that a startup must possess two key characteristics to attract investors like LeapFrog. The first one is a funding team that’s highly competent in a targeting market. While it’s not necessary for an Africa-focused startup to have a local founder, the team must demonstrate experience and expertise in building companies there.
The second is a scalable product that could work across regions. An ideal startup would start with a product that focuses on a small group of customers, and then scale the business to reach a wide range of customers. For example, Worldcover’s crop insurance is powered by satellite climate data and risk modeling, and it initially relied on salespeople going into rural villages to explain the service. Now it has pivoted to companies and even governments for distribution, as it expands from East Africa to Kenya and Uganda and Mexico.
In April, LeapFrog CEO Andrew Kuper helped World Bank’s International Finance launch a new global standard of impact investing, aiming to quantify social impacts.
“It is time for a better kind of capitalism. LeapFrog was founded on a philosophy of profit with purpose, rejecting conventional trade-off thinking in financial markets,” said LeapFrog’s founder Dr. Kuper.