DFS Lab, launched through CoMotion Labs at UW, hosted a design sprint boot camp in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Energy and enthusiasm filled the room and it was infectious and alive at all hours of the day. Whether over breakfast in the morning or drinks long after the sun had set, participants shared ideas, issues and best practices from their experiences working in digital financial services across the world. They spent a week addressing challenges and producing solutions for financial inclusion using the Design Sprint methodology; by the end of the week, each entrepreneur and startup had created a prototype they’d tested on users.
Thanks to its extensive global networks, DFS Lab’s small but nimble team convened a diverse group of 20 entrepreneurs from 10 countries working in Financial Technology (FinTech) for its first boot camp. “I've worked with a lot of startup accelerators but I have not seen one as effective as DFS Lab. It's not about the number of people but the diversity and the difference of thought that this team brings together,” said Bertram Dsouza, a payment specialist from India.
The boot camp offered participants access to industry experts, a network of like-minded entrepreneurs and a supportive environment in which to develop, refine and test ideas. “The boot camp has given us the space to confront some of the critical challenges that will make or break our idea. Having the opportunity to step out of your day-to-day and do that in a community of people who are experienced, intelligent and willing to work with you on it—invested in you—has been fantastic,” said Lara Gilman from DFS Lab's portfolio company, Yooz.
Beyond education and mentorship, DFS Lab offers up to $100,000 of non-dilutive funding for promising boot camp startups. Often accelerators look to finance startups already innovating in a space. DFS Lab’s model differs from others in that it has discovered a need—digital financial services for low-income populations who lack formal banking services—and has created an environment to foster innovative solutions in the FinTech sector that will fundamentally transform these communities and improve living standards.
After working with DFS Lab, entrepreneurs and startups have smarter products or services more likely to positively impact the lives of millions, if not billions of people in the developing world. A month after the boot camp, DFS Lab announced it would be investing $400,000 in four of the boot camp participants.