With the wave of digital transformation leading the Fintech industry, demand for digital-first solutions is changing the utilization of financial services for businesses and consumers globally. This week’s feature, Amee Parbhoo, Managing Partner at Accion Venture Lab, is working to help advance fintech innovation impacting underserved individuals and small businesses. As an early-stage investment fund, Accion Venture Lab is devoted to empowering fintech startups that are at the forefront of driving digital solutions and financial inclusivity.
Full name: Amee Parbhoo
Current job title: Managing Partner
Current company: Accion Venture Lab
Current location: Washington DC
"What brings it all together is that I have always been passionate about how business can solve real problems for underserved communities around the world."
Professional experiences across different industries such as international development, management consulting, and financial services have allowed Amee to have an interdisciplinary approach towards problem-solving. Amee worked for a number of years at McKinsey, serving financial institutions and insurers globally, as well as in several operating roles for financial inclusion and fintech startups in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, and the U.S. “What brings it all together is that I have always been passionate about how business can solve real problems for underserved communities around the world. I see financial services as a critical enabler to economic development, helping those communities to build more resilience to shocks and driving greater prosperity.”
As the Managing Partnerof Accion Venture Lab, which is a leading early-stage investor for inclusive fintech startups — those reaching the 3 billion people underserved by financial institutions around the world, Amee is driving positive change in the fintech industry. “I never expected to be an investor for this long (6 years) and originally joined Venture Lab because I thought it would help me refine some startup ideas of my own in the fintech space. But I’ve ended up loving the work we do — I get to work with an incredibly talented team and some of the brightest and most passionate entrepreneurs building innovative businesses to solve big problems around the world.”
Amee finds this work to be proving especially crucial during the global pandemic, as the fintech startups in the group’s portfolio have supported a more inclusive recovery. “For example, our portfolio companies are creating “bite-sized” insurance policies to protect against health emergencies and their financial consequences (Toffee Insurance in India); helping thin-file Americans build their credit and save (Self Financial in the US); leveraging data in new and different ways to help small businesses better manage their inventory and access working capital (Capiter in Egypt); and enabling smallholder farmers to access credit and crop insurance and build resilience to the threats of climate change (Apollo Agriculture in Kenya and Pula across Africa).”
Accion Venture Lab has a unique culture wherein curiosity and empathy are always promoted. Amee exclaims that the team is led by their incredible curiosity about the world around them. While also being empathetic to their founders and the businesses they’re building. “We’re calculated risk-takers. Our team knows what it means to live, work, and build in emerging markets, and so we are not only sensitive to our entrepreneurs’ realities but are champions for their success. I also love that we do our research on what’s going on in the market, we take a perspective on what we think is important and impactful, and we don’t shy away from going where other investors might not go — whether that’s a new geography or a new business model.”
Amee and her team have experienced how innovation in fintech has a game-changing impact on the lives of low-income households and small businesses around the world. Digitization can open doors to security and growth for those who have long relied on cash and in-person transactions to conduct business and manage daily life. Digitization is accelerating and it has created a massive demand for fintech’s digital-first solutions.
Accion’s portfolio companies are on the forefront of trends that are reshaping the way financial services are delivered, such as embedded finance. This practice of integrating financial services into any type of business has greatly expanded the reach of those services, contextualizing financial services and creating value for customers who are early in their journey of using financial tools.
“An example of this is our portfolio company Dinie, one of the first embedded small business lenders in Brazil, which is rapidly helping more -small businesses go digital. The company, co-founded by a three-person team that includes two women, partners with e-commerce platforms of all sizes to seamlessly provide lending products that help Brazilian small businesses meet their short-term capital needs in the same digital environments where they already do business.”
Amee further shares her take on productivity and her work-life balance describing her source of inspiration and motivation. “What keeps me motivated is in some ways the opposite of what helps me maintain a work/life balance! What has always inspired me has been meeting and working with entrepreneurs in person and seeing their businesses in action. It took time to adjust to the reality of Zoom in my work. Slowly, travel is coming back and I’m excited about that.”
As a mom, Amee cherishes the time she’s had at home with her son. “I’ve been here for his first crawl, first words, and his first steps — all of which I know I might have missed before the pandemic. It’s a constant balancing act to be both present for my work and for my family. I feel really fortunate to have a supportive team, organization, and partner to help!”
More on Amee
Where you currently live: Washington, DC
Family at home: My husband, 2-year-old son, and dog
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Favorite hobby: Hiking
Favorite part of your day: First thing in the morning when I have an hour of uninterrupted time with my toddler!
Favorite show to binge: Mad Men
6:00 am: Wake up, jump in the shower, and (fingers crossed) have a few minutes to get ready before my son, Adi, wakes up.
6:30 am: Adi’s up, and the day is off to a running start! He starts most mornings telling me he had a dream—unfortunately, he doesn’t quite have the vocabulary to describe it, but they must be quite entertaining! We usually head down to read books and play (he’s a huge fan of puzzles, like his mom!) before the day gets started.
7:00 am: My husband, Omar, and I have the morning routine set. He makes coffee and walks our dog, Niko, while I make breakfast and pull together Adi’s lunch for school.
7:45 am: I kiss everyone goodbye (including Niko) and head up to my home office. Managing a global fund means calls often start quite early. Thankfully, today starts at 8 and I’m starting work from home, so have an easy commute!
8:00 am: I have a board call with one of our portfolio companies in Asia that is raising a Series A and evaluating potential lead investors for the round. We have witnessed firsthand the incredible momentum of fintech globally, particularly in emerging markets. This means huge opportunities and a lot of interest in our portfolio companies as they grow and scale.
9:00 am: One of my favorite times of the week — the Venture Lab Sharktank! This is our standing meeting every Wednesday where anyone from the team can present a company they’ve spoken with and are excited about. They’ve shared pitch decks and short write-ups on the companies the day before, so we spend the hour asking questions and providing feedback. It’s a great way to share learnings from across our team globally and to hear about some of the innovative models we’re exploring for investment.
10:00 am: I have one-on-one calls with a few people on the team. Our team is spread out across the world — with colleagues in Lagos, Mumbai, Manila, and here in DC. So these are all over Zoom, but I’m excited to do them in person again soon.
11:30 pm: I take the bus down to have lunch with a portfolio company CEO who’s doing some incredible work in the payments space. The company is growing fast and we spend most of the time talking about the founder’s hiring priorities and a new product launch later this year.
1:30 pm: I head to the office after lunch for back-to-back calls — with a pipeline company in Mexico, with a co-investor in Brazil, and with a candidate for an open role on our team. When I first came to Venture Lab, I found it exhausting to shift from one topic to another every 30 minutes. And I’ll be honest that it’s still exhausting! I wouldn’t trade it though — I love the mix of things I get to work on each day.
3:30 pm: I meet with a few members of the team on our gender lens investing initiatives. We have done a lot of work on how we can be champions for women fintech founders in our markets and we’re planning for a workshop for founders in Southeast Asia later this month. As a woman-led fund with the majority of our team identifying as women, it’s a topic particularly close to our hearts.
5:00 pm: I catch a bus home and pick up my son from daycare on the way. I try to unplug from 5-8 and spend time with my family. We go for a walk in the neighborhood, toss a ball with Niko in the yard, cook dinner, and play before bath and bedtime.
8:00 pm: Omar puts Adi down for the night and I join an evening yoga class. I’ve tried for years to get into early morning workouts, but it never sticks! Getting a workout in at night helps me unwind after a long day.
9:00 pm: Back to work for a bit — I send a few emails, read materials for a board meeting tomorrow, and map out the next day.
10:30 pm: Bedtime!
8:00 am: Adi shockingly and very kindly slept in this morning! We have breakfast and head out to run some errands in the neighborhood.
10:00 am: It’s Omar’s birthday weekend and we’re having friends over for a socially distant brunch on the porch. I ordered bagels and all of the Fixin’s (from a local DC deli) and set up a mimosa station. Wish I could say I baked a cake, but I outsourced that as well and got some cupcakes! It’s a beautiful fall day and everyone, most importantly Omar has a great time.
1:30 pm: Adi’s down for a nap and I head back out to the porch with a book. My brother recommended Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and The Sun earlier this summer and I’m finally getting around to reading it.
I’m just a few pages in, but I loved Never Let Me Go so I’m excited to read his latest novel.
3:00 pm: We head out to PorchFest, an annual DC event with dozens of local bands turning neighborhood porches, patios, and stoops into stages. We love live music and have missed going to shows through the pandemic, so it’s a dream to walk around the neighborhood listening to local musicians.
5:00 pm: We pick up some food from the Thai restaurant in our neighborhood and have dinner at home. Omar and I love to cook and we do a lot of it. But we also love not having to do dishes!
7:00 pm: Bath time, bedtime with Adi
8:00 pm: Our old neighbors stop by for a birthday drink (again on the porch — our favorite part of the house!) and she brings cupcakes that put my store-bought goods to shame.
10:00 pm: Omar and I wind down with an episode of Ted Lasso before heading to bed!
Reach out to Amee on Linkedin.