Skyeye winner of $50,000 innovation fund

Technology company Skyeye have won a US$50,000 (T$ 132,251) grant to build a new payment gateway service to allow local products and services to make speedy financial transfers.

The grant is from the United Nations Capital Development Fund (U.N.C.D.F) and U.N Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (U.N.E.S.C.A.P) which are launching a national consultation on catalysing women’s entrepreneurship. 

Chief Executive Officer Fa'aso'otauloa Sam Saili said the payment gateway will be used on their e-commerce platform, Maua, and any other platform that requires digital payments to any financial institutions.

“There are so many documented hurdles that women have to go through to participate in economic activity,” Fa'aso'otauloa said.

“We are hoping Maua will help address the front end of that where women will be able to sell their produce from home and stay home and participate in village activities and don’t have to travel to Apia or to any markets.”

Skyeye is co-financing the grant with US$35,727 (T$94,500) to prove the company’s viability to the U.N agency but are receiving technical assistance, policy support and mentorship through the next 12-to-18 months.

The company will also receive access to investors and lines of credit should they require it.

The U.N carries out a year’s monitoring after the project timeline is complete, to learn how successful the product is and how the market is reacting to having it.

Fa'aso'otauloa said the product should make financial transactions between any institutions quick, easy and all on mobile – already a commonplace luxury overseas:

“Overseas, everyone can do their banking and pay everything and receive funds on their phone and that is what we are hoping to do with this project.”

If it makes going into the bank to pay or receive funds redundant, he expects that will make customers and banks happy, because it can reduce overhead costs, and adds convenience. 

Iosefa Maiava, head of the U.N.E.S.C.A.P Subregional Office for the Pacific said he was sure the product would be “transformative.” 

Presenting the award to Fa’aso’otauloa on Tuesday evening, he revealed Skyeye’s proposal won out of 110 applications from the region, proving Samoa has the capacity to develop innovative digital solutions.

The U.N.C.D.F/U.N.E.S.C.A.P Women M.S.M.E FinTech Innovation Fund 2019 is for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in the region, hoping to kick start innovative solutions to improve access to finance for women-led MSME’s. 

And while Fa'aso'otauloa the C.E.O of Skyeye is not a woman, the e-commerce platform, Maua, should catalyse women to start or grow businesses on their own terms.

Barriers to the marketplace include a disproportionate burden of household responsibilities, a lack of access to transport or funds and the cost of renting stalls at marketplaces, as well as the risks of travel to market for women alone in rural Samoa.

Maua was also developed with T$320,000 in funding from the Global System for Mobile communications Association (G.S.M.A), the first time a Pacific company has won funding from its Ecosystem Accelerator Fund which they matched with $150,000 of their own financing,

The U.N.C.D.F/U.N.E.S.C.A.P grant was eligible to businesses in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Myanmar, Nepal, Samoa, and Viet Nam.

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