How HEDERA brings digital innovation to microfinance with DigitalOcean

"We are trusting in DigitalOcean’s tools 100% so that we can promise our customers they will have access to their data when they need it. None of this would work without robust services."

HEDERA helps microfinance institutions (MFIs) and other organizations working with rural communities to collect and manage high-quality customer data through their innovative digital solutions. HEDERA provides its customers with mobile and web versions of standard questionnaires for client-centric needs assessment based on the latest frameworks. The Berlin-based startup gives customers access to cutting-edge, automated cleaning, analysis, and reporting tools. Using standard indicators, these tools enable organizations to understand their customers better and efficiently track their contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). HEDERA is partnered with Hollie’s Hub for Good and utilizes DigitalOcean for its infrastructure needs.

Creating digital solutions for microfinance

The team at HEDERA believes that MFIs across the globe are a powerful vehicle for sustainable development and can make a significant social and environmental impact on individuals and communities, especially in rural regions. Co-founders Natalia Realpe Carrillo and Alfonso Caiazzo recognized the need for more robust tools for the microfinance’s private sector.

In 2017, HEDERA gained admission to the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CfE), the start-up incubator at the Technical University Berlin. In 2018, the organization was awarded the EXIST Business Grant from the German Ministry of Energy and Economics. The EXIST grant allowed HEDERA to finalize the prototype of the HEDERA Impact Toolkit for energy access assessments, bring it to market, and further develop it through several pilot projects  in Africa and Latin America. Since 2020, HEDERA has been supported by the Gründung Innovativ program of the Investititionsbank des Landes Brandenburg (ILB) and by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt - DBU) through the Green StartUp program. This funding program aims at supporting companies with a strong focus on the connection between sustainability and digitalization. In 2021, HEDERA was awarded by Alliance for Rural Electrification at the African Microfinance Week as the most innovative organization for energy access impact management. In 2022, HEDERA was awarded the 2022 IMPACT Award for Education and Social Innovation at the German IMPACT FESTIVAL.

The organization provides the following solutions for its customers:

The HEDERA Impact Toolkit tracks progress and enables needs and impact assessment at the household level (beneficiaries of the MFIs). The HEDERA Impact Toolkit helps teams work more efficiently, focus on the customers’ needs, remain competitive in rural areas, and visualize and understand the achieved impact. Field data collection is backed by an open-source mobile survey Android application that enables the implementation in rural areas with no internet coverage required. The web applications for visualization and automated reporting, developed by HEDERA, allow customers to create and select interactive graphs and chapters to report what matters to their partners. Digital reports are available as PDFs or interactive navigable web pages and are accessible anywhere through a URL.

Impact management solutions for investors allows fund managers to efficiently collect custom indicators from investees, efficiently managing their impact performance and reducing the burden related to data aggregation and reporting. The digital solution also enables investees to monitor its performance and

Furthermore, HEDERA collaborates with several research institutions worldwide supporting students with field data collection solutions. Since 2021, HEDERA is an official IT partner of the European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP), supporting with digital solutions the operations related to the green inclusive finance action group.

Simplicity and sustainable growth

As HEDERA transformed from an idea into a thriving startup, the team needed robust infrastructure solutions that could support their application and sustain their rapid growth while being simple enough to allow them to maintain a primary focus on developing their products. At first, HEDERA explored solutions from hyperscalers but quickly found their offerings to be too complicated and time-consuming for their needs. Caiazzo had seen positive reviews of DigitalOcean in some of the startup communities they participate in and decided to give DigitalOcean’s offerings a try.

The simplicity and reliability provided by DigitalOcean was the perfect fit for HEDERA’s needs. HEDERA utilized DigitalOcean Droplets to host open-source frameworks for data collection and visualization, as well as Python + JavaScript-based web applications.

“In the microfinance industry where we work, there is a huge need for digital solutions. Our customers working in remote rural regions, are used to using pen-and-paper solutions, and it takes time to get them to adopt digital solutions. With this, you have to have trust. From our side, if we don’t have reliable partners, we can’t work with our customers as well. We are trusting in DigitalOcean’s tools 100% so that we can promise our customers they will have access to their data when they need it. None of this would work without robust services.”

Partnering with DigitalOcean’s Hollie’s Hub for Good

HEDERA receives infrastructure credits through Hollie’s Hub for Good, DigitalOcean’s social impact program that provides resources to organizations seeking to improve health and education, reduce inequality, or promote economic growth. The infrastructure credits that HEDERA receives reduce its infrastructure costs so that those resources can be reallocated to other initiatives.

“DigitalOcean is helping us drive our impact and mission. The credits we receive from Hollie’s Hub for Good give us the freedom to do even more.”

HEDERA hopes its solutions can help its customers focus on the communities they serve. If their customers can save time while reporting more in-depth impact data, they can better communicate their impact with investors in order to further their reach. With the digital solutions HEDERA provides, their customers can clean, process, and analyze data almost instantly—something that may have taken several weeks using pen and paper solutions.

“The ambition is that impact management can help stakeholders, investors, and microfinance institutions to better deliver their services and acknowledge, transparently, the impact of their work. If we can do this, the world of microfinance could be changed forever.”

HEDERA

Industry

Finance

HQ

Germany

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