FUNDES and Argidius: Connecting e-commerce sellers to the most appropriate digitization tools

Innovation Fund Winner

Building a comparison marketplace for traditional merchants to find the most appropriate tools and solutions to digitize their business operations

Why this program?

  • In 2024, more than 75% of e-commerce transactions in Latin America will be done using a mobile device.
  • As the majority of small retailers still operate outside of digital value chains, this solution aims to connect them to the e-commerce opportunities and solutions that will allow them to grow their business and better support their community.
  • This solution will address several issues that affect small businesses and retailers in the region: low digital literacy, an urgent need to adapt and transform to compete, information asymmetry, and distrust in tech solutions.
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Program overview

The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath caused the Latin American economy to shrink by 6.8%, with more than 2.7 million micro- and small enterprises closing in 2021. Most of the impacted small businesses belong to traditional sectors—such as merchants, artisans, restaurant owners, and beauty professionals—whose business models and operating practices have remained largely unchanged in the last few decades. 

As part of our Strive Community Innovation Fund, we’re working with FUNDES and Argidius to connect small retailers in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru to a marketplace that enables them to find the most appropriate tools and solutions to digitize their business operations.

Digitization has the potential to unlock traditional small businesses’ competitiveness by connecting them to new markets and making their business management more cost efficient. To take advantage of this opportunity, two major problems need to be addressed: 

  1. Despite the fact that 60% of small business owners have a smartphone, traditional enterprises still struggle with low digital literacy and high information asymmetry that impedes them from identifying available digital solutions that are most suited to their needs, in addition to understanding why and how to use them.
  2. The flourishing ecosystem of startups and companies offering digital solutions fails to speak the language of traditional business owners. This creates distrust that contributes to digital exclusion. 

FUNDES and Argidius have developed the first prototype of Pymental, a gamified e-learning platform and comparator tool that connects traditional entrepreneurs in Latin America with the digital economy. It connects small businesses with the most suitable digital solutions available, so they can grow their business using online payments, business management tools, digital marketing, and e-commerce platforms. The platform also enables entrepreneurs to build their digital and creative confidence through practical observation and gamified learning.

With the support of the Strive Community Innovation Fund, Pymental’s comparator tool will be upgraded into a full marketplace of digital solutions for small retailers and merchants. Pymental's marketplace will function as an aggregation platform focused on digital and e-commerce providers tailored to the business needs of the small merchants and retailers registered on the platform. User data, including learning progress, business type, and current development status, will allow the marketplace to offer personalized recommendations for the most appropriate digital solutions providers.

About FUNDES

FUNDES’s mission is to unleash the sustainable development of Latin America through the sustainable growth of micro- and small enterprises.

FUNDES leverages two complementary arms to achieve its mission: consulting and catalyst (Venture Studio).

FUNDES Consulting supports corporates in including and strengthening micro & small businesses along their value chain.

FUNDES Catalyst is an impact venture studio that aims to go beyond subsistence entrepreneurship in Latin America. It focuses on an underserved and vulnerable segment: the millions of micro businesses operating in traditional marketplaces and accounting for the majority of jobs in the region: Merchants, Farmers and Tradesmen.

FUNDES Catalyst launches digital solutions and startups that tackle their root business problems (Market Access, Skills, Financial and Digital Exclusion) and unleash their potential to thrive and change society.

FUNDES Catalyst

  • Imagines and designs innovative products & services for micro & small businesses 
  • Applies a repeatable & custom incubation process to refine ideas into fundable impact ventures
  • Hires co-founding entrepreneurs to lead the startup and assist with talent acquisition, service design, marketing & growth, product & tech development, and go-to-market strategy. 
  • Leverages venture philanthropy to fund the prototyping and pre-seed stage of development, while generating immediate impact.

In Latin America, the long-term survival of millions of small merchants depends on their ability to adapt and embrace digitization. Digital illiteracy and asymmetry of information impede them from doing so. The Strive Innovation Fund and FUNDES’s ambition is to overcome these barriers by developing innovative digital solutions that connect merchants to the digital economy.

Corentin Larue

Director, FUNDES Catalyst

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Implementation partners
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