Women Entrepreneurs Connecting Climate Tech and Fintech for a Greener Asia
Innovations in climate technology to stem the impacts of a warming climate are currently in high demand, as reflected in record-high climate tech investments (10% of private equity and grant investment). While a growing body of evidence suggests that gender diversity in leadership is positively correlated with environmental performance, women climate tech entrepreneurs are rare. In this issue of WFX Dispatch we celebrate the success of two women entrepreneurs who are connecting the worlds of climate tech and fintech to help solve Asia’s climate crisis: Maria Mateo is the Founder and CEO of IBISA and Dr. Entela Benz is the Co-Founder and CEO of INTENSEL.
Tell us about your company. What was your motivation for its climate focus?
Mateo: IBISA is a global insurtech startup that employs state-of-the-art technology to offer innovative parametric insurance solutions, protecting against weather risks. Witnessing firsthand the toll that extreme weather events can take on farming communities drove me to seek technology solutions to safeguard vulnerable groups from its financial impact. Climate change is not just a crisis, it is also where innovative businesses can make a significant difference.
Benz: I have been working in the field of impact, ESG, and sustainability investing for more than 15 years. I saw a lot of greenwashing and empty promises, but not enough real action to address the climate crisis. I wanted to make a difference and help others do the same. That's why I founded INTENSEL, a company that empowers climate action through innovative solutions.
How is your offering different from similar solutions in the market today?
Mateo: Our platform utilizes satellite data to assess weather risks, enabling us to create tailor-made insurance products and manage claims efficiently. Its processing capabilities allow for swift large-scale computations, which leads to quick underwriting and settlements. We adapt our products to local conditions, catering to our customers' specific needs.
Benz: We provide the best and most insightful climate analytics for Asia-Pacific. The data can be used not only for disclosure but also for adaptation and resilience planning.
Since starting the business what would you consider its highest points? Its lowest points?
Mateo: High – the successful introduction of our typhoon product in the Philippines and heat stress product in India have not only resonated deeply with our customers but also provided tangible value by increasing their climate resilience. Low – insurance is a complex product that many people find difficult to understand, making establishing trust and conveying the benefits of our products challenging.
Benz: High – seeing our client, presenting our work to their clients. That is a cascading effect that climate data have in terms of application and usefulness. Low – it is a new risk, never assessed, analyzed or considered before. It requires a lot of education and market awareness. There are a lot of good intentions, high level talk but little financial support.
Women climate entrepreneurs are rare. How can we get more women, and more funding for women, in climate tech?
Mateo: The underrepresentation of women entrepreneurs, particularly in climate tech, and their limited access to venture capital are multifaceted issues. From my perspective, some investors could face difficulties connecting with women-led businesses due to familiarity and comfort levels, leading to less investment.
Prevailing stereotypes can also create obstacles, such as the misconception that women are more risk-averse or have lower ambition levels. Over time, I believe we'll see more data emerge that counters these perceptions and highlights women’s successful leadership in business. Getting more women into climate tech and securing more funding for them requires a proactive approach. Investors can broaden their horizons, actively seeking out and considering women-led initiatives for funding.
Benz: Women who want to start a company in the tech sector face many challenges, such as lack of expertise, funding, and recognition. Having a good family support system can help them balance their personal and professional lives, and cope with stress and uncertainty. They also need to be taken seriously by the venture capitalists, who are mostly male and may have biases or stereotypes about women entrepreneurs.
What is your vision for your company and what would it take to realize that vision?
Mateo: To be a driving force in strengthening climate resilience worldwide, by making insurance more accessible for communities and businesses. We aim to simplify the insurance process and ensure transparent, timely payouts. To bring this vision to life, we're focused on leveraging technology, nurturing strategic partnerships, and securing strong institutional support. Through these crucial elements, we aim to transform the way climate risk is managed with more inclusive and practical insurance solutions.
Benz: Our vision is to see climate risk analytics integrated into all financial decision-making processes, asset allocation and hedging products. Our scalable solution across geographies and asset classes enables institutions to take the first step to effectively measure and disclose physical risks.
Who is your hero?
Mateo: In my entrepreneurial journey, my greatest influences have been my up-close experiences in emerging markets and my understanding of the vast protection gap present there. While I don't have a traditional 'hero' as such, there are remarkable individuals who have been instrumental in my journey. These are people who stepped up when we needed support the most and continue to assist us. Their commitment to effecting positive change inspires me daily.
Benz: I think role models are overrated. We all have our own challenges and goals, so no one can really be a perfect example for us. Sometimes I look up to people who are good at certain things, but they can be men or women. It doesn't matter to me. I just try to learn from them and do my own thing.
What was the best advice you received when you were an aspiring woman climate entrepreneur?
Mateo: Put things into perspective. In entrepreneurship, it's important to understand that not everything is as urgent, important or critical as it may initially seem. It's a long race, not a sprint.
Benz: Be SUPER confident in my vision and delegate. There are many challenges and opportunities in climate innovation and having a clear goal and a network of allies help. Being a woman in this sector is not a disadvantage, but a strength, as I bring diverse perspectives, time management and execution skills.