On the weekend of 18th – 20th March, I had the opportunity to participate to the StartUp Weekend Fintech in Sao Paulo. As a Fintech follower, I wanted to be part of the event to experiment the steps of an entrepreneur. It is not easy. You have 54 hours to create a startup, with a team that you meet on the same day, and deliver a validated MVP on Sunday night. I was ready to spend an interesting weekend.
My first surprises came up just before that Friday night. Reading about the organization of the event, I found out that two sponsors of the event were BM&F Bovespa (Brazilian stock exchange) and XP investimentos (largest independent investment company in Brazil). The support of these two big financial organizations to the event shows the commitment to see the Fintech industry grow in the country. The Stock Exchange would be certainly happy to witness some Fintech IPOs and investors are avid to identify some Fintech unicorns in the Brazilian landscape. We are also waiting for that…
On Friday 18th, the event took place at the Brazilian stock exchange building that gathered 120 people for the 2nd startup weekend Fintech. The facilities were amazing and helped thrill the audience to get involved in the development of financial solutions during the weekend. It is not a game, it is serious work!
More than 40 pitches with ideas of businesses were presented at the beginning by people from the audience. Finally, only 18 were selected and teams were put together. The tools to overcome the weekend were the canvas and the lean methodology. Not all the audience was used to these methodologies but the facilitators took a time to explain and teach a bit about.
First of all, the organization team did a great job calling financial services expert mentors. We had people from big companies (banks, brokers) and Fintech founders (asset management…) who were available to answer all our questions and give some advices about the product, market and how to deal with the clients. Something very important for Fintech events is the presence of lawyers, experts on regulation. You can have an excellent idea or clients can validate it because you are solving their problems. But if the idea does not attend the regulation 1111 from the “financial services holly book” of the country, you cannot do anything. When you have projects involving asset management, exchange rate transactions, blockchain, insurance and more in the room, you need some experts on the deal. That’s clue in the Fintech world, experts on regulation are fundamental when building a Fintech because you have a big risk to close the startup, pay a fine or even go to prison…
Our idea evolved during the weekend. Potential users were interviewed in the street who validated the solution or gave us more insights and ideas about their problems and possible solutions. In fact, that is the magic of the event and the blood of any startup: be able to change rapidly to alleviate user pains.
At the end of the event, every team had to perform a three minutes pitch in front of a jury to present the solution. Again the jury was compounded by well recognized personalities from the investment ecosystem in Sao Paulo.
The event ended up with three winners, that in fact reflects what is disrupting in Brazil right now. …And the winners are:
- Garanfia: an online platform that sells insurance bails to tenants considering their risk profile. Today insurance bails are sold exclusively by few big companies. This solution intends to offer a more competitive and customized product in order to offer new alternatives to the user.
- Pague o Basico: an online platform addressed to the population with low income to pay utility bills in a convenient way (prepaid card). This Fintech focuses on financial inclusion allowing the user to feel more comfortable with its payment activities.
- BC Stock: a platform to negotiate stocks of privately held firms using blockchain technology. This highlights the increasing curiosity of the Brazilian market for blockchain. Someone from the Fintech community suggested organizing a startup weekend only about bitcoin and blockchain. What do you think?
One of the sponsors of the event was Educity, a startup that promotes financial education using gamification. Educity won the first Fintech Startup weekend Sao Paulo in 2014. Since then, the startup grew up participating in accelerator programs, looking for mentors and some investors. They are launching their beta version now and they are very active in the Brazilian Fintech community. Why do they organize the Startup Fintech Weekend this year? To give back and share what they learnt. Their example helps to motivate all the teams to go ahead with their ideas, if they really believe it. As Educity team mentioned, now it is just the beginning, it depends how we will do the next steps to ensure the creation and success of the startup.
On Monday, the financial press of the country dedicated several articles about the event: to sum-up the event was a success. Again, this is another example that Fintech is alive in Brazil. The startup Fintech weekend allowed gather big names of the finance environment, current actors of the Fintech community, regulation experts, IT experts and 120 participants that want to dig more about disruption in financial services.
I highly advise to organize this event in the cities. It is a big opportunity to reinforce the Fintech community and welcome potential new entrants. The field work during this weekend showed a certainty, users are unsatisfied with the financial services that they use today…now it is our turn to work on the solutions.
Thank you to BM&F Bovespa, XP Investimentos, EduCity, NextBank and Techstars. Great event!
Note: I was part of the team Pague o Basico. Now, the real work is just starting but I am sure that you will hear more from the team soon.