Fintech can also be social…

 

Press likes writing about how banks will lose their power on account of the thread of Fintech startups. Long articles are dedicated to forecast the future of the financial services industry that in addition to a strong regulation, new comers can steal a big part of the pie. Bets can start… some will back small David (fintechs) and others would prefer Goliath (banks). Who can be the winner?

 The winner is the consumer!

The mantra of any successful startup is “the consumer is the king”. Startups solve problems that the consumer suffers or create solutions that make him better off. Let’s be realistic, today none of us feels entirely satisfied with the products offered by our banks. By ignorance or risk averse, some clients remain stuck with banks that prioritize reaching financial goals at the end of the month instead of the goodwill of the client. For the year 2015, two of the biggest banks in Brazil presented records in profits. This is ironic in a country with a deteriorated economic situation where growth is negative and unemployment increases. In fact, banks earn more money when the client doesn’t know what is contracting or simply do not understand.  

To counterattack this situation, Fintech startups can play a key role empowering the consumer.

I do believe in social entrepreneurship model and its impact in our society. If you think carefully, a Fintech startup can also be considered as a social enterprise. According to the Brazilian central bank, 40% of the financial active population is unbanked in Brazil. Fintech startups, with their technology and mobility, can definitively target this market and boost the financial inclusion within the country. In all Latin America the problem is very similar opening the path to startups to attend this forgotten market. Fintech startups build social commitment when increasing access to financial services. On the other hand, Fintechs also create social impact with the “banked” people playing the “transparency” card. Usually, they offer a service that is easily understood and controlled by the client. Products or services are very similar to the ones offered by a bank except that clients pay less fees in most cases. According to Let’s Talk Payment publication, it already exists startups enabled to substitute any service of the banking value chain. In other words, Fintech startups represent choice, new alternatives that release the consumer from the monopoly of banks. With the agility of Fintech startups clients become trained and empowered vis a vis of financial products. Indeed, the Fintech ecosystem has the power to evolve society. Thus, Fintech innovations should be advertised as something that anyone and everyone can benefit from.

In Latin America, I had the opportunity to attend a conference where Thiago Alvarez, one of the founders of GuiaBolso (Brazil), presented the history of how GuiaBolso was created. During his speech, he insisted in the purpose of the company to improve the financial health of the Brazilian population. GuiaBolso is a Personal Financial Management (PFM) platform that automates budgeting and guides financial decision-making through an application. Knowing that Brazilian population struggles understanding and managing its monthly budget, GuiaBolso launches a tool that provides advice to control and save some money. GuiaBolso has become one of the most famous applications downloaded in Android and Apple in Brazil. Making Brazilians savvier with their expenses is one of the main messages of GuiaBolso and one key of their success too because the goodwill of the clients is showed above all.  

More Fintechs should follow the example of GuiaBolso and communicate more about the purpose/values of the company and the benefits that they are creating for the users. Banks should not be the worries of the Fintech, but the users.  

As a Fintech founder, as an influencer or as an user, our mission is to raise awareness about Fintech startups to reach a bigger audience. Target market should not be limited to millennials or financial/tech specialists. Fintech startups represent a real option to improve money management and that is the problem of any human being.  

 

GuiaBolso (2)

 

StartupBootcamp: A global school

Next week, StartupBootcamp will organize two Fintech Fast track events in Mexico DF and Sao Paulo.

StartupBootcamp is a global network of industry focused startup accelerators. It started in Europe, Denmark and today it is present all around the world with 13 accelerators in 10 locations (Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Eindhoven, Istanbul, London, Singapore, Miami and New York). Their three month programs give direct access to an international network of the most relevant partners, investors and mentors in their sectors. It won the admiration of Forbes and The Economist, praising their training system for entrepreneurs and an incredible high net worth network.

The StartupBootcamp (SBC) Fintech is the world’s largest accelerator for Fintech Startups. The three month acceleration is opened to worldwide startups with programs in London, Singapore and New York. The accelerator is the first one to receive support from leaders in the financial technology. These include 15 corporate partners, as Mastercard, Banco Santander, DBS Banks, PWC, Rabbobank among others. Yesterday, it was announced Deutsche bank decided to join the partner club too.

I would like to talk about the SBC New York program, whose applications are now open.

The startups selected will receive mentorship from entrepreneurs, investors and partners worldwide and will have access to international markets. In each batch, 10 teams are selected for a three month program to work in the New York facilities and each one will receive USD 20 thousand in cash. The program is led by Jesse Podell, a passionate about Fintech, who travels around the world to “taste” the Fintech ecosystem in other cities.

“Entrepreneurs need to think global from day one”, is a common advice from mentors. Building startups that is global-ready from the beginning will put entrepreneurs in the best position to deploy world changing solutions ahead of the competition. Countries with a small market as Colombia (47 million people) or Chile (17 million people) for example are already practicing this quote when they conceive the product because they want to reach more users. Big countries, as Brazil (200 million) or Mexico (120 million) have the reflex to focus on their local market, ignoring the global potential. International investors feel more confident when they deal with a startup that can be easily adapted to any country. A startup can start small, locally, but it has to have in mind that it needs to grow internationally: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”.

To be close to the moon, a startup should take every opportunity to be in touch with international accelerators, investors, partners or team members. The result of the melting-pot will bring concepts and approaches that can pivot the initial product or service. International actors definitively add constructive input because they see the problem differently and hence the solution. After all, deconstruction is what makes us to think outside the box.

Therefore, when international accelerators launch programs in the US, Germany, Singapore or Chile, for example, Latin American startups need to apply. Doing the path to be selected and joining other international participants, enrich the life of the startups and train them for new benchmarks. A first advice…Go to the StartBootcamp Fintech New York and apply.

Meanwhile, you can also apply to the StartupBootcamp Fintech fast-track events that they are organizing for the next week. (StartupBootcamp Fast Track Mexico and StartupBootcamp Fast Track Sao Paulo)sao-paulo_Fintechmexico_Fintech.png

StartBootcamp will select 10 teams to perform a pitch during one day and receive feedback and mentorship from StartBootcamp NY team and known personalities from the startup local ecosystem.

This is another opportunity to gather the Fintech community in Mexico and Brazil to share experiences, woes and threats. It is also an opportunity to have a chat with the international experts to learn more about the accelerator program or to look for similar references of your product abroad. Don’t ignore the foreigner, he will definitively bring something new.

To end, shoot to the moon now!  Latin American Fintech startups can also become global references. That’s our mission.

Nurturing Argentinean innovators

On January 4th, 2016 the Financial Times wrote an article about the switching positions between Argentina and Brazil. The two biggest economies of South America apparently are changing chairs. Argentina lives a great moment now. The new president Macri plans to revive the national economy and with that regain the trust of creditors and investors. On the other hand, Brazil is living a difficult situation with a weak economy and political scandals. The scenario is not pretty at all with an expected inflation of 11% and an expected growth of -2% for 2016. However, while some people cry, others sell handkerchiefs. With this optimism, Brazilian startups ecosystem tries to figure out the opportunities that the current economy can provide and bring innovative solutions to alleviate consumer life.

But this time, I would like to talk a bit about Argentina. After all, it is the country that currently has a huge attention from the international community.

I am pleased to know that despite a slow economy these last years, the Argentinean startup ecosystem tried to evolve. Regarding Fintech, international initiatives took place in the country with the support of local players and even the government.

On May 2015, the Finnovista Pitch Day gathered the Argentinean fintech community to present 5 startups and their disruptive services. This event allows attendants to meet investors, professionals from the financial services environment and other Fintech startups. The 5 start-ups selected to pitch this year were:

  • $ero: independent issuer of electronic money, using mobile technology (www.sero.uy)
  • Kardyt: online trading of credit cards for bank and retailers
  • Invertir.la: mobile app to invest in the Latin American Stock Exchange, increasing the access to more financial products (www.invertir.la)
  • Mondome: comparison tool of the traditional remittances methods with bitcoin transactions in order to send money abroad with the best price (www.mondome.com)
  • Motormax: platform specialized in the research of financing through internet to buy a car (www.motormax.la)

The 7th edition BBVA Open Talent 2015, gathered 652 participants with 193 Latin American entries. Among them, there was one Argentinean finalist, wayniloans. Wayniloans is the first community of loans between individuals with bitcoin technology in Latam (peer-to-peer). It gives more access to credit for the lender and increase the savings for the investors. (www.wayniloans.com)

NXTP Labs, the most active early stage tech investor in Latin America, settled in Buenos Aires, launched its first Fintech accelerator program with 12 startups selected from Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay.

In the second week of December, FinTechstage Buenos Aires took place with 400 attendants and gathering personalities from the Argentinean Finance environment but also international speakers to bring together a group of financial innovators ready to debate about the challenges and opportunities of Fintech in Latin America. The conference treated several themes as blockchain, innovation in banks, acceleration of fintech startups, cibersecurity and finance inclusion. Personally, I do believe that the latter has a great potential in Latin America, considering that roughly 50% of adults (Latin America and the Caribbean) remain outside the formal financial system. Let’s remember that the unbanked population generated innovative solutions in Africa, boosting the Fintech environment and creating worldwide benchmarks. In addition to the panels and the networking sessions, the event showcased a pitch competition among the participants of the Fintech Accelerator Program run by NXTP Labs. The winners were:

  • BitCourt, from Argentina: A platform to create, notarize and digitally sign contracts between parties using the blockchain technology (www.bitcourt.com)
  • Olly, from Chile: A smart turn on / off credit card app that prevents fraud and gives you full control over your transactions (www.getolly.com)
  • Pagos de Última Milla, from Argentina: A B2B payment hub (www.flexibility.com.ar)

Several initiatives were listed in this text showing that the future of the country is very encouraging. Mariano Mayer, representative of the Argentinean Production Ministry, said at the FintechStage Buenos Aires: “we need entrepreneurs to create innovation. Argentina needs to grow; to grow it needs to change, and for that, we need you”.

I will also recognize the active participation of the local and international banks in the country. They are organizers of events, attendants, mentors, speakers, investors and partners. When all the groups work together, incredible results emerge. The Argentinean Fintech community had a nice 2015 and we are confident that 2016 will be much better…

Ricardo Linier's Cartoon

Ricardo Linier’s Cartoon

Fintech…no sorry call me “Insurtech”

The press loves to write about the complicate relationship between startups and banks and how this is changing the financial services market. But, what can we say about “Insurtech”? The Fintech movement was supposed to cover all the startups providing financial services, nevertheless the startups providing insurance services preferred to differentiate themselves and created their own label. The “Insurtech” can put the insurance market to another level where technology will define new products, play with big data and push further the customization.

In Latin America, this movement will may be slower. First of all the insurance market in Latin America is very different compared to the US or Europe. The culture of purchasing insurance policies is just starting. The last years, the middle classes in these countries have grown up developing the insurance culture and appealing international players to settle around. In 2014, the Insurance market in Latin America grew of 2.2% compared to 2013. Even if 2015 was considered as a difficult year, the insurance market should grow again.

The challenge is double:

  • Insurers need to get more clients and there is no generation exclusivity
  • It is all about technology

For example in Brazil, less than half of the insurers use technology or digital channels to sell products or provide insurance quotations.

What are the actions taken abroad to help the Insurtech to disrupt the ecosystem?

Big funds and accelerators are aware about the role of the Insurtech wave.

Sequoia Capital announced in December 2015, his investment of USD 13 million in Lemonade, a peer-to-peer personal insurance in the US. This is one of the largest seed investments in the firm’s history. If they took this risk, certainly Lemonade is creating disruption and is a company that we need to follow in the future.

Axa, one of the top worldwide insurance companies, created the incubator Kamet in order to boost technological innovations to serve insured people. They plan to invest 100 million euros on the project; the program should start on January 2016. This is another initiative to add to their Axa Labs in Silicon Valley and Shanghai and the Axa Strategic Ventures entity.  The company planned to give another step to dig in innovation and technology and contribute to the Insurtech. Axa recognizes that technology is changing the value chain of the industry and they need to act fast.

In Latin America, there is a first initiative launched by Porto Seguro, the top one insurer in Brazil. In September 2015, they inaugurated an accelerator called Oxigênio (oxygen) in a partnership with Plug and Play Tech center from the Silicon Valley. Oxigênio plan to work with 10 startups per year. The first 5 companies will start in January 2016. The first 3 months of the program will be spent in Sao Paulo and then 3 months in Silicon Valley. The companies selected will be able to do business with the companies of Porto Seguro group, to be mentored by executives from the group and active players of the technology market and to use the tools and facilities of the company. Porto Seguro plans to invest 50 thousand dollars in each startup selected.

To get more information please go to the site http://www.oxigenioaceleradora.com.br

There are few examples of insurance startups in the market but we hope that thank to these initiatives, new Insurtech startups will emerge in the Latam ecosystem.

To be a good player in this industry, remember:

  • Focus on the customer, because he is the king (what does he needs)
  • An engaged player (go with the customer all along the contract, not only at the beginning and at the end)
  • Get/Provide data and more data (insurers need data)

If you have considered these three points, your Insurtech startup is on the right path. OxigenioAceleradora

 

Brazilian Fintech warriors are here

During the last month, I have read several articles from the Brazilian press praising Fintech and key players who are disrupting the current Brazilian Financial landscape. This attention from the media is a clear example that finally and officially the Fintech warriors are here to fight.

Some years ago, most of local banks did not wanted to believe in these players that were disturbing Europe and the US. However, conversely to Europe and the US, the bank system in Brazil is very concentrated and almost 5 banks control all the financial services system of the country. With that, banks were very confident about the regulation and the Central bank actions to restraint any new entrant, especially small startups offering financial services. The reality turned out to be different and the central bank is rather curious and eager to know more about how far Fintech companies can arrive in Brazilian territory.

Even if some financial services executives may still be sceptics about the fintech revolution within the biggest Latin-American country, their organizations started to take some initiatives. Bradesco has launched the InovaBRA program in Sao Paulo to accelerate some fintech startups. They are working on their second edition now. Besides this initiative, since three years ago, there has been a team that travels constantly to New York, London and Silicon Valley to be updated about the new digital trends. Itau Bank has opened a coworking espace in order to gather several startups in a unique environment and boost partnerships and creativity. The idea is to create an entrepreneurship pole in the city. Banco de Brasil has also started to develop some initiatives boosting technology and innovation.

I do expect for the next year, new projects will emerge and more banks and insurance companies will communicate about these opportunities.

But let’s talk now about the success stories that are already disturbing the Brazilians banks.

At the top of the list, we have NuBank. This credit card that can be entirely managed by an application on your cellphone is the new love of most of millennials (80% of the users are under 35). No annuity is paid and the card has lower interest rates compared to a bank. Simplicity and continuous improvement are the key of its success. With 300 thousand people in wait list, this startup received investments from Tiger Global Management, Sequoia Capital, Kaszek Ventures and QED Investors.

For more information, please go to http://www.nubank.com.br

GuiaBolso, one of the Brazilian’s favorite. It is an application linked to your bank account to manage your personal finances, following the expenses and the incomes and even providing some financial advices when required. Today, they have more than 1,6 million users in the country. The company received investments from e.bricks, Valor Capital, Kaszek Ventures, Ribitt Capital ….

For more information, please go to http://www.guiabolso.com.br

Finally, we have Magnetis. It is and Investment online platform with automatized advisors. This technology is new in the country but with great success in the US and Europe. Periodically, the platform reassesses customer portfolio and suggests updates in order to maximize gains. This startup received investments from Monashees, Redpoint, 500startups and angel investors.

For more information, please go to www.magnetis.com.br

These are just three examples of some Brazilian fintech startups, in the next posts I will talk more about other initiatives, because the purpose of the blog is to share about what is happening here in Latin America. There are roughly 150 fintech startups registered in Brazil, according to Clayton consulting.

However, let’s admit that a Fintech company is not as any startup. To be a Fintech success story, you need strong financial services knowledge that is by far a competitive advantage when you are in front of investors. Moreover, the technological structure needs to be robust and safe to ensure accuracy and protection in any transaction. That’s why, on average a normal start-up takes 16 month to start the business but a Fintech start-up needs 22 months.

2015 is ending with the recognition of the growing power of these Brazilian financial startups. What can we expect in 2016? We want larger fintech startups, new ones with disruptive ideas, international examples arriving, blockchain and big purchases … now we are ready to go to the next level Brazil…

Happy 2016!Fintechwarrior

Accelerator programs of Banks: Let’s be friends

The press likes to write about the complex relationship between banks and fintech companies. Are they friends or enemies? It depends, so they are just “Frenemies”.

Instead of digging into this debate, I would like to talk about the friendly side of this relationship: incubator and accelerator programs led by banks.

Besides money, fintech business owners look for efficiency in their operations and opportunities to make their business grow, especially when they are at early stage. With the incubator and accelerator programs, banks become the “partner” who trains, mentors, tests, funds and supports young fintech companies.

Banks have expertise with solid departments dealing with matters where fintech startups are still learning (for example; time management, marketing research, financial planning, governance and regulations).

Let’s be aware banks also represent money. They can be future direct investors or can introduce influential capitalist people and seed investors. On the other hand, they can also become future customers with a national or even international scope.

Banks environment is the best “test kitchen”. As a fellow of an incubator/accelerator program, you will be surrounded by different type of populations ready to test your prototypes and give relevant feedbacks to improve your products.

Finally, networking is key as always. During the entire incubator / accelerator program, the fellow will be in contact with several executives from the bank but also to their network. Moreover, banks select exclusive mentors from the own organization or from the startup environment to go along the fellows during this process. Let’s remember that after the closing of the program, a fellow can always contact them for other matters and may be new opportunities can emerge.

These initiatives are quite famous among big international banks in the US, Europe and Asia. But, what is happening in Brazil?

Bradesco, one of the top banks of the country was the pioneer in Brazil to get involved in the startup world. The bank opened its doors to confront the challenges of innovation and digital revolution. Thus, it launched in 2014 the first edition of InovaBra, an accelerator program with duration of 10 months. In its first edition, 8 companies were selected out of 553 applicants. Today these companies are doing business with the bank. Some of them as Queroquitar.com.br and Qranio.com are also disrupting the current Brazilian startup ecosystem.

After these successful and inspiring stories, now it is time for the second edition.

To be part of the program, the applicant doesn’t need to be a startup that offers financial services. InovaBra is looking for disruptive startups with new business models and new user experiences that can be linked to Bradesco environment.

The accelerated startup will follow an integration process since the beginning, being in contact with several divisions of the bank and different levels of management. After that, there will be a process of experimentation and validation of the prototype to finally define the involvement with the bank.

The application for the second edition is already opened and goes until December 22th 2015.

For further information, please go to http://www.inovabra.com.br

As mentioned at the beginning of this text, to be part of an accelerator program led by a bank will be very positive. Only being part of the selection process will bring more experience to the founders, because it will be very competitive.

Entrepreneurs, click on the link and apply!

Investors keep an eye on the companies selected because they will shake the Brazilian ecosystem soon.

Inovabra

Fintech needs you!

I decided to start this blog because I believe that the Fintech knowledge has to be shared. I am currently living in Brazil and I want to show what is happening in the Latam market. Sometimes, I will also write about other continents because they can be great references and models for Latam countries.

Why did I start this experience with the sentence Fintech needs you?

Because Fintech needs all of of us.

Fintech needs Banks and Insurance companies. Some people say that financial startups are enemies of  banks, others say that they are allies. Remember the annual letter that the CEO of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon addressed to the shareholders warning that “the Silicon Valley is coming”. Banks are certainly worried about the thread of this newcomers however they are also aware that they can learn from them. Today, several international banks are leading accelerators program for Fintech startups. The Fintech industry is thus learning about the stakes of big banks and how they can work together. Interesting outcomes will appear from these relationships and that is what makes the current financial services industry so exciting.

Fintech needs investors. Fintech needs venture capitalists, seed capital, angels, crowd funding from all around the world to create new solutions and reach more people. I feel that Latam Fintech is not yet internationally well known. The Fintech industry is growing within the Latam countries but we need that international investors inquire about what is happening in Latin America and decide to invest. This blog can  help to advertise the high potential Fintech actors that we have in Latin America.

Fintech needs users. We assume that the millennials are the first users to the new technologies and the disruptives services of the Fintech. We are not wrong however we also need to involve the other generations that are curious about innovations. In technology, there are new solutions popping up all the time. Hence, people requires some guidance to use the best app or website that will really solve their problems. The blog expects to bring some light to the increasing offer of technological innovation in the financial sector.

Fintech needs partners and employees. During a Fintech conference in Sao Paulo, one of the founders of Guiabolso, stated that especially in Fintech the team is key to make a difference. The experience and complementarity of the team members ensure success. Most of the Fintech founders have already worked in banks or insurance companies before starting their startups. Team background brings credibility to convince investors. For example, this blog can gather a financial community and with that some interesting job opportunities can emerge.

Several challenges and opportunities are surging within the Fintech ecosystem that is why it is so interesting. So, Fintech is in vogue…true. It is even becoming fancy. Nevertheless, Fintech also represents inclusion. This industry will allow more people to have access to financial services and also will teach how to deal with money in order to reduce indebtedness. Fintech can also be a social business.

A new financial landscape is being built and everyone wants to be part of. With the rise of Latam countries in the startup ecosystem, we expect Fintech Latam to reach a new level and be disruptive. I am confident that we will see this progress soon.