Seedstars in Brazil and the winner is…

I would like to write about an international initiative that arrived in Sao Paulo two weeks ago and is travelling around Latin America.

Seedstars organizes the world’s biggest startup competition in emerging markets, visiting 65 countries to find the best national startup that will later go to Switzerland. On April 2017, all the winners will be gathered in Lausanne to share a unique experience and participate to the competition of the global winner.  The last year, the global winner was Giraffe, a South African mobile application that enables businesses to hire medium skilled staff faster and cheaper than any other recruitment network and also connects job seekers to these opportunities.

Romulo and Julianne are the regional leaders for Latin America and they have the hard mission to travel around most of South American countries to find out the best national startups. The job looks quite appealing but there is a lot of work behind: searching about each ecosystem, connecting with local influencers and organizing the events in every country (usually in a very short time).

After a national call for applications, the team has the difficult task to select 10 startups that will participate to the final local selection. For Brazil, there was one final in Sao Paulo and then another one in Rio de Janeiro to select the best startup of the country. Two days before the competition, the 10 selected startups were invited to receive a session of mentorship with the organizers and some of the sponsors, Swissnex and Grant Thorton. The goal of this session is to give some advices to prepare the pitches and to provide some guidance about the search of investments, one of the most difficult tasks in the life of a startup. The final of Sao Paulo was organized at the Google Campus Sao Paulo, to keep the spirit of technology and entrepreneurship …of course. Besides the pitches of each startup, two panels were presented during the event. The first one was a presentation of Aliança Empreendedora that showcased the evolution of its activities boosting social entrepreneurship and empowering women entrepreneurs. The second panel was a discussion about financial inclusion in Brazil and Latin America. It was a great conversation about diverse initiatives abroad, mainly in Africa and Asia and the beginning of some interesting projects in Latin America too as Compartamos in Mexico and Bim in Peru. The panel was composed by the ex CEO of Payleven, the Director of Marketing from PayU, the head of Innovation of Accenture and the founder of Avante. I wanted to give a special remark for Avante because it is a great Brazilian example of financial inclusion that can disrupt the local market. This startup has recently acquired Sling, an Israeli fintech that provides mobile financial services to small entrepreneurs. I do certainly expect a rapid growth and impact of this startup for the coming years. One interesting point highlighted is that beyond an excellent technology, the human contact is very important to penetrate the market of the unbanked people. I do agree with this point because technology will help a lot to fill the gaps of the current financial institutions but human contact will still be crucial to convince low income people that financial services worth it and can really beneficiate them.

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Going back to the competition, the finalists of the Sao Paulo event were: MGov Brasil / EduqMais , MeuCambio, QueroQuitar, ToGarantido, IU, Foxbit, MeuTicket, Veerbet, Mecasei.com and ReacHR. All of them presented a great pitch of their startups and answered the questions of the jury that was composed by investors, sponsors and the organization committee. …And the winners were:

  • Foxbit, a bitcoin broker, had a special recognition for having the most “likes” on the social medias during the event.
  • MGov Brasil / EduqMais, the winner for the education prize is a SMS platform for school-family/parents communication and engagement to foster participation in children education.
  • GoodTicket, the winner of the second place, is a solution uses the cellphone to do the payment and the reception of meal vouchers.
  • QueroQuitar, the winner of Sao Paulo, is a platform that modernizes the collection process using technology to alleviate and empower the debtor during this painful journey.

 

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After the final of Sao Paulo, Juliane and Romulo went to Rio for the finals of the country. For this last Brazilian competition, Bit.one won the second place. Bit.one is a platform that uses blockchain technology to perform payments (gateway, wallet, pre-paid cards, trade-exchange…).  And finally the competition in Rio confirmed the national winner, QueroQuitar. Natalia Alexandria, the representative of QueroQuitar will fly to Argentina in November for the regional summit and then to Switzerland next year to join the international network of Seedstars national winners. Great work Natalia and good luck for the next steps!

One of the sponsors of the event was PayU who will also support the events in Argentina, Mexico and Colombia. As you may know PayU is an international leading online payment service provider dedicated to create an efficient payment process for merchants and buyers. As an International fintech, PayU is involved in initiatives to boost the fintech and startups ecosystem. Present in 7 countries of Latin America, we celebrate when fintechs contribute to the development of innovation in Latin America.

Following the itinerary, nexts stops of Seedstars Latam are Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Panama and Santo Domingo. Keep tuned for the dates if you want to apply to some of the countries.

As Juliane and Romulo, there are other Seedstars ambassadors travelling around Africa, Asia and Europe searching for disruptive startups. Where do they find this energy? According to Juliane, the team shares the values of any entrepreneur: proactivity, autonomy and passion for their work.  Certainly, thanks to these teams, Seedstars has become a reference of innovation and startups knowledge within the emerging markets.

All the winners can be happy to go to Switzerland to meet the Seedstars teams and investors. But more than that, nothing can compare the amazing experience of meeting the other founders: from Nepal, Bolivia, Korea, Brazil, Nigeria and 60 more countries…after all, diversity always brings more innovation.

Great job Seedstars!

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Seedstars is in Brazil!

As you may know Seedstars is an international competition that looks for the most innovative startups from the emerging markets. For that, a team of the Seedstars travels around the countries meeting these startups and organizing the local competition. Finally, all the winners will meet in Switzerland to participate for a 3-day Bootcamp. If you are based in Brazil, I suggest you to participate! It is a great opportunity to make your startup global and meet some other exciting startups. For the event in Sao Paulo next week, one panel will talk about fintechs and financial inclusion. See you there next Thursday at the Google Campus SP.Seedstars_Brazil

Colombia and its wildest imagination

Colombia is famous for its salsa dance, its coffee and is considered one of the happiest countries in the world. Some weeks ago, it was also recognized as one of the fintech entrepreneurship hubs in Latin America. Indeed, Colombia has recently worked to build a technological and innovative environment to boost the creation of startups and of course fintech.

The country has a solid economy with a growth above 3% for 2015 and a better estimation for 2016. By 2015, it became the 4th largest economy in Latin America. Some years ago, the government decided to invest in developing the technology and innovation sector, setting up the country as one of the region’s strongest. The ambition is high with challenging goals. By 2018, the government expects to have 63% of the country connected to broadband. And according to 2015 GSMA figures, out of a population of 48.6 million people, there are 26.1 million users of internet in the country and 51 million mobile connections. Tom Phillips, Chief Regulatory Officer from GSMA, states that Colombia is one of the fastest growing mobile markets in Latin America. The Colombian government has also launched the “Vive Digital” program to make internet accessible to the poorer households. As part of this program they developed the App.co program to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country. App.co has already taught 50,000 people how to code. For 2018, it is planned to reach 90,000 people. In 2010, 10% of small companies had access to internet. In 2015, 60.6% of small companies do online transactions for their business (source datexco). Moreover, several private and governmental organizations emerged to educate and provide support to Colombian entrepreneurs, as for example Innpulsa, RutaN, la corporacion Colombia digital. The effort has paid and Colombia was considered by the world economic forum as one of the leaders on entrepreneurial ambition and innovation.

Big companies contribute to the entrepreneurial and innovative development of the country too. Talking about Fintech, BBVA Bank is one of the most active actors in the ecosystem. The Spanish bank has opened its first center of innovation in Bogota. This space presents the last innovations of the bank in technology and also organizes opened events related to entrepreneurship and digital technology. The bank is an unconditional worldwide supporter of fintechs. Every year, the BBVA organizes the BBVA open talent in three parts of the world: Latin and Central America, Europe and North America. This is a competition where the bank looks for innovative projects, products or beta-versions related to Financial Services (i.e. Big Data, security, e-commerce…). The winners participate in a 2 weeks program to meet high net worth people from technology and finance and executives of the bank. The goal is to start developing a project with the bank where both parts are winners. In the last edition, 180,000 euros were distributed among the 6 winners. In the South and Central America 2015 session, there were 196 participants and Colombia was the most represented country with 57 applications. For more information about the 2016 session, please click here.

On February 16th 2016, the Finnosummit event occurred in Bogota to discuss about Fintech in Latam. The main topics discussed during the event were Fintech opportunities and innovation, financial inclusion, blockchain and regulation. The Finnosummit event is organized by Finnovista, an international organization that accelerates the development of startups focused on digital financial services and empowers the fintech ecosystem worldwide. 260 people attended the event gathering entrepreneurs, investors, financial entities, consultants and organizations of development from all Latin America. During the conference, the Finnosummit challenge took place: a pitch competition among 9 fintechs previously selected by Finnovista. The winners were Aflore and Alegra. Let’s keep them in mind because they promise to be great actors in the Latin American ecosystem.

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Aflore: is a different type of financial services company. It makes loans accessible to the unbanked middle class through a network of informal financial advisors who people already know and trust. The contact between the lenders and the borrowers is performed through a technological platform. The company has already been awarded with several local and international prizes.

Alegra: is a software for small and medium companies to manage their accounting and invoicing through the cloud. The purpose of the startup is to beneficiate the small companies to take control of their finances. The startup is already present in Chile, Peru and Ecuador and they plan to reach other Latin American countries and the US soon.

Colombia had some exit stories too and the one in Fintech is Pagosonline.com. This startup is the Paypal of Colombia, leading the electronic payment service in the region. In 2011, the company was acquired by the multinational group Naspers, one of the major global players in electronic commerce and owner of a worldwide network of online payments platform called Payu Group. PagosOnline became Payu Latam and is planned to be the largest payment platform in Latin America (already present in Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Panama and Colombia).

There are several activities of Fintech happening soon in Bogota, stay tuned:

  • On March 2nd 2016, there will be a conference about blockchain and digital transformation led by Digital Bank at Hotel Cosmos Bogota. For more information, please click here.
  • On March 3rd 2016, the Innovation Center of BBVA is organizing a tour with the Ministry of Innovation and technology, where the bank will share with the attendants its digital strategy and his work with the fintechs. For more information, please click here.
  • On May 25th 2016, Digital Bank Latam will organize the annual fintech meeting, where more than 300 attendants will discuss about the latest innovation in Latam on technology, payments and financial services. For more information, please click here.

The government, banks and private organizations have a clear goal: to boost innovation and fintech for everybody in the country. Today, 35% of the adult population in Colombia is unbanked and all the actors are working to reach them, not just investing in knowledge and knowhow but also in infrastructure.

New projects are now focused on identifying local and international investors and convincing VCs and seeds investors to settle in the country. Colombian startups have a lot of potential because they do act local but they become Latino American actors very quickly. Why not become global too?

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, famous Colombian writer said “It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles to wildest imagination”.

From the wildest imagination, we can certainly expect disruptive ideas. With so many initiatives going on, the Colombian fintech cannot disappoint us. Colombia seems ready to defend a leadership position in the Latin American Fintech arena.

 

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