Fintech Bootcamp rocks… #sbtvc proudly rocking with them!

In the past 24 months the rise of Fintech incubators, all over the world, has taken an incredible speed.
Looks like I am not the only one thinking that the disruption will hit our beloved banks (and financial institutions in general) sooner rather then later.

I have been quite on my blog recently, whilst my life has gotten busier than ever before, but the two facts are unrelated.
The reason why I thought this one was a good moment to “talk” is the launch of Startup Bootcamp in its very first Fintech instance, out if St. Catherine docks in London.

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There are four point of attention I d like to make:

- the concept is great: 30 startups, 3 years, equity at stake, great network of entrepreneurs, tailored mentoring, no bullshit
- the team is awesome, and worth to mention another great chapter for my former colleague Nektarios (congrats dude), in all modesty brought to the Innotribe team by yours truly and infected with the innovation virus(es) to a point of no return – literally!
- the partners, the sponsors and the coaches of this adventure have a lot to say in the Fintech space, and I am talking about MasterCard, Lloyd’s, Rabobank, and many more I m sure you will hear a lot about very soon
- SBT Venture Capital, my fund, is proud to be one of the partners (which is kind of the reason why I am blogging this piece, obviously)

I must say I am quite familiar with this matter, in the sense that I always thought that the opportunity to take part of a qualified deal flow, vetted by the community, in the early stage startup space, and in a “sandbox like” environment was a good thing to do (all these drivers are already underpinning the Innotribe Startup Challenge).

Bank should do this too.

There are three different kind of attitudes towards startups banks are generally applying:
- “who cares, in any case what damage can they make, a fraction of a percent of our business?” (The “Dums”)
- let s watch them and simply buy the most successful one (The “Arrogant”)
- stay close. Try them. Eventually, invest. Learn from their lean approach. Engage. Get inspired (the “Smartass”)

So, Bootcamp is for the latter.
You (financial institutions) can stay around without necessarily invest in it.
We are planning to.
See you at the London st Catherine docks.

Stay tuned

Matteo

Xmas cities …

Brussels (and 100km around), London, Paris, Geneva, New York, Setubal, Lisbon, Singapore, Hong Kong, Toronto, Madrid, Zurich,Nice, Milan, Turin, Rome, Tampa, Quito, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Moscow, San Francisco, Seattle, Belfast, Beijing,Vienna,Trento, New Delhi, Portland,Bucharest,Marseille, Monaco,Rio, Stockholm, Los Angeles and of course my home lands and the places where my family is…
In every one if these cities there are people I respect professionally and/or deeply care about, and/or love. You know who you are.
This is my 2013 way to wish you all the best for next year, and some quality time with the people you care about.

Stay tuned
Matteo

WebWednesdays y la insostenible levedad del ser (una startup)

Nunca seré tan prolífico como mi amigo Chris Skinner, y – sinceramente – es una fortuna para mis lectores también… Pero hay algo que me gustaría compartir, y lo hago en español para dos razones:
- dentro de dos semanas, en Bogotá, hay #NeXTBankLatam y el sujeto encaja totalmente
- prepararme psicológicamente a utilizar el español, porque el Coaching y el Keynote serán en el idioma de Cervantes

Que son los Web Wednesdays¿

Unas reuniones muy chulas de startups en Hong Kong, organizadas por Napoleón, que también ha creado “the battle of the Apps” un nombre mucho más bonito para describir un Hackaton.

Hay denominadores comunes en todos estos eventos:
- la gente es más abierta a conocerse, pero todavía no se ha inventado una manera fácil, divertida, inmediata y eficaz de mezclar a la gente. He llegado sólo, son conocer a nadie, de humor cansado y asociable, y sólo he hablado con los speakers de la conferencia de ayer que me invitaron y llegaron al final del evento.
- ser “informal” parece obligatorio, los pocos banqueros con corbata (poquísimos, no banqueros, con corbata) se destacan como un burro volando – esta expresión me la acabo de inventar pero se que existe en otro contexto
- cómo en todas la comunidades, hay un poco de todo. El hecho de bañar el el mundo de las startups no garantiza una mayor densidad de celdas cerebrales
- hay una diferencia impresionante entre los que desarrollan, los que tienen ideas y los que saben vender ideas. Y si alguien hace las tres, o esta hablando en el Keynote o esta invirtiendo en startups ya

En general, es bastante fácil pasarlo bien, pero no porque es un evento de startups.
Lo pasas bien porque las probabilidades de hablar con alguien (o de escuchar a alguien) que tenga una historia que simule tu sed de aventura son más altas que en la mayoría de los eventos de negocio.

En otras palabras, los banqueros son lo más atrevidos, porque esté mundo es muy diferente de lo que ven todos los días pero también los que traen el mayor beneficio de estos eventos. Porque – potencialmente – pueden convertirse en chispas de innovación.

Pasión.

Es el motor de esos eventos.
Eventos donde no hay entrada, o si hay una es muy baja y tiene una cerveza incluida.
Ya sé, NextBank es una producción más importante, y se lo que quiere decir it granizar este tipo de eventos… Pero Fermín y Andrés tienen el mérito de desarrollar un ecosistema nuevo de innovación, como hicimos nosotros hace seis años con Innotribe, y me alegro mucho de contribuir a ese objetivo.

Colombia va a ser una sorpresa, he empezado a hablar con algunos de lo actores locales, y la verdad es que el tejido de las startups es bastante más desarrollado de lo que pensaba… Can’t wait¡

Como en español sonaría muy estúpido, lo digo en inglés …

Stay tuned

Matteo

#SBT Venture Capital #Sberbank #walkthetalk … Live from Hong Kong

I m about to go on stage at the Finance Innovation forum 2013, my first talk post-Innotribe era.
Interesting enough, until September this year I dealt with innovation from a very neutral platform, helping financial organizations to work with startups, apprehend innovation processes, build new products, and now I am standing behind one of the largest financial institutions worldwide, Sberbank, who decided to walk the innovation talk and launch a Fintech fund.

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Sberbank is not the only bank in the world investing in startups.
It IS though the FIRST financial institution launching a vertical captive fund investing in Fintech startups.

So if you know put yourself in my shoes,you realize how disruptive this change is.

I literally jumped on the other side of the equation.

And – when you look at it – there is no more logical decision for a bank to take.
Many banks have an innovation department (yet not the majority, though). But without the freedom to invest, without the independence of action they need, and most importantly without managing it as a business.

Let me use one of my favorite expressions: I will not hide myself behind my finger.
There are challenges in marrying young dynamic startups to a 350 thousands people organization.
The enthusiasm, the willingness to progress fast, the freshness and sometimes the naiveness and the fragility of the startup has to cope with the sales cycle of the bank, its legacy, its policies and politics.

But is the right way to go, and the reason why I joined.

The intention is truly to walk the talk, in an unexplored field.
Why unexplored?
Again, because investing in Fintech startups for a bank seems to be the natural thing to do to reinvent itself. Yet, as all pioneers, we forge the way, learning the hard way. And I am here to write this story, together with Mircea and the team.

The team…. Let me wrote the BIO of the guys I worked with so far in three lines with my colorized expressions:

Mircea Mihaescu, my Partner in crime: the gray bald hair of the team, young hearted Rumanian Canadian, former entrepreneur, IBMer, with the balls to change his life once again to bring Innovation into Sberbank three years ago. Smart, determinate, reliable, and with the curiosity of a child.

Tony Fish, advisor to the fund: the multiple exits entrepreneur with the brightest mind, and a marvelous humility and openness that drives him to share and discover rather than show off and keep knowledge for himself (as many money-made guys do). A living book on best practices on innovation and startups, and a true good person.

Andrew Martin, the only one with hair in the team, even if white. I consider him the coach of SBT, he is behind our financials and legal negotiations, very hard to spot something he has not seen yet, but – most importantly – someone who always work with a smile on his face. A great person I am discovering day after day. His favorite sentence “I have seen it before”… And he actually has!

#feelsgood

I can t wait to announce our next investments, and more on this journey.

Stay tuned

Matteo

My Venture Capital week at Sibos Dubai

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Not easy to wrap up my first Sibos in my new job, but I will try while (sitting in my Emirates flight back ) I am still awake (I suspect the typical siesta post Sibos party will hit me in no time).

First of all: Innotribe rocked.

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I only attended the startup challenge (kind of obviously) and a couple of sessions, but the vibes were clearly there.
The team worked probably 20 hours per day on average for the entire week, and it was hard not to feel guilty for not helping or being with them. The last session, the campfire started with my forever friend Innes playing guitar (yes, playing guitar in a “camp” shaped session) was too hard to attend for me. enough emotions this week.

I was on a very interesting panel, unsuspectedly VERY popular, talking about collaboration and information sharing (and connected companies, and disruption from startups, etc etc). Allevo did a great job in putting this together.
My first panel in my new role. (Pic follows)

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So I moved on.

I realized that Sibos is a crossways of different networks, if you know how to navigate amongst them.
The networks I am looking for, now, involve entrepreneurs, start-ups, cities and governments, innovative vendors and obviously other venture capital firms.
There are different forms of being in a VC business, and the one I preach for aims at fostering growth, create sustainable businesses, not speculate on capital iteration based on companies flipping.

Anthemis group organized an AMAZING dinner at floor 123 of the iconic Burg Khalifa. That dinner alone is a post by itself, will follow soon.
Let me still a pic from Scott Bales here:

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All of a sudden, the start-up challenge took a totally different angle for me.
Being able to help these entrepreneurs to find the right scale path to the business, seeking opportunities to get them closer to Sberbank products and services team, and of course vet their companies with a VC hat is another game (a fascinating one).
Congrats KlickEx and Waratek, soon a more detailed blog on this too!

Another great discussion that took place in Dubai was about creating start-up ecosystems to help the economic development of the city.
Dubai ran out of oil 35 years ago. Yet, they managed to be one of the wealthiest cities in the world.
I would love to find a model where we can build vertical startup hubs focused in creating job opportunities and access to values creation to the people who dare.

You know why?

To answer this question, let me refer to one of the sessions I attended this year at Innotribe.
John Chavens.
Happaton
Measuring health, stress, hearth condition through physical devices.
New paradigm.
Ultimately … Looking to measure happiness.

So WHY I want to help to create this Eco-systems?
Because the energy that flows when people are free to express their true self, in an environment that boost their creativity, is viral. Simply, makes that geography a better place.

It feels good. I feel damn good.

stay tuned

Matteo

It is time to share what my next life will look like …

I am sitting in a plane with a beautiful September sunrise, and all of a sudden my iPhone decides to play some music at me, more exactly the songs I used to listen in my 20ies, and even more exactly a song called “Incontro”… Talking about the freedom you feel when you are young, when you have no means but plenty of hope and energy, and (the song saying) when you are all grown up, your life is settled around you, you would give a lot to make love (like old times) in the back of your car, or at a movie, to grasp even for a little moment what you understand NOW being the salt of life… emotions.

My next plans are not about retire and listening to old Italian songs, but the reason for this intro is the transition the song provoked in my mind… I am about to begin another cycle, where I change EVERYTHING.

Few people know already: I have resigned from SWIFT, after 12 years of great adventures in Sales, Comms and Innovation.

My next challenge is a 100 M USD Venture Fund, called SBT VENTURE CAPITAL (www.sbt-VC.com) that I join as a General Partner.
We will invest mainly in Series A startups, in need of 1-10 M USD, within the fin-tech industry. In other words, not only we keep partnering with the Innotribe Startup Challenge, but I hope I will have the opportunity to stay in touch with many of the brilliant minds I have met during these 5 fabulous Innotribe years.

This is a question my kids might ask, in 10 years from now, if ever they will read these lines: what is your job about? (The only conversation I had about this with my 9YO son, I turned to be someone who s traveling the world to take pictures then selling them on Facebook).

The General Partner of a venture fund has the overall mission to make sure the fund gives back the invested money and some sizable profit to the limited partners who put the money into the fund itself. In this case, Sberbank – by far the largest Russian bank and one of the biggest banking players in the world – is the sole limited partner of the fund.
The GP job is about screening, build the deal flow (the portfolio of startups), make sure each company is vetted (financially, in their business model, and legally) and most importantly helping the companies in the fund’s portfolio with sales introductions, network, strategic insights, and some white hair in their board ( not applicable to me ).

I will start at Sibos, in Dubai, where the Startup Challenge Finale might bring good investment opportunity for us.
I will be based where the business brings me…. “where are you based?” Is an overrated question anyway.

Why do I change EVERYTHING? That s the title of my next post ;-)

I will change now my about.me, LinkedIn, twitter and Facebook profile.
For the ones who want to reach me, my mobile phone number stays the same, and if you take my first name and sbtventurecapital (.com) you can figure my email address. LinkedIn works too.

stay tuned, more news in a short while

Matteo

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The grand finale, Startup Challenge @ Sibos Dubai

Dubai is just around the corner, and the sleepless nights as well, as part of the package.

The startup challenge will be one of the focal points of a very busy Innotribe week.
I am sure you are familiar with the program, if not you can find it here

Many times I have been asked “why” and “why SWIFT” … About engaging with startups in this way and dedicate resources of the cooperative to something that – apparently – has little to do with SWIFT business.

Saying “SWIFT is a community first and foremost” (few of you would remember who said this) is something that – personally – has driven my work of the past 6 years (out of the 12 I spent in this company). It started with swiftcommunity.net, and continued with Innotribe.

It s what I called the platform groundwork.
It s about provide the financial community with the right Eco-systems, adapted to the world we live in, to share what s good to share. Let me explain myself better: the startup challenge give the best perspective on what type of disruption are coming into our space, and this (if you take the side of the community) HAS to be common knowledge. Many banks are not equipped to see this, many others entered this space with their venture arm, trying to grasp the opportunities that every disruption engenders.

This is why we do the startup challenge. This is why it s free (unlike many other events where companies pay to pitch) and UNIQUE in this field.

We are proud to announce the outcome of our three regional challenges (brutally copy pasted from the Sibos article, in case you missed it)…

The six growth-stage innovator finalists are:

GIEOM, a product that interconnects banking operations providing information on business processes, screen simulations of IT systems, e-books of regulations and business performance.
Quantum4D, visual analytic software that allows users to access large-scale data systems, and construct, edit and explore interlinked 3D arenas and workspaces intuitively.
The Entrepreneurial Finance Lab, an automated service that has helped companies and lenders in more than 20 countries to identify high potential, credit-worthy entrepreneurs based on a psychometric system, while reducing their default rates and risks.
Virtual Piggy, a global payment enabling service that facilitates the online spending of under eighteens and young adults in a parent approved manner.
V-Key, a liquid defence micro-vm to protect mobile applications against cyber-attacks.
Waratek, a solution that solves a specific problem affecting the future use of Java as the industry moves towards higher levels of infrastructure virtualisation and private Clouds.

The nine early-stage startup finalists are:

Azimo, a platform that uses mobile and social technology to reinvent the way that economic migrants send money back to their families in the developing world.
Growth Intelligence, automatically generates qualified time-sensitive sales leads, tracking the performance and activity of every business in the economy in real time.
P2P Cash, a secure mobile platform that lowers money transfer cost to zero by using SWIFT standards to allow cash to be sent or received from any mobile wallet or bank account worldwide.
PassportFX, a regulated clearing service for central and commercial banks.
Pocketbook, an application to manage personal finance providing a single view on spending.
Realty Mogul, an innovative web platform that allows investors to browse, screen and sign rare real estate opportunities that have been historically difficult to access.
Twikey, a simple, fast and safe solution to efficiently manage online mandates and contracts with their end-customers.
XYverify, a virtually “invisible” mobile payment authentication solution that protects consumers, merchants and financial institutions from identity theft and transaction-related breaches.
z-crd, a modern secure and scalable cloud-based international transaction system that cuts out middlemen, reduces transaction costs and offers services currently unheard of.

As I said, this Sibos will be special for me, as I will sail to other seas as of … Sibos itself, staying very close to startups and innovation in the financial sector, leaving the Innotribe team but keeping the brand in my hearth as something that – and I am measuring my words – opened my mind in making me understand what I really want to do, and which type of air I need to breath.

Innotribe is there to stay and grow, for a very simple reason: it does not belong to SWIFT anymore. It’s the community, and the movement around it, that makes it living. I will never be proud enough to have put my grain of salt into it.

More than ever, stay tuned

Matteo