You know by now I like TV shows, especially to survive long flights like this one when I am not blogging or working or sleeping.

We are gladiators with a suit” is how each member of the team of Olivia Pope, the hero of Scandal, a US made TV show, define himself. These guys are often doing the groundwork.
They are relentless, they get their hands dirty, they are not afraid to break the rules and they trust each other, often when nobody else believe in their mission (these guys are often called to solve cases no one would take and their leader, beside sleeping and beeing madly in love with the President of the United States, is a true genius in dealing with these apparently unsolvable problems).

Allow me to make a jump back in 2008.
As Gottfried (SWIFT CEO) said in his opening speech at Innotribe at Sibos this year :

when Innotribe started SWIFT Management had no idea what this ‘thing’ was all about.

These are textual words, and despite – of course – being a bit emphasized, they are actually accurate.
FinTech was not even a commonly used word, back then.
Innovation merely existed as a vague concept, no fintech accelerators, no challenges, no Labs…

This is the first Innotribe stand at Sibos in 2009, in Hong Kong, with pictures from the very first Fintech Startups gathering (the Challenge came one year later) – please notice Lazaro Campos, you will see later in this post as well.

PS : notice Kosta and Peter with a suit and an unusual version of Mela 🙂


This is the Innotribe Stand in 2015 in Singapore just beside the SWIFT stand and actually since the very first session using the SWIFT stand as the second scene because the Innotribe stand was too small.

What you see inside is the most beautiful interactive all-round screen I have ever seen, in what I think was the most beautiful place of every Sibos I have ever attended.
We were gladiators.

Now something else…
It is actually the first time I check this. I didn’t know I was in the picture as well.

TransferWise Innotribe 2011

This is the link of Tranferwise pitch at Sibos 2011 :

Now everyone talks about Transferwise as the greatest example of Fintech Unicorn.
We were gladiators.

This is the article that announces the official opening od Level39, roughly two and a half years ago : it mentions Innotribe as one of their first events.

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 05.37.11
Now, you would ask, why this rather nostalgic, maybe Innotribe too focused, kind of celebrative and self-celebrative type of post ?
Without making another useless list, I wanted to pay a tribute to the pioneers.
Most of them still around, who believed in this shift from the very beginning, when FinTech had to be explained (still has to, in some context, admittedly), when thinking of a startup working with a bank was in the best case a secret proof of concept in some remote place in the basement, and only ONE bank had a truly structured approach for Innovation and investment : CITI. But just starting.

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 05.50.29

I had a recent, long overdue, super refreshing catch-up conversation with a true friend, a gladiator as well and we were both observing some of the disappointing consequences of a booming trend : shallowness, irrelevance, lack of content, greed, luckily confined and absolutely not defining the current system, but for someone who has seen the whole story is – lets say – easier to spot and easier to get bothered by.

So this is a gladiator’s celebration.
The beauty of it is that the ones who were there to share these moments and many others I had no time to report here, will read this and smile.
The good news is that the last two hours of this flight literally went away without me noticing anything.

Let me finish with one of my favourite pictures, recently : Lazaro and I at our FinTechStage event, in Barcelona, with a very symbolic black t-shirt convergence.


If you have met Lazaro already, you know why he has all the rights to be in this post.

Stay Tuned


Fintech 40 : We’ve seen the future and it’s blockchain

Blockchain, the technology behind the bitcoin electronic currency, may not have the best resume but big things are expected of it by the Fintech 40, the people identified by FN in June as the most influential in European fintech.

That is a big change from September 2014.
Then an FN poll of fintech names showed that “big data”, using computers to extract useful intelligence from vast databases, was seen as more promising. Blockchain came second, with its fans largely venture capitalists rather than executives in finance.

We asked the Fintech 40 : “What emerging fintech innovation will be the most disruptive to the financial services status quo ?”

Below are their thoughts on the blockchain. Visit next week for their views on peer-to-peer finance, big data, mobile technologies and more.

• On the blockchain…

Oliver Bussmann, Group chief information officer, UBS
Radical technologies such as blockchain present a unique opportunity to simplify and accelerate banking processes in a much more networked, transparent and decentralised way. With blockchain you can theoretically settle a securities transaction in seconds instead of days and bring far more transparency to cross-border payments… just a few examples of how this disruptive technology could become a major game changer.

Roberto Ferrari, General manager, challenger bank CheBanca!
Blockchain is showing itself to be a multi-purpose platform that can bring not just financial services but the whole economy into a new digital age. It is a new, agnostic, distributed public ledger that can be applied securely and efficiently as a massive shared digital banking and transactions ledger for the clearing of derivative contracts, securities and asset servicing, syndicated lending, trade finance, bonds and much more including property.

Udayan Goyal, Co-founder and partner, Apis Partners
Blockchain. The concept of the distributed ledger and smart contracts will fundamentally change the way all transactions are done – be they payments, securities, trade finance or like. The hub and spoke model in existence today will be replaced with peer-to-peer networks.

Credit scoring and underwriting. The advent of big data will completely disrupt the way credit underwriting is done. We will move to a big data analytical model in real time rather than relying on credit bureaus and manual underwriting processes. This will be spurred by people putting their accounting information in the cloud through companies such as Xero.

Distribution. Distribution will essentially become mobile-centric, led by the emerging markets who will leapfrog existing physical distribution in developed markets as there is no legacy infrastructure.

Chris Skinner, Chairman, Financial ServicesClub
Peer-to-peer lenders and new payment models are gaining all the investment from venture capitalists. Having said that, the biggest fintech innovation is the use of shared ledgers based upon the blockchain technologies. After all, if you can move $100 million on a Sunday morning instantaneously at zero cost, then the whole counterparty banking and settlements system is turned on its head. That’s exciting and is the reason why I’m doubling down on cryptocurrencies for the near future.

Steve Gibson, Managing director, Euclid Opportunities
The easy answer here is blockchain. The more challenging question is whether this will be a disruptive revolution or collaborative evolution. Our sense is the latter – emerging blockchain providers will partner with existing market participants to provide next generation efficiency, transparency and security.

Stefan Tirtey, Managing director, CommerzVentures
We believe that over the next two to three years the application of “big data analytics” and machine learning can disrupt the lending to underserved client segments. In the mid to long term, we feel that blockchain technology, or its successors, can be just as transformative or even disruptive to the financial services industry.

Who would have anticipated that the invention of the internet protocol in 1974 would enable applications such as the Web and cloud computing? Well, it did, creating billion-dollar markets and disrupting several industries in the process. We believe that the financial services industry might just experience its own “1974 moment”. Way to go!

Eric Van der Kleij, Head, Level39
The advent of the blockchain and distributed ledger technology really feels like a pivotal moment for financial services. As a lifelong entrepreneur myself, I am drawn to the varied and truly life-changing applications of this technology.

Nektarios Liolios, Managing director, Startupbootcamp FinTech
“Distributed ledger” is growing in popularity and is entering more niche segments of the financial sector. As the technology is getting more mature and the incumbents more willing to engage with it, there is unprecedented potential to tackle a range of expensive, risky and inefficient processes, such as securities clearing and settlement.

Matteo Rizzi, General partner, SBT Venture Capital
It’s not an innovation per se, but the deployment of real-time settlement for domestic and international payments – and distributed ledger/blockchain could be one way to deal with it – will disrupt the correspondent banking model…


Copyright : Anna Irrera


FinTech Persona

My first attempt of a post written with my IPhone.
FinTech right now looks like the Klondike gold fever, where everybody with a hat ran to the river and over excitingly look for a piece of that mirage everybody else was chasing.
I am no different, of course, aside from the fact that I went to that river much earlier than the rest of the racers, when very few even knows what exactly to look for.

Interestingly, this world is following the most classical path, with very specific Persona :
the Specialist : usually trying to set up a consulting firm selling to the few they know extremely well and using it as a proof of concept to eventually scale a business,
– the Converted : Ex bankers finally realising that banks won’t change from inside and either join a Specialist or move to a start-up,
– the Evergreener : if you saw Level39 full of dust and with no windows or if you saw TransferWise at Innotribe, you are one of them. The challenge here is how to stay relevant without repeating yourself and keep playing the “I am a pioneer” card which after a while is not bringing you very far,
– the Collaterals : interesting one. There are loads of mentor, coaches, wannabe startup advisors, wannabe help-to-raise players and most of them are swinging around the different accelerators and incubators because that’s their natural playground for this,
– the Radicals : some Fintech Wolves, rather solitary, are betting on the disruption only and they find intellectual reward by assembling all possible evidence of it. Some of them is very weird, but not dangerous,
– the LateComers : usually financial institutions, they feel the need to do something about Innovation and bravely stand up for it, not always fully understanding what really is going to influence their institution, but conscious that someone need to look at this somehow,
– the Politicians : FinTech is their game to make a whole geography cooler, smarter or simply not struggling behind everywhere else. It’s the FinTech Throne that matters,
– the Predators : regardless at which stage you enter the game, if you have enough money you are always welcome and have a seat at the table. These ones, without the money, would be totally irrelevant.
– the Aggregators : incubators, accelerators, Start-up programs, glorified co-working spaces, FinTech brands, usually as good as the network of the aggregated founders is and from very local to very global,
– the Guevara’s : fascinating small group of people using FinTech wave to change the world, but – if you look deeper – to change THEIR world first. Nothing wrong with it, because they create a lot of good vibes in the process.

I could recognise myself in a few of these and the reason for me to write this post comes from two, very important considerations :
I want to stay relevant,
I don’t want to get bored and or generate boredom.

As already mentioned few times before, I found myself at ease when ANYTHING is at the peak of its creativity, when no one is really bothering (yet), because this is where the challenge is more rewarding.
In a few decades from now, this will be reminded as “the time when it all started”.
By then, if – collectively – we are smart enough – financial services will be a commodity in terms of access, a new global system in terms of value (probably not the money) and certainly much more inclusive.

Stay tuned.


About Energy

It’s all about Energy. Everything.

I am writing this one from the Eurostar to London with the – for once – good jet lag as just back from Singapore.
I did not think it was actually possible to travel more than my Innotribe time, a couple of years ago.
Plus, SWIFT travel style is not only well organised, but pretty smooth : American Express does it all, in short. You just need to call.
Please bear with me as this post is going totally ballistic (I can say it now that I finished it)…

Since I switched to the VC world, I build my own company and i just received the Gold Card from BA which adds to the Emirates and to the Senator from Lufthansa, which means I traveled too much, at  probably twice the intensity I believed to be at the top only 2 years ago.

Now, beside these fancy lounges and great food and business class pass-through lines, there are at least 100 low-cost flights a year and another 60-ish  Eurostar trips.

Last week I was in Asia, in Singapore, for the Startup Bootcamp selection days. Asia Fintech scene is booming (see my Game of Fintech Thrones post) but only started recently and I had the pleasure to see the result of a couple of dozen pitch days organised by the great Marcus and the team there.

Some 17 startups eager to fight for the 10 slots of the Singapore Fintech program.

Where am I going with this ? Where is the fil rouge of this post ?

Simple answer : the energy.
It is almost as if the energy you feel in (most of) the people you work with was viral, contaminating your mindset as well. This energy is a mix of creativity, hunger for success, ambition, real cleverness, comfort zone outness, entrepreneurial spirit, unique talent or simply pure brutal curiosity about life. All mixed up.

Mind you, all these assets are AGELESS. Which explains why it s so contagious and you don’t really feel the time and effort in the same way.

To be able to feel that energy, you need to know what are you looking for and have someone close enough to push you to find something more than a monthly salary (no matter how good that is and no matter how safe your pension will look like in 30 years if you manage not to get fired).

I am trying to be very specific here. There is a difference between having a good job and a job that does you good. I am NOT diminishing any job, because is not the what, but the how.

And I want to tell you a story here.

Back in 1993, a couple of centuries ago, I was working at the Club Med to pay my university studies and I discovered (thanks Gianluca) that by working a couple of years abroad I would be allowed to delay the (back then mandatory) military service in Italy.
So while I was playing volleyball I met this guy, who’s brother was looking to hire a not specified  resource for his “computer” company (his words) in Paris.
I was few exams close to a Computer science University degree and thought that job was about programming (which was never my favourite activity btw, also because of the 100 students admitted per year to that university I was amongst the – really few – who did NOT own a computer).

Lessons learnt here:
be open, you don’t know where the opportunity will come from,
– if you hesitate between open up or just stay put, open up. And go the extra mile. I could have just played volley the whole week and never engage a conversation,
embrace the opportunity for a change, no matter how big it looks like. You will adapt faster than you think.

So I basically went to Paris at the end of that summer with the money made at the Club Med. After an interview with the brother (whom I talked a couple of times since the first time we met), I discovered that I was supposed to sell computer parts (memory, network cards, etc.) and the goal for me to be there was to open the Italian market.
Because I needed an Undetermined Contract, I signed a resignation letter with no date, so I could be fired anytime.

Now, few considerations here :
– I was 23,
– I had no idea what I was selling as never saw any of it (and no computer, remember ?),
– I knew nothing about the Market (and less about the Italian one),
– I was making 5000 Francs a month (750 EUR), half of which was rent and not exactly enough to live in Paris (but was promised a 0.5% of the gross sales revenue),
– I was on my own in Paris, beside some random Club Med friends,
– It was bloody 1993, no social, no Tinder, no nothing (just to picture it).

It was a BASIC job. Very basic. COLD CALL selling, if you have ever done it, you know what that means.
Started with the Milan Yellow Pages and a 256kb Casio agenda.
But I was hungry. And back then the energy of being able to make my life abroad, try new things, being creative was my engine. My start-up was my life. Or vice-versa, however you wanted to look at it.

The rest is history. 2 years later I was making over a Million FF per month in sales. Soon after opened the 1st branch of the business in Milan, then in Madrid, then in Munich… Moved again, and that amazing adventure lasted 7 years.

So the Energy is job agnostic.

If your eyes are open, there is no job that cannot give you the opportunity to get that energy.
If it doesn’t, look for another job.
If that other job does not pay, do 2 jobs at the same time.
If you don’t have enough time for your family because you have 2 jobs at the same time, think that it’s better to give less time but with a blessed hearth and a good energy, than more time but in a frustrated flavour.

Stay tuned