matteo-rizzi-omidyar-network

Banking the bottom billions 

 

I am writing from an Uber cab heading to Sentosa beach, in Singapore, ready to begin my 15th straight Sibos (wow)

As some of you might have noticed, I became an advisor for the Omidyar Network, an organization started by Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar, and I must say I impatiently look forward to meet him when the opportunity will come.

Financial Inclusion is not only about rural countries and poor people. In the UK there are 2 millions people without a bank account, and in France there are over 6 M people under banked. This mission is much larger than it looks.

Interestingly enough, as much as very few financial institutions had an Head of Innovation (or even less than that) in 2008, when we founded Innotribe, in a similar way today banks are just starting to consider financial inclusion a priority.

But it’s coming.

Not having access to fair financial services, actually, make someone pay way more than the well served by this industry, and this is an unfair setting per se, already. Think about the commission to send cash abroad, to give an example, or – as in certain countries – to pay someone to deliver cash to someone else, or the endless lines to pay cash an utility bill, or the impossibility to buy online (therefore buy more expensive offline because of little alternative choice).

On the top of it, there is a direct correlation between GDP growth and financial inclusion, which is the reason this is one of the best battles worth fighting.

Omidyar Network (ON), I learnt already from the initial hours of conversations with an exceptionally talented team, has an approach to investments and innovation that I can only admire and second: backing the pioneers.

Not many people are aware of it, but ON backed Prosper, today valued 1.6 Billions, sharing the very early journey in alternative lending, through the initial challenged and turmoil, because they saw the potential.

Investing in a technology, an idea, a new business that is itself in an early stage, and actually become the catalyst for new incumbents to play in the same space is one of the success KPis of ON.

“Changing the world” (or at least one aspect of it) is exactly that: drive the market change. A typical VC would probably back a successful P2P lending today, because the industry has embraced the concept, there is no question about the market and even the metrics are standardised (like the default rate, interest rate and so on).

Since I started writing this post, 3 days of Sibos have past, and I am now on my way back to Europe. I named Omidyar Network in few conversations in Singapore, and it s amazing to realise that an organization that has invested close to a billion dollars in this space it’s familiar only to few (granted, most of my F&F know about ON, already).

In two weeks from now will have the first series of meetings at ON in my new role, and it’s my intention to give as much visibility as possible to the ON initiatives … Bridging it with the FinTech network and develop new collaborations with other VCs and Eco-systems seems one of the right things to do.

Will spend more time in another post about the strategy and especially this concept of “market pivotal” investments …now let me rest after Sibos

Stay tuned

Matteo

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