Ashley Madison and FinTech trends… Or A.I. for dummies

Taking back an old habit, I am writing from the plane after 48 hours in Tel Aviv, where I attended the great opening of the local FinTech Hub, The Floor, witnessing yet another bold project bridging Israeli (Fin)tech and Asia investments. (The largest investor in the initiative is Chinese).
A few people are talking about is Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and the application in the FinTech space are extremely interesting. I actually did study AI at the university back 1992 I believe, but I suppose it s like comparing the MacBookAir with the Commodore 64 (but I only ever had the first one, I could not even judge :))
More people than will ever admit to be are aware of Ashley Madison website, the portal for extra-marital affairs. It s also (maybe not as famous as the Panama papers saga, but certainly more interesting to talk about) one of the most media reported hacks, of personal data in the digital area. What is REALLY interesting though is that the released data revealed not only a huge disproportion between male and female profiles (like 95% versus 5%) but also the fact that a good chunk of the females were allegedly fake, and managed by a (ro)bot. Tribute to one off my smartest friends, Ruth Polacheck, who gave me the inspiration for this and made me think of a fun way to tell the story.
A bot.
The proof that artificial intelligence is real and about to become mainstream.
Basic bots exist since decades already (after all we new something about it in Computer Science, it all started with the Turing Machine, right?) but only recently their use (and power) has started to expand.
A lot of us might have encountered Amy, the appointment scheduling bot, pretty smart in setting up calls and meetings without human intervention, or the simple Twitter bots that are automatically retweeting or like scoring to basic rules. Not very sophisticated, but you get the idea.
What A.I. has to do with FinTech and where are the use cases, beside cheating the cheaters and save some PA time?
Think of any repetitive tasks at various degrees of complexity, and the opportunity to delegate seamlessly and virtually reducing handover time to zero.
AI could be the building block of one of the biggest revolutions in the B2B space, especially in the SME arena.
Let me give you a concrete example : I have a small business, with basic accounting and the smallest the company the more structured the entrepreneur need to be in order to make sure the reporting, the bookkeeping and ultimately the tax filing don’t become the biggest nightmare ever.
There are hundreds of tools allowing you to scan receipts, file them, plenty of which I used and tried, but ultimately it s actually faster to put all papers in an envelope and ask someone to be the intermediary between you and the accountant.
What does not work is the fact that there is still a lot of human intervention, even if it means me scanning or taking a picture of the restaurant ticket.
The moment has come where smart bots can actually pull most of the stuff people is receiving through different channels, combine it with an ever-learning engine you can teach new things to, and they can become your best ally. To you and your (small) business, which is the market everyone is looking to crack.
We are likely to talk about this topic in of the next FinTechStage conferences, showcasing the first startups in this space.
Stay Tuned
Matteo
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Scattered Chronicle of the last Eight Weeks

There is a reason why I have been silent for the past eight weeks. Not that I am presumptuous enough to think anyone noticed that, but sometimes I remember this is my way not to loose touch with the rest of the world about what’s happening to me, not to mention the fact that my kids one day could potentially wonder what dad was doing beside coming and going with his trolley. (as a side point, I think the noise of the luggage wheels entering the house and getting out will probably be the most remembered sound related to Dad they will ever have).

To start with, we did run two great FinTechStage events in May, Milan and Amsterdam (which explain why April was quietly upgrading to an hectic time, because – of course – shit happens and you need to deal wit it). We can safely say both events were successful, from what we could gather from the partners, the sponsors, the audience and the speakers. On thing we have to do better is find a smart way not to loose all the good content FTS is bringing to the different eco-systems.

I will shamelessly point you guys to an amazing post my friend Daniel Gusev (who spoke in Amsterdam) wrote about the event, and I can only be grateful for being so exhaustive and thoughtful in creating this.

We do have ideas on how to capture the fil rouge of all the events we do, and build services around it, and you will hear about it very soon.

I also spent a week in San Francisco (beginning of May) with everyone at Omidyar, in my first ON Summit.

Amazing experience: I went there thinking I would be amongst the very few knowing only a handful of people, and realised there the organisation has grown so much in the last twelve months that at least three dozens of people were there for the first time as well! I am very humbled to be part of such a group, not only because of the mission we share, but most importantly because it s constant reminder – for me – of a different way of building businesses, empowering people, both with for profit and not for profit initiatives, and it was overwhelming as well to realise the spectrum of activities ON is involved with, some of which really triggered a whole new world.

Let me give you an example: I discovered what the Property Rights division does. To be fair, as well WHAT Property Rights even means. Had no idea that over a billion people are concerned by the fact that there is no proper and factual record of their properties (land, houses, etc) with all the terrible consequences that such a matter has on their lives. ON is amongst the few organisations in the planet investing resources and research power to tackle this global issue, where of course technology has a great role to play (think of drones to assess land perimeters, etc).

Immediately after that, I spoke both at the CGAP annual meeting and et ICT Spring Luxembourg, two events fortunately for me overlapping each other but making these three days particularly intense, especially because  in the case of the CGAP event (CGAP is an Independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor) I discovered a whole new network of organisations driven by the same mission (make the world a better place, for lack of a better definition).

It does not happen very often I go to a conference where I don’t know a single speaker, and almost never where I don’t meet someone I have seen before in other place. Well, this time – no doubt – was an exception on all of it.

Another important part of last weeks activity flipped around the work ON is doing in defining an investment thesis on Digital Identity and what it s called the Me2B space. A simple way to explain the latter is how can we put the user (the customer, everyone of us, in other words) in control of his own data and find new economics around the sharing of these data with potential suppliers of services that de facto – today – are getting it for free. I am writing this post from London, where we are visiting a number of players in this space and craft the right strategy around it.

Lastly, I am writing a book,(yes, a book)  in Italian, about FinTech, that will be part of a collection produced by the Bocconi University (I think, this is what I have been told). I am just mentioning it as this is what definitely filled up all the little spare time I usually take to write my posts. Book is almost over, only two chapters remaining, will hopefully tell you more before the really summer starts. Summer starts the day I go to Sestri Levante, of course, before then it s just normal busy time in a short sleeves black t-shirt instead of long ones!

Stay tuned

 

Matteo

Money2020 could have happened 6 years ago… and be called Innotribe.

Just came back from Money2020 Europe.
As you guys know, I am in the FinTech events space as well with FinTechStage, with a complete different philosophy, but I must admit Jonathan and Anil really nailed it.
They manage to organize the biggest FinTech event in Europe (please, do not compare it with Sibos when it happens in Europe, that would be a mistake), and most importantly to make it in a very profitable way. Too profitable someone might say, but that’s the jealousy talking 🙂
What is more important, though, is that Money2020 is in my opinion the biggest commercial missed opportunity fo Innotribe (after the Innotribe Fund that did not happen, but that one was more long term).
I remember clearly the conversations we had about spinning off Innotribe events, associate them to the Startup Challenge and become (back in 2010 or so) the leading FinTech event worldwide.
I see plenty of reasons why SWIFT has decided NOT to do it:
  • they are not an event company
  • Sibos is not for profit (and they are not an event company)
  • Innotribe was tolerated, back then, so beef it up was a stretch (an event company, really !?!)
  • Build up an inside venture like this requires new resources not that easy to pull off
This being said, let s do a quick math:
  • 3500 attendees, out of which say 2000 paid (I think was more) average 1800 EUR/ticket that makes 3.6 M EUR
  • minimum booth size 20K, up to 100K
  • 120+ sponsors
Money 2020 is at least a 5/6 M EUR business, at this size, and certainly they need a quite senior and extended team team to build this.
SWIFT could have done it probably with 2 people, as Innotribe team would have taken care of the content and speakers management, and most of the work could have been absorbed by the Sibos team, with a couple of new hires.
If we assume this would have scaled as I think Money2020 will, and become like 3 times bigger, this is an opportunity for SWIFT worth some low two digits of the annual gross profit (so would Sibos, probably, but harder to change a more than 40 years old setting)
Paradox of course is that it would have been an event built by the community for the community, and funding Innotribe at the same time, which IMO (In My Opinion, mum)  would have avoided many of the “ROI of Innovation” endless debates.
Why am I writing this?
This is not a “I told you so” moment, which would be pointless.
It s another corporate misfits celebration, and a praise to be bolder, for everyone.
Is it a big deal NOT to do it?
Is not, until you are Kodak.
But Kodak does not happen super often, and in financial services probably even less.
I could have talked about the Digital Asset Grid, an incubated Innotribe project in 2010 (I believe) that is surprisingly identical to a distributed ledgers based identity solution backed by the whole community … someone has in mind something similar, recently built, by someone else :)?
PS for everyone reading this, I am inviting you FOR FREE in Milan at FinTechstage on May 5th 2016
Use the code PROMO100 and get your  free ticket!
Stay Tuned
Matteo

How would you categorise FinTech Eco-systems?

A couple of days ago Lazaro, Mariela and I sat together and, treasuring the experience of the first 4 events with FinTechStage, we tried to spell out our mission, and the first thing we did was to define different Type of FinTech Eco-systems, to assess where the value we can bring reaches its best potential.

We came out with FOUR categories:
Disconnected
Disorganised
Organised
Recognised
1- Disconnected
In many countries there is some form of Startup gathering and related capital, and even a significant banking presence.
FinTech is more a “wave” they see being talked about, but there is no “go to” place to even have a meaningful discussion. Capital and Statups are definitely not focusing on FinTech, and at best there is a Meetup around a beer (I am not undermining here, it s actually a great excuse to have a beer :))
2- Disorganised
Up until only 12 months ago, this category (in developed countries) was by far the biggest.
In this type of eco-system you can easily identify the FinTech initiatives, either from financial institutions or private (sponsored) incubators and accelerators and few local gaterings on the topic.
Venture Capitalists have these countries on their radar, and often there is little “local” FinTech Capital available, mostly because the effort of local scouting is left to the goodwill of the global investors themselves.
Disorganised Eco-systems tend to set up local events mostly, for the very precise reason of getting together the different pieces of the system, and to exchange with other experts or listen to Chris Skinner they have to go abroad (Chris, I have stolen you a slide today, I making it up :))
3- Organised
The nuance between this category and the “Disorganised” one is actually very thin.
An Organised (FinTech) system has a local catalyst, and what we observed is that it usually works best when this role  is taken by some sort of super-nation, government or community backed (or linked) and in any case non-commercial, “super partes” body. Like Luxembourg for Finance, Holland Fintech, FinTech CH, Innovate Finance, FinTech France, FinTech HK and others.
A strong nuance between Disorganised and Organised eco-systems is the sense of sharing and collaboration, and i have a story about it.
FinTechStage is mainly a sponsorship based business, that s how it gets sustainable.
Whilst in certain countries having two big banks co-sponsoring the same event is just an utopia, on other places they are OVER  the “pissing contest” stage, and understand how the engagement with the start-ups, the investors, and the other innovators from the rest of the world is the right approach.
In our last event a government-backed organisation acted as the single point of contact with the entire financial community, to organise without doubt has been the best Fintech Event event in the country.
4- Recognised
London, New York.
Now, we have to make a difference between the Financial Services Centres and the FinTech Centre. For Singapore and Honk Kong, for instance, I am not sure – yet – what would matter the most.
This exercise was extremely helpful.
Discovering talent, bringing or build capital, bridging the different communities in for the Disorganised and the Organised Eco-systems and structure great content is what FinTechStage should do and what he does best.
Is not perfect, and we have plenty of ideas on how to make it better.
I have NOT nominated any of these (category 2 and 3) on purpose, I am expecting you reactions to figure out wether or not I made sense of it and – most importantly – where some of the countries of my readers might stand.
Italy, for example, was disconnected until two years ago, and is getting disorganised, which sounds rough but is actually a positive sign (and – of course – my opinion). Actually my almost omonym Prime Minister, that s a call for you. Well, there will be more YouTube video with your english sloppiness, but I have plenty myself 🙂
Stay tuned
Matteo