5 lessons from organising two FinTech events and create a new brand in 6 months starting from scratch

I have started this post a while ago and I am completing it now… in the first serious flight post-beach, to San Francisco.
This is far from being a promotion of FinTechStage.
It is an objective look back, hoping you guys will react and help the team improve on this new adventure, that could have different futures and certainly is a precious ground of experience.

1) Business Model
Everyone is trying to find out the successful economics of an event business and many have tried, including us.
Truth is if you want to privilege the quality of the crowd you are inviting and keep the dimension of the event small enough for the network to be effective, you have to rely too much on sponsoring, which is leads to a process fatigue after a while.

2) Networking
Ultimately, the fundamental reason for most of the people to participate to an event. Point is : there is a FinTech (bigger and bigger) Friends & Family crowd that most of the good events are reassembling. The challenge is to avoid 90% of the attendees coming to meet the same 10% of the gurus. There is nothing wrong with it, but what’s it for the gurus ?

3) Content
You cannot avoid a third of the content to be boring for a combination of the following factors :
– some content has to be sponsors driven (if you rely too much on them),
– you have to experiment with new speakers and sometimes you don’t have enough quality time to figure out what the delivery will look like,
– explore content out of the “FinTech comfort zone”: insurance, FinTech wearables, corporate treasury, etc.

4) Speakers
If you pay your speakers, you can be certain that unless your event has thousands of tickets sold (like Sibos) you will likely loose money.
You also want to avoid the “usual speaking to the usual” vicious circle and – most importantly – a speaker has to come for more than his/her speech, make everyone has a different objective.
What I would like to plan is for someone to come over and almost have a personalised agenda that we help building. That alone can comfortably justify the time spent on a conference.

5) Give versus Get
Conferences run by marketing agencies or solely event company are likely to die or get acquired by someone with more money that will fall in the same fatigue sooner or later. I asked myself repeatedly if I should do JUST FinTechStage. The biggest challenge would be to juggle between the pressure of having this as the sole revenue source versus something complementary to the other business I run (the investor, the start-up coach, the evangelist). Some of it can blend, of course, but if you can experiment, expand the topics and invited the right audience, be flexible on who you partner with, that allows you to give (to the community) before you get (mostly money).
Instead of money, what you get by focusing on giving, is the trust and the credibility in the (FinTech, in this case) space.

Now, watch the space as we will announce soon more events and new partnerships.

Stay tuned

Matteo

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FinTech Stage Milan March 2015 30 & 31

FinTechStage in images. Tribute to an amazing event.

As you can imagine, I needed a couple of – resting and sleeping – days after 4 very intense days of FinTechStage.

It’s time to debrief, to celebrate, more important to say thank you and – needless to say – to move forward to the next one. Because the one lesson learned from Milan is that FinTechStage hits the right spot : local FinTech community meeting the international one and building new catalysts of Innovation.
Exactly what happened in Milan.

DAY -1
We started with a week-end of preparation with Ioana and Mariela, drafting the networking wall and the running order…between some pizzas and ice scream 😉

DAY 1
On the morning we had over 80 people and some 50 start-ups attending the crash course to help them understand how to negociate a deal and how to pitch to an investor.
Mircea, Andrew and Tom did an amazing job in preparing the tuition. At the end, we even made Mariano jumping on stage in a very animated Q&A session with the entrepreneurs.

In the afternoon, we gathered Investors, Start-ups eco-systems and Innovators (from banks and insurances).
We ran a networking workshop to make sure the 3 communities had the chance to discuss topics compelling to their own spaces, as well as to get to know each other in a smaller group.

Day 2
The agenda had a clear “fil rouge” :
– understand where FinTech Investors are putting their capital today,
– cover where Innovators from banks thought the investments should go and are not today,
– define how start-ups and financial institutions can work together.
This was the debate of the 3 panels we had.

Italian and international start-ups had also a place on stage. Not looking for capital, but for customers and new business. We explored 2 important themes, inspired by a keynote, featuring 7 start-ups in the related field, payments and banking models disruption and capital markets, in this case, both relevant for the Italian market.
Also start-ups went on stage with their investor. The latter explaining why they put their money on that particular company.

The remaining slots were filled up by what I would call inspirational conversations on financial inclusion and new ways to approach payment disruption. People loved it.

Organisation and infrastructure
Just Amazing.
From the venue, to the great apero party on Monday evening, sponsored by CheBanca! in Talent Garden, to the perfectly arranged plenary room and Tree House of UniCredit. (video linked)

Perfect gorgeous sunny day, feeling like summer.

Media coverage
To report a sentence from Ioana, FinTechStage had a media cover like a Led Zeppelin concert. And it’s true.
Articles and some very nice videos flooded. See some samples here.

Doing good
I announced in the closing remarks our funding of 10 students from the University of Makelele, in Kampala (Uganda). I don’t think I explained myself well enough. Reason being I simply felt too overwhelmed by emotions. Kosta, who knows me well, sent me an SMS saying “I bet I missed some tears” and he was close :D.
The idea is to finance this project instead of give the speakers a token for their time as I already wrote previously – here – in my blog : changing the world one person at the time.

Networking
The networking wall was something that most of the attendees had never seen before.
Mariela deployed close to one kilometre of thread to show the connections between people, topics and attendees.
Pictures flooded on that wall !

Finally, least but not last… A huge thank you to my partners in this fantastic adventure :

Mariela for the design, the wall, her creativity, for being my shadow during the whole event and to be so good to find a walk around to anything.

Ioana, for being so fantastically available all the time, for her precious gathering data skills, for her permanent smile and for being always – always – there.

Lazaro, for being crazy enough to jump with me in this adventure, for his support, for stepping up when needed, and for his constant, invaluable advice (for persuading me to do things I would not have done, that revealed themselves to be a REALLY good ideas afterwards).

 

Ehm, forgot to say, March 31st was my 45th birthday. I never celebrate, but this one will be unforgettable.

The next FTS date ? Coming our soon enough.

Stay Tuned, for real.

 Matteo

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Tower Hall

As promised… HNY to you all and Fintechstage ready to roll !

A little less than a month ago I posted – here – the first idea of FintechStage.com and took the month of December to set it up.
Now I give some more details. In a couple of weeks, we will open up the links to officially subscribe to the event (in any case, you would have better things to do then thinking about it on a Jan 1st, right ..?)

The news :

1- We have secured the venue. It is nothing else than the most photographed building of Milan, the Unicredit Tower and its beautiful Tree House.
One of the most beautiful co-working open spaces I have seen… EVER !

2- We have finalised the program and the streamlined version is :

  • March 30th Morning : InvestmentLab, moderated by a lawyer, a live simulation of a deal between a start-up and an investor, plus some Business model Canvas , plus some pitch advice. This is OPEN TO ALL STARTUPS, not only Fintech and we have 150 seats available
  • March 30th Afternoon : Invitation-only meetings
  • March 31st All day : conference, aperitivo and party

3- There are a number of speakers already confirmed :

This list does not include yet the speakers from the Italian community (apart Riccardo from Unicredit), for which I will come back to you very soon.

4- The initial version of the Program of the plenary day :

Three panels :

**Incubators, Accelerators, Start-up programs 
– What’s in it for the banks ?
– How to create the right eco-system for it ?
– What are the measures ?
– Simply, how do you do it ?

**Innovation Panel
– Selling innovation internally
– Foster collaboration and picking champion
– Ok, now we have an Head of Innovation, so what ?

**VC Panel
– Where does the money go ?
– US vs London vs Rest of the world… Different perspectives
– How do we give the right values to a company ?
– How do we relate with banks in helping the companies grow ?

**10 Power Talks
Here are some of the topics :
– Alternative Lending
– New Banking Models
– Ubiquitous payments
– Next Gen Card Services
– Bank APIs and Open source (Innovation in insurance, Money management)

**Start-up Pitches : 10-12 start-ups with revenue, customers and a proven model will pitch to the community.
Once again, format of the pitches will be unusual : when possible, the Investor and the Start-up founder or CEO will be both on stage, explaining what the start-up value proposition is and why the company has been funded.

**Networking time, also during the Aperitivo, where meetings will be pre-arranged and qualified

 

What is the objective of FintechStage ?
Bring the best possible mix of players of the fintech industry from the Investors, Start-ups and Innovators (bankers) community, in a number of European cities (to start with) to help the innovation dialogue in a different way. 

How different ?
We like to think we know the feeling of going to conferences and being left with no personalized content, with the opportunity to enlarge your network left to your own initiative, with no or very little interaction. And we want to change this.

How about the “social” side of the conference ?
There will be an invitation-only dinner in the evening of the 30th, sponsored by CheBanca! and an aperitivo in the amazing Unicredit Tree House on the 31st.
Copernico, the big innovation co-working space just beside the main Milan train station, will host a post-event party where we hope we can consolidate all the good networking shared in the two days.

Next steps :

  • subscribe to the Start-up Investment LAB session of Monday morning, as of jan 15th we will send the link
  • as of January 15th, we will open the Eventbrite page to the event ticketing,
  • follow us on @fintechstage where we will post speakers announcements and other news,
  • the detailed program will be out soon and you will be the first to know…

Stay tuned and – again – lots of joy for next year !

Matteo

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Fintech Stage the Ultimate Fintech Conference

FintechStage.com

Last weekend when my kids were sleeping, I had one of these ideas that kept my mind running full steam for every hour I was not baking cookies with my daughter or playing tennis with my son, or many of my happy dad duties.
It was a serendipity moment. I was kindly invited by my friends at Unicredit to give a small speech in their Lab, of the (very) few – if not the only – Fintech Start-up initiatives of my beloved Italy.

Then, I thought about other cities I lived in, like Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam and realised that London has become today the only reference for Fintech in Europe, despite the fact that many other countries have the financial eco-system well developed, with large institutions and clearly the potential to take part of the Fintech wave (see my other post about waves, if you are interested).

So I decided to give it a try : http://fintechstage.com/

I have a couple of partners in crime for this, one being Lazaro Campos, former SWIFT CEO, now advisor, investor and strategy consultant for nation-wide payments projects. Him and I go back to the genesis of both swiftcommunity.net and Innotribe, back then he was mostly protecting us – the misfits – from being devoured by the politics and the resistance to change of the company we were both working for, and now he is – finally, if I may say – the most precious ally in bringing innovation in the financial world.

The other partner in crime is Mariela Atanassova, formerly Innotribe co-founder, not only one of the brightest friends I have, but with no doubts the best possible reference in events design. Mela and I will commit to deliver to FintechStage the best possible structured networking experience in a conference.

Back to FintechStage.com now.
By the time this post will be published, you should have some more info about the content and the objective of this event, the first of its kind and certainly not the only one taking place in 2015. We choose Milan, and a very important date to me.
What I will try to do is make you part of the genesis of this project, with updates through my blog, and transparently share what the progresses are.

I am writing this on a Sunday morning, and this is not me switching jobs : SBT Venture Capital will remain my main and only activity.

Few highlights :

  • Dates : March 30th and 31st 2015, in Milan
  • Location : confirmed soon, but the couple of alternatives I have found are awesome
  • Audience of the event : Fintech Start-ups, Investors, Financial Institutions mainly, and every other person passionate about innovation in Fintech
  • It’s a Designed Networking event. You will come in knowing exactly who you should absolutely meet to make your time fruitful
  • Many awesome speakers, moderators, innovators and start-ups obviously
  • Nobody stays alone on stage for more than 7 minutes
  • There will be a Crash course for start-ups about Term Sheet negotiation, closing a deal, business model canvas and investor pitch
  • The first day, we will run three parallel streams, for start-ups, Investors and Innovators, and the second day plenary sessions including start-up pitches, panels and power talks
  • Every stream will be designed and aimed to no-bullshit dialogue, dealing with issues that are compelling for the related audience. We will make sure to have the right instigators for that.

There are 120 seats available, I wanted to keep it small to leverage the networking aspect of the event.

I am not running this event for profit, but want to cover expenses of course, so there will be a (very) reasonable entry fee, including a very cheap one for start-ups (100 EUR for start-ups, for example, but big time worthwhile the time they will spend with seasoned CFOs and Investors to learn how to deal with all aspects of raising capital).

I am looking for sponsors as well, and will update you on this. The current idea is that Venture Capitalists will be able to bring up to two start-ups of their portfolio on stage to pitch to the entire audience, and have quality 1:1 meetings afterwards.
The money raised will be used as well to reimburse T&E for speakers, I have been one of them may times and it feels right to do it.

Right now, the only thing I can tell is : leave us your email on www.fintechstage .com, save the date in your calendar and we will send all the required info on January 1st 2015.

Yesterday I did send some SMS asking some of my Fintech friends to save the date and these are the ones who confirmed their presence already.
It’s only the first batch :

 

The vision is to make FintechStage.com the reference for Fintech networking events in the world. Simple (not the start-up, the concept)

Stay tuned.

Matteo

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