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.
By now is public knowledge I am no longer with the SBT Venture Capital fund, as Anna rightly pointed out. It looks like I am not the only one moving to new endeavours.
I suppose it’s understandable, now that FinTech has become so hype and witnessing its rise from the very beginning, I am ok with experimenting more. Actually I am not done yet in figuring all of it.
I would like to start by being grateful and mindful of the great change that SBT brought to my professional life, understanding what I love and skilful for and what makes my brain sleep and my motivation down.
2015 was also the first year of FinTechStage, built from scratch in January, and with 3 events in Milan, Barcelona and Buenos Aires, I discovered a way to bring the FinTech community together in a way that gives me energy and the willingness to do more. The program for 2016 starts with Luxembourg, then Italy again, Spain again, and will add few cities which will be announced soon.
Related to FinTech there is something else in the making : TALNT.pro
I realized that there is a growing need for short term, very focused and talented FinTech expertise that traditional players are struggling to find. Few experiments led me to think that an almost 10 years old network in this field is an invaluable asset to help filling the gap. I am sharing this in total opened knowing the only thing done is the intention and a kick ass domain name, but we will launch it in one of our next FTS events.
Another great chapter started at the end of last year is my advisory role for The Omidyar Network, which reveals to be a fascinating experience.
The quest for sector impact investments, the approach to financial inclusion and financial wellness both in emerging and developed markets and a structure that is build to bring so much more than money to the invested companies – I only collaborate with the for profit financial inclusion business of ON, but there is also a very articulate work done by the foundation arm – is not only a huge learning experience in this vertical FinTech space, but also a discovery journey on how financial inclusion is not only about rural areas of third world countries but extremely relevant to the rest of the world as well.
It looks like the pace of the talks, the coaching and more and more short term consulting mission I am called to deliver is not slowing down, amid I am mindful of the fact that some rationalisation of it should take place. I am not very good to say “no” or maybe I underestimate what it actually means to say too many “yes” and I would say this is a clear learning pattern for me to chase, this year.
I am WOL – Writing Out Loud – right now, but maybe I should privilege and focus on missions and engagements targeted to build communities, rather than commercial workshops serving a specific brand ?
There is also a easily spotted gap in the FinTech VC space in Europe. Many CVC from large banks have either morphed in a more strategic and less capital risk philosophy, whilst mid-sized banks are either passive or have little means to engage with the FinTech startups.
In every transition period, the best way is to start listening, carefully, starting by listening to yourself and pay attention to those little sign that might help you choosing your next mission.
This is what I am doing right now : start engaging with what seems to be either most promising or too interesting to let go.
My corporate life seems decades ago and it’s only a little more that 2 years since I have decided to completely change my professional settings. I take this as something amazingly positive.
So more than ever, stay tuned!
Mauricio Macri, major of Buenos Aires, made it to President.
Most of us, me for sure, don’t know what it means to live in a country where political and economical crisis are dominating the scene so heavily, that it affects your perception of hope and – especially with an expatriate lens – makes you look back at your home with a bitter sense of impotence.
We are running FinTechStage in Buenos Aires in exactly 3 weeks and it’s a good example of FinTech is driving part of the change there.
Our friends from NXTP Labs – very successful accelerator mainly operating in Latam, but also in Israel and Ireland – are launching their first FinTech batch and partnered with FinTechStage to deliver an international event.
The agenda is here : http://fintechstage.com/fintechstage-buenos-aires/agenda/
Obviously Financial Inclusion is one of the topics of the conference and Omidyar Network is sponsoring the event as well.
I am really happy to gather together with my Argentinian friends Mariano Belinky and Gustavo Vinacua. I am also very thankful to Santander Innoventures and BBVA to support the event. There are plenty of other local sponsors. I already thank them all and can’t wait to meet them.
We have now 300+ delegates already registered.
If someone would have told me in its first year of existence that FinTechStage would have run 3 events in 2 continents, I would not have believed it. It’s an interesting model, whereby FTS puts its brand and build up the agenda bringing international speakers, and the local partner uses the conference to either launch a FinTech initiative or simply to start creating a community around financial services innovation.
It is the last conference of the year – very intense one – and I can’t wait to spend time with the kids (after of course the wrap up blog of the conference).
PS : the picture features Avenida 9 de Julio, the largest avenue in the world.
The abundance of FinTech sources makes very complicated to separate noise from substance.
The number of ‘experts‘ in this space is as puzzling as the proliferation of “Top XXX Fintech” where XXX equals Influencers, Experts, People to Watch and the criteria to put together these “who’s who” are to say the least subjective. (the only “objective” one are based on social media influence, but this again is fuzzy, because it does not capture the “quality” of the network – hear me, CityAM).
What is required (or suitable) to be meaningful in this super hyped space ? (my absolutely challengeable opinion of course) :
1- deep understanding of how financial services actually work. The ACTUAL financial services, which are given 98% by banks or financial institutions (yes, even the alternative lending is actually a fraction of the traditional one). As trivial at it may sounds, a decade in a bank is not enough to claim this. Not even two. Simply because the multiple businesses of financial institutions have reached a complexity that very few people can claim to have faced.
2- be a tech savvy, enough to evaluate the replicability of the technology you are facing at given time. To be more clear and to give the simplest example, in the era of Internet, it’s all about scale. Countless startups have failed because the architecture of their great idea did not scale fast enough or was not robust enough even in the AWS (if you dont know what that is you are not passing point 2, btw) era. Do not forget that integration with existing systems is the biggest challenge a startup willing to sell to banks has to face. You can outsource these assessments, of course, it s what we called an expensive due diligence, but here again – you need to know who you work with and here is number….
3- have a solid, multi-dimensional (tech, business development, sales, financial structuring, security, entrepreneurs, investors, bankers) network that you can pull when you need at the fastest possible speed. This is a VERY delicate point, as some people confuse the number of LinkedIn connections with the opportunity to reach out to as many of these guys as possible at any given time. I have extensively spoke about being a Connector in another post, and this is not the same, although the WAY your network will help you is certainly influenced by the mindset with which you have developed it
4- (still not optional) figure out where the capital is and how to reach it and have some experience in how to deploy it. It’s obviously easier if you are a FinTech investor, but if you are not, understanding if and when is a good time to ask for how much money to do what is a real asset. You would say – I hear you – that this is not a FinTech expertise, but a generic investor skill. Well, point is FinTech needs capital by definition, whether is to fund a start-up or to convince a large bank to concept-proof a new idea and make the link from the ideas to the funding in the best possible way is invaluable. This comes back to point 3 again, there are Ways and ways to “connect” to investors, but you get that by now.
5- (optional but extremely compelling if added to the previous four) : have a vertical expertise in the new FinTech frontiers that only a (business) blind can’t see : Insurance, IOT (again, failing point 2 if i have to explain the acronym), Distributed Ledgers, Financial Inclusion, combined with the right pinch of business acumen to get the best out of being the (amongst the) first mover.
6- (optional and often the one that is the most visible, but compelling and lasting only when the previous ones are also at play) be a FinTech opinion leader or a successful CEO/Founder (the latter by definition implying most of the other assets). I am the first one witnessing that keep talking at conferences without deepening your expertise won’t make you compelling long enough, as substance will lack, sooner or later.
Supposing we all agree with this hypothesis, it would interesting now to figure what are the best combinations of these skills serving which community, as – of course – is kind of hard to be all of it at the same time.
Thoughts welcome, of course !