Fintech People. Batch One. Vintage 2014.

I decided to share and highlight few personalities I recently met, in the Fintech space, and explain why. It s obviously an ongoing process, as there are many people I would like to talk about. I am NOT reporting their CV here, you can easily look for any of them on LinkedIn, but more the serendipity moment that brought us together and the good vibes shared when we met.

This batch is about people I have met in the past 12 months, in no particular order.

1- Pascal Bouvier
Wine lover, fast mind, payments guru and a lovely guy. We met for the first time in 2014 as co-investors in Fintech Bootcamp, and immediately clicked. We share the passion for entrepreneurs and for this particular space, and I loved to be in a panel with him.
We were together in Fintech DACH, in Frankfurt, and he made one of the funniest jokes I heard live on stage. We had a French (him) an Italian (me) and a Spanish (Oriol from Erste Bank) talking to mostly German people,and Pascal, remarked: “first time France, Italy and Spain preaching something to the Germans” !

2- Matteo Stefanel
Matteo was born exactly 5 years after me, will turn 40 in 2015, same day as me.
We met in November 2014, only few weeks ago, and this is what I call serendipity (and he confessed he would have described it the same way). Matteo has a very similar story to mine, Italian deep roots but world citizen for the past 20 years. I love his pragmatism, respect a lot his background and admire the way he has conducted business so far.
I believe the Fintech investors world will hear a lot about him in the coming months.

3- Thomas DeLuca
Not an investor, but a multiple times entrepreneur. Deep knowledge of the payments and credit space, now leading AMP, one of our portfolio companies.
We briefly met in Innotribe 2014 in Singapore, I was judging the Startup Challenge, and spotted Thomas immediately. If I think of a mature (business wise, although he s not a teenager anymore), solid, trustworthy, ambitious entrepreneur, Thomas fits the bill. Watch him! (no pressure dude)

4- Arjuna Costa
One of the few people I know travelling more than I do.
We met in the second half of 2014, then in Money2020 in Vegas and recently in London.
Arjuna is what I call an illuminated mind, willing to change the world. And he works for the perfect Organization (the Omidyar Fund) to make it happen. Humbleness combined with profound expertise and brilliant vision is something rare to find, and This is what Arjuna represents to me.
Financial inclusion is one of the smart keys to unlock people potential, regardless their status or geography, and is such a fascinating world, to which Arjuna clearly adds a tremendous value.

5- Christophe Chazot
I met Christophe in London, in his bank tower, in what started as a very “formal” business meeting. Talking about strategy, innovation, the challenge of dealing with start-ups, and so on. Then, I invited Christophe in the Venture Capital session at Sibos, in Boston, and we had some more time to connect, sharing some Uber cab, and having a drink together. I love how lucid Christophe is about innovation, and despite his huge experience in the banking business and his very high seniority in the firm, he listen, share, exchange with curiosity, and – thing that I love – he makes the difference between bullshit and meaningful innovation. Look forward to do more business together, especially given the fact that the institution he works for has a great deal of scale when it comes to implement new ideas.

6- Derek White
Only met Derek at Sibos this year, same session as Christophe.
Derek is the archetype of a successful entrepreneur successfully dealing with innovation in a large bank (the repetition is on purpose). If he does not pronounce the name of his (very large) bank, you could say you are listening to the CEO of a very successful incubator, with multiple exits or life customers on board. Love his energy and style (not only because we have the same hear cut) and praise banks to hire more and more people like him if they want to cope with change

7- Riccardo Prodam
Riccardo falls – in my opinion – in the same category of Derek. We met only a couple of weeks ago, he is in charge of everything related to innovation, research,start-ups and tech trends for a very large Italian (and international) bank. I can t say we know each other well enough, but instinctively I respect him a lot for the challenge he took over.
Banks need people who deeply understand technology, is a fact. But most of the time they are isolated, far away from the business. Riccardo has the merit and the opportunity to combine the understanding of the technology and the influence and the executive endorsement (with the necessary flexibility) to make it happen.

I am flying to Dubai while I am writing this post, and after these seven mini-portraits realise that my objective is not to make any ranking based on importance, influence or personal return (not that this would change anything for anybody, not even if I had a million followers).
I am not doing it either to show off, because I would probably come out with a very pitiful image.

I want to talk about serendipity.

Obviously I am restricting the people I talk about for the purpose of this blog, which is about Fintech.
Maybe what I am trying to find out is the answer to the following:
what are the ingredients of serendipity?

I am stopping here until next batch, because 7 is a biblical number and because food has arrived in the plane now … Stay tuned, of course 😉


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 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 !


Fintech Stage the Ultimate Fintech Conference

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 :

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 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 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 the reference for Fintech networking events in the world. Simple (not the start-up, the concept)

Stay tuned.


Money2020 November 2014

What Fintech conference business is not getting yet…

I am on a plane to Money2020 in Las Vegas, and the fact that the plane just stopped in Goosebay in Canada to refill making the arrival to Philadelphia late enough to probably miss the connection to Vegas, in one word, sucks.

In fact, I will for sure have to elaborate my own blog post about frequent traveling, with a couple of sequels (and that is, indeed, another story).

Money2020 will be my 4th Fintech conference as a speaker in less then 6 weeks, together with Barcelona, Mexico City (Nextbank) and Boston (Sibos).
I have not opened the program of the conference yet, because the main focus, so far, was to make sure I have meaningful meetings with :

  • some of the start-ups’ already in our portfolio,
  • other potential VC to co-invest and share tips,
  • few more companies candidates for our next batch of investments,
  • many US and European folks that I already know and of course would love to say hi and catch up with.

I also received a very easy 200 pages document with all the 7500 delegates (name and company) and the opportunity to give 20 names and I would get their email – I gave up after the fourth page, WTF.

Obviously, I needed to spend time preparing the session where I am speaking at (the Barclays Investor day). All this in 4 days., with some 20 hours travel time before and another 20 after. Ah, it’s true. There is a conference also. I have to open the program to understand how many sessions, where, and kind of guess by the titles and the speakers which one is going to be interesting.
As you might have figured out already, I am truly passionate about social and business network, and the dynamics around it.

What NO conference (Fintech or not) has not cracked yet is the fact that the last thing people fancy is to sit down and listen to someone that unless is incredibly interesting, charismatic, funny and entertaining is not going to compete with your own smartphone, even without WIFI (saw a lot of Candy Crush games at conferences).

The second to last thing people is looking for is to cope with their own social skills, especially if you don’t have much of it.
In other words, most of the events think that an online database of the attendees list maybe in an app, without even some advanced skills matching (see my post on Mindtagger as an example) is enough to satisfy the reason number ONE people is going to conferences : meaningful networking.
Example of meaningful networking : the Fintech Funds session at Innotribe, where very senior people met on a preparation session, then on a panel, then chatted over a drink afterwards, and they were actually sincerely looking for sharing their experiences, even amongst competing banks.

These guys are absolutely unreachable to most of the audience usually, but gladly exchanged business cards with the less intimidated people (and I must admit the Innotribe karma helped a lot) after what I called a session they (me too, I was part of it) enjoyed a lot.
After the session, through socials I engaged with many new people, online obviously, but it didn’t feel like an intrusion, it was contextualised.

This is what I feel is missing in most of the conferences : contextualised business relationships.
That is why – as an example – makes a lot of sense to integrate designed workshops in the context of a conference as well as short speed dating amongst like-minded, as many events are now implementing.

Then, there is another fact. Banking business is not only very boring, but the way we talk about it today is extremely boring as well.
I would love to make the following test : take any banking conference and a given topic, then pick 5 minutes of each year’s session or panel, and listen to it. Not only you would hardly understand which year the debate took place, but you probably could run the same “wording bingo’ (not to call it bullshit) no matter who is talking.

It is obviously not true for all topics, but I could name a few like Correspondent Banking or SEPA in Europe (we talked at least 10 years about it) where if you take slides and years you could hardly tell the difference.

Fintech is no different from other industry where the disruption wave just started without causing any damages yet, therefore the dialogue is very condescending amongst the bankers, very dynamic amongst the disruptors, and kind of political between the two worlds.

Please, take into the account I am in the very typical conference-blowing-weekend pre-mood, so take this post with a pinch of salt

PS : I am publishing this post now, the evening of my return flight from Vegas. The conference is over, and I can only confirm all of what I wrote in this post.


Stay tuned