Life after SBT… 2016 here I come !

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!


The FinTech wave… all about timing.

I already said in a previous post – here – that the main reason for me to move on from my beloved Innotribe was – basically – my failure in trying to move thinks towards a more self-funded, independent, proactive and financially relevant setting and as many things in life you have to acknowledge when time is right and when is not.

I think we can proudly say that the Innotribe Startup challenge was the first global FINTECH startup Eco-system (I promise, I’ll stop using this word but you can put it on my poor English).

Think of it :
Transferwise, reported to raise now 50M USD on a close to a Billion valuation,
– TrueAxis, sold to Mastercard for some 85M USD (could be 65 but can t bother to check now, it does not really matter for this discussion),
– Azimo, recently funded with a good 10M USD series A round,
– MatchMove, recently announcing their 10 M series A round,
– Digital Shadows, also raising recently series A.
The list – believe me – goes on and on.
Many of these guys are already in series B/C and I reckon have a good chance to exit (for us now, the game is to find the ones with the same appeal but at an early enough stage to make the investment compelling).

SWIFT turnover is, today, roughly 700M EUR.

If you take the Fintech Startup Bootcamp model, startups give up 8% of their equity to participate in a 4 months accelerator program, culminating with Demoday (that took place last week  in London, kudos to the team and to the 10 startups,or was really a cool event). They give 8% TODAY and the market is way more tougher and mature than 5 years ago.
They do it not for the (little) money Bootcamp is giving them, but more importantly for the mentoring, the coaching, the connection, and the strategic help they are getting.

Innotribe and SWIFT could have put on the top of all this the best possible financial institutions sales network that a Fintech startup could have dreamt of. And – believe me I was there – many finalists of the startup challenge, including some of the ones I mentioned earlier, were exactly at the same stage of the Bootcamp ones, especially in the early stage category.

What am I trying to say ?
Very simple : roughly a third (conservative) of today SWIFT annual turnover is the potential value of what Innotribe could have been worth if the opportunity to create a community investment vehicle would have been set.
Then, the “Innotribe Venture Fund” could have take either some single digit with no cash or even some warrants to be exercised, these are details for the sake of the discussion. The rest is math.
But that was then.
Back then, the opportunity to use the SWIFT leverage to foster start-ups growth was a unique opportunity for a financial return (and the objective of developing Innotribe at industry scale).

Today would be too late for the “mentoring versus equity” thing. Because the market is too crowded already. At least the one for generic Fintech startups.

How do I see it evolving ?
There is still room for series A/B round Fintech funds and for Fintech vertical opportunities, my favourite one being Financial Inclusion.

It’s all about timing and we are at the beginning of the second Fintech wave.
The one Billion dollar question is : how many waves we will see?


Stay Tuned


One Year already, from Sibos to Sibos…

Exactly one year ago, in Sibos Dubai, I started my new (ad)venture in SBT, quitting SWIFT on a Friday and the following Monday going to hot Sibos Dubai with a new job, after 13 uninterrupted Sibos events with “mum” SWIFT.

Truth is that I am not good in “farming” things. I enjoy creating.
Always use the image of bringing things from “0” to “1”… maybe “2” level is what I think I am best at.
I the past months within Innotribe I tried to pivot the whole thing in something I didn’t succeed at, meaning a more investment focused vehicle yet preserving the collaborative nature of Innotribe. Reason for this very much needed change was the opportunity to capitalise the gems around the Innotribe Eco-system and try to actually really push them into renewing (and sometimes disrupt) the bank’s world.
If SWIFT would have invested, randomly, 50K in each of the finalists of the challenge, the upside would have paid the Innotribe budget for the 10 years to come…
Transferwise, Azimo, Miicard, TrueAxis, are just some of the examples of startups which rounds would have literally exploded the Innotribe investment capacity.

That move, to me, sounded like a “0” again. A way to scale all the good efforts and brand building we collectively put together for five years.
I tried, relentlessly, for the last months of my SWIFT life, and failed. No regrets.
And at the same time, an opportunity to participate in the creation of someone else popped up…

Not by sending a CV, if you want to know the truth.
In the previous Sibos, in Osaka, I had a conversation with Mircea Mihaescu, one of the fellow Innotribe Enablers (the heterogeneous group of people that Innotribe put together to help SWIFT steering the innovation arm.
In this chat, I mentioned a press release saying they Sberbank launched a Fintech fund. I expressed a feeling I had, something like “if one day I move from here, I would like to go work for a fund where the structure is not defined yet, so I can learn by doing”
Back then, Mircea has nothing to do with the fund, he was managing the whole Innovation and Labs team in the bank. But few months later – and this is what I would call serendipity – Mircea was called to insource the Management company of the fund and gave me a call. That’s how it all started. Few months later, the big jump. That’s the story.

Extremely intense.
We invested in 7 startups, build the team and the processes, established a good working model with our Limited Partner (the bank), cleared the investment strategy, vetted some 250 worldwide, established and consolidated a number of partnerships (including Innotribe of course) and dismantled my belief that I couldn’t travel any more than my previous life at Innotribe. In the meantime, Fintech funds have popped up from different places and organisations and we are proud to say we were the first one (purely structured as a fund) to face the market.

As I often say, there is not enough history and data on the Fintech market, therefore a large part of the VC job has something to do with intuition and the acknowledgment that an early stage startup may not end up doing exactly what its original pitch was. I see this as one of the interesting challenges of this job.

By the time this will be published, I will be in the middle of my second Sibos as a delegate, talking about Open Source in Banking, Captive Funds, coaching startups for the Innotribe challenge and meet new and old friends.

Boston is probably my 20th intercontinental flight this year, in a city that I like a lot, and will try to do my Twitter story-telling with #SibosMatt … But this – as well – when this post is out you guys should have figured out.

Stay tuned




My Venture Capital week at Sibos Dubai


Not easy to wrap up my first Sibos in my new job, but I will try while (sitting in my Emirates flight back ) I am still awake (I suspect the typical siesta post Sibos party will hit me in no time).

First of all: Innotribe rocked.


I only attended the startup challenge (kind of obviously) and a couple of sessions, but the vibes were clearly there.
The team worked probably 20 hours per day on average for the entire week, and it was hard not to feel guilty for not helping or being with them. The last session, the campfire started with my forever friend Innes playing guitar (yes, playing guitar in a “camp” shaped session) was too hard to attend for me. enough emotions this week.

I was on a very interesting panel, unsuspectedly VERY popular, talking about collaboration and information sharing (and connected companies, and disruption from startups, etc etc). Allevo did a great job in putting this together.
My first panel in my new role. (Pic follows)


So I moved on.

I realized that Sibos is a crossways of different networks, if you know how to navigate amongst them.
The networks I am looking for, now, involve entrepreneurs, start-ups, cities and governments, innovative vendors and obviously other venture capital firms.
There are different forms of being in a VC business, and the one I preach for aims at fostering growth, create sustainable businesses, not speculate on capital iteration based on companies flipping.

Anthemis group organized an AMAZING dinner at floor 123 of the iconic Burg Khalifa. That dinner alone is a post by itself, will follow soon.
Let me still a pic from Scott Bales here:


All of a sudden, the start-up challenge took a totally different angle for me.
Being able to help these entrepreneurs to find the right scale path to the business, seeking opportunities to get them closer to Sberbank products and services team, and of course vet their companies with a VC hat is another game (a fascinating one).
Congrats KlickEx and Waratek, soon a more detailed blog on this too!

Another great discussion that took place in Dubai was about creating start-up ecosystems to help the economic development of the city.
Dubai ran out of oil 35 years ago. Yet, they managed to be one of the wealthiest cities in the world.
I would love to find a model where we can build vertical startup hubs focused in creating job opportunities and access to values creation to the people who dare.

You know why?

To answer this question, let me refer to one of the sessions I attended this year at Innotribe.
John Chavens.
Measuring health, stress, hearth condition through physical devices.
New paradigm.
Ultimately … Looking to measure happiness.

So WHY I want to help to create this Eco-systems?
Because the energy that flows when people are free to express their true self, in an environment that boost their creativity, is viral. Simply, makes that geography a better place.

It feels good. I feel damn good.

stay tuned