Banking the bottom billions 


I am writing from an Uber cab heading to Sentosa beach, in Singapore, ready to begin my 15th straight Sibos (wow)

As some of you might have noticed, I became an advisor for the Omidyar Network, an organization started by Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar, and I must say I impatiently look forward to meet him when the opportunity will come.

Financial Inclusion is not only about rural countries and poor people. In the UK there are 2 millions people without a bank account, and in France there are over 6 M people under banked. This mission is much larger than it looks.

Interestingly enough, as much as very few financial institutions had an Head of Innovation (or even less than that) in 2008, when we founded Innotribe, in a similar way today banks are just starting to consider financial inclusion a priority.

But it’s coming.

Not having access to fair financial services, actually, make someone pay way more than the well served by this industry, and this is an unfair setting per se, already. Think about the commission to send cash abroad, to give an example, or – as in certain countries – to pay someone to deliver cash to someone else, or the endless lines to pay cash an utility bill, or the impossibility to buy online (therefore buy more expensive offline because of little alternative choice).

On the top of it, there is a direct correlation between GDP growth and financial inclusion, which is the reason this is one of the best battles worth fighting.

Omidyar Network (ON), I learnt already from the initial hours of conversations with an exceptionally talented team, has an approach to investments and innovation that I can only admire and second: backing the pioneers.

Not many people are aware of it, but ON backed Prosper, today valued 1.6 Billions, sharing the very early journey in alternative lending, through the initial challenged and turmoil, because they saw the potential.

Investing in a technology, an idea, a new business that is itself in an early stage, and actually become the catalyst for new incumbents to play in the same space is one of the success KPis of ON.

“Changing the world” (or at least one aspect of it) is exactly that: drive the market change. A typical VC would probably back a successful P2P lending today, because the industry has embraced the concept, there is no question about the market and even the metrics are standardised (like the default rate, interest rate and so on).

Since I started writing this post, 3 days of Sibos have past, and I am now on my way back to Europe. I named Omidyar Network in few conversations in Singapore, and it s amazing to realise that an organization that has invested close to a billion dollars in this space it’s familiar only to few (granted, most of my F&F know about ON, already).

In two weeks from now will have the first series of meetings at ON in my new role, and it’s my intention to give as much visibility as possible to the ON initiatives … Bridging it with the FinTech network and develop new collaborations with other VCs and Eco-systems seems one of the right things to do.

Will spend more time in another post about the strategy and especially this concept of “market pivotal” investments …now let me rest after Sibos

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




Sibos through hugs, connections, re-connections and smiles…

I am in Frankfurt, happy to have survived to the economy flight back from Boston (when I started this post).
I want to make a note of joy for reconnecting to the Innotribe gang, new and old. Like a diary made with my encounters of this week.
This explains why I started this post in the Lounge in Frankfurt and I am finishing it now, 3 days later, in a plane to Madrid to attend the SouthSummit startup challenge as a judge.

Innotribe @Sibos simply feels like family.

Let’s start with what used to be the Innotribe Enablers group that I have built three years back now…
A bunch of brains, forget politics, meeting quarterly to help Innotribe (and SWIFT) think and move forward.

They were almost all there so I want to be thankful to each and everyone I reconnected with (in order of appearance) :

Dan “the misfit” Marovitz, strong and vocal personality, very fast brain, a true curious, a friend outside the business (because we took the time to meet outside the business as well).
Udayan Goyal, very impressed by your new healthy, super fit lifestyle, just for that you deserve all my admiration. Oh, we happen to be co-investors in a couple of deals, by the way and – actually – real buddies.
Gautam Jain, seasoned banker, but with that sparkle making him constantly look for inspiration outside the box. From Singapore not easy to see each other often, but time does not count in the genuine way we reconnect every time.

Neal “the wise” Livingston : wonderful to reconnect. Now in a new, exciting business mission with CBA, extremely sharp and knowledgeable.
If I had to choose someone as a mentor in the banking space that would be him. He has all the calm that I miss.

There are then the “pillars” of Innotribe network, not because the others aren’t, but because historically they have been there almost from day one.

Peter Hinssen, one of the smartest AND humblest (VERY few people in that category) person I know. Hard to catch, he did a “quick” Boston-Paris-Boston for a meeting in 24 hours. Do you know the difference between him and many others ?
If you take a 24h round trip during a conference you want to make sure EVERYONE knows about it because he makes you so cool, especially if you are the Master of Ceremony. I would SO bark around about it. He wouldn’t. (Others did for him anyway ;-))

Chris Skinner, Mike Sigal, Tony Fish, Jaspar Roos, Jennifer Sertl, Dave Birch, Brett King could be keynote speakers, each one of them, in any Fintech conference. They were all together in one place…
All of them speaking or MOCing, some of them signing books, some talking at their radio station, all of them bringing serious content and energy to the conference.
Chris, in your honour a pic I just took this morning in LCY airport 😉


One of the most enlightened session to me was the Captive Funds session on Thursday.
PeterVan, the architect of Innotribe, called it the Hundred Million(s) Dollars Club.
Why enlightened ? For the “vibes”.
– 6 large institutions in the same panel with VERY senior people (except for SBT they just sent me ;-)),
– an agreement that Venture Investments is THE area where banks NATURALLY can collaborate and they actually do,
– new Innotribe groupies on board, specifically talking about Vanessa Colella from Citi, Christophe Chazot from HSBC, Julio Faura from Santander, Derrick Whyte from Barclays, Manuel Silva from BBVA and… yourS truly completed the panel, but Manuel and Innotribe go way back.

Look at the article on Sibos Issues :


– a true energetic session, relaxed, well structured, and most importantly with smiles all over
– wonderful pic of the session :

Sibos Boston 2014_5
Christophe Chazot, Vanessa Colella, Derrick Whyte, Manuel Silva & Julio Faura

Good also to reconnect with the coaches of the Startup Challenge, like Jacob Jeger, or Bijon Mehta, and some every cool Fintech folks that have all my esteem, like Samarth Serkar from Fintech DACH or Adrian Seto from Accenture Fintech Lab in Hong Kong.

Many old colleagues from SWIFT met in the Sibos exhibition hall, few of them at the Innotribe stand, too long to tell all the names, but was cool to catch up (Ok… I had to tell the VC story few times but I didn’t mind).
Loved to see again Jean-Loup Fabbro, one of the colleagues from the SWIFT Paris Office (about 13 years ago). Thank you JL for taking the time, back then, to explain me most of the things that I know about SWIFT technology.

Saw briefly Kosta and Lazaro, just for a drink, but I would say our friendship is time and geography independent.
I say only their first name when it s obvious – if you follow me – who they are.
Good to reconnect with the whole crew of L39, I don’t spend enough time there.
Same for Cognito (PR firm of Innotribe) tribe, very good memories together.
Nektarios, paradoxically we found a good spot to finally have a decent chat when the least we expected.
And loved it… (here with Ioana, due selfie in every conference we do).

Mircea Mihaescu, my business partner In the fund. The single persons I spend most of my phone-talking time with, so when we see each other we can actually have fun. And we did !

Of course I have spent hours in coaching the 14 startups of the Startup Challenge final. I had met all the entrepreneurs already in the three previous challenges. I actually have an anecdote to report, about Epiphyte, the winner of the challenge.
Edan, Epiphyte CEO and founder, just after the regional startup challenge (I think it was in NYC) that obviously saw the company winning, came to me with a bit of a sweet arrogance and asked “what exactly is Sibos, not sure I should bother…”.
I reminded him this episode and (we are good friends now) he truly thanked me to have convinced him to “give a damn” 😉

Petervan, Kevin, Ioana, Audrey : I know, very well, what does it mean to deliver a Sibos.
You rocked. Extremely happy to see Innotribe kicking. Bravo !

I named twenty-nine (ish) people in this blog, as I remembered the conversations we had, some of them a simple heads-up or a hug, some others with more time. It all happened in three days.
This is Sibos.

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