10 Fintech CEOs any bank should hire. Not sure AT ALL they would go, though…

Another list, this time about Founders & CEOs.
I am in the plane flying back from amazing Cape Town, after the Local Innotribe challenge and once again intrigued by the entrepreneurs talent and the drivers that push them to be different, to stand up, to take risks, to look for something that is not done yet.
This is not a “top 10 whatever”, rather a list of people I had the opportunity to meet in the past months and one day I would love to put all of them together in a room and create something new, like a CEO Hackaton. Could be amazing !

Yoni Assia
eToro CEO, guru of innovation in capital markets and extremely focused entrepreneur.
I like his irony, his openness and the fact he is never short of smile on his face.
Yoni could have done anything in life, anything that requires an exceptional intelligence.
Yoni is a pioneer, copied by many now and he is no short of creativity, vision and an exceptional feeling for the best customer experience.

Marc Dowds
Marc, CEO of Trov, is discover of my friend Peter(Van) at one of the Sibos(Es) – I think it was Toronto – and we talked about ideas for hours… Since then, we spend more time in trying to meet than actually meeting. Marc is a tech enthusiast. Someone who knows how to build – and exit, for sure – businesses and he has the power to explain with an irresistible clarity the most complex issue. Love his brain and how strong is our bond even without seeing each other much

Thomas Deluca
Thomas – CEO, Former AMP now… 2 different names will let him explain – and I met for the 1st time at the Gym of an IFC event. Then Innotribe, then we (SBT) became his main investor in the first round. Thomas is not the typical startupper. He is a business builder and inspires the confidence a financial institution needs to trust his company.
Humbleness, vision and cleverness in the same person. I love it.

DJ Didonna
DJ – CEO, EPL – is also an Innotribe Alumni. The passion for what his idea does is very deep and so is the understanding on the market. He knows – extremely important – how to surround himself with talent. DJ is driven by his mission, not by the money, which makes his personality really special.

Jilliene Hillmann
CEO, Realty Mogul, Jilliene is a true strong personality combine with an achiever mindset that makes her really special. I spoke also about her in the Fintech Women post few weeks ago. Her assertiveness, her expertise and the way she communicates what she does make her really special. I was captivated the minute she started presenting, I still remember it.

Shivani Siroya
Also starred in another post, Shivani is the co-founder of Inventure. She looks like a university student but is an illuminated CEO, driven by the impact that her start-up is bringing to the lives of developing markets people. So bright.

Alex Sion
Moven co-founder, not an easy place to be as Brett is taking a lot of place (and the reason why I don’t feature Brett as an entrepreneur is the reason why I don’t call Roger Federer a Tennisman). Alex is a powerful tech savvy with great marketing skills. Rare combination.

Paolo Galvani
Italian international entrepreneur, Founder of MoneyFarm, very competitive market, Paolo inspires trust and breath cleverness. Not because we have the same passport, I promise.

Michael Kent
No Bullshit CEO of Azimo, I love Michael. Pragmatic, market savvy to the max, smart and could teach many VC partners on how to conduct DD on startups.
I also – simply – love his style and the velocity at which his mind works.

Robert Bell
Rob – CEO, KlickEx – is a fantastic person to start with and so brilliant that sometimes he needs a translator to really make himself understood. (Although a translator should have very high IQ as well). We have met so many times. I coached his pitch as many times and yet he keeps changing and being more and more successful with his idea. A Genius Entrepreneur.

More to come


Stay Tuned



Team recipe 

I have been thinking a lot what a team actually need to succeed, and this came out on a personal story. I failed a couple of start-ups before, as a founder. In both cases coming up with the idea and bring that idea to life with very little or no resources and in both cases fail to scale, learned a lot and only few years later realising why.
I like to think I am creative and developed a network to be able to get things done, but I clearly miss “being relentless”… Meaning focusing on getting that project done because of a sense of boredom, of “not challenging enough” or simply because another idea, twist of the project itself or opportunity came up and my brain was instinctively attracted to that, with no other option than de-focus on the previous one (my dear friend Mariela thinks I should have an Impresario).
Despite that, I have – always – a very clear vision where the “thing” should go.

Does a start-up team need somebody like me ? Possibly.
But what else ?
Agility and Creativity are essential in a start-up team. So is the Vision.
But there are 2 other assets you cannot miss for the perfect recipe : financial control and project management.

As boring as these 2 assets might sound, in a small team these are essential. And the more the company grow, these are the ones who will ensure stability (and reinsure the investors).
Financial Control will also evolve and overstep into the Marketing function and a project management will closely beef up the sales (typically something that the “visionary” can or should do).

We actually had this discussion at a round table las week in London and many of the start-ups CEO and co-founders seemed to be mindful of this quest for balance.

Why is this discussion so important ?
Being an investor means finding yourself on the good side of the money, as I always say. The job seems relatively easy, especially if you don’t have to do much effort to build a deal flow (no later than yesterday I received the email about the Innotribe Challenge judging task, there are 180 companies eligible to be screened, great job BTW).

There are several moments in the life of a portfolio, when one or more start-ups become a “problem” for a number of reasons :
– strategy re-thinking,
– our of cash and pressure to raise,
– resources issue,
– management frictions.
And the list goes on….

Now : in this moment, the founders start calling you every 4 hours, send you tonnes of information because they feel they have to show they do stuff, and you get involved in the smallest possible management decisions of the company (including of course the tough ones).
In these moments, your ability to bond with the team is essential, because you all of a sudden become part of it for real (not only on paper because you are a shareholder).

The challenge is to find the emotional energy to have the same commitment, focus, brainpower to help all portfolio companies at the same time and the “problem” companies with a redoubled effort.
When the relationship gets that intense, is where the balance (or the absence of) of the assets I mentioned previously becomes crucial.

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



Wonder what happened in Perth ?

Perth is a two million village in west Australia, with mild winters and great summer (when is cold over here in Europe, which makes it even more attractive).
I was invited by the IFC to moderate a technology showcase in the context of the preparation meeting for the G20 of the financial ministers.

Some Perthness here ..


A more complete description of these event follows here:

The Responsible Finance Forum is a two-day, invite-only event will focus on Responsible Digital Finance. It will convene industry, government, and private sector leaders to discuss how digital financial services are delivered transparently, fairly, and safely. The RFF V organizers include BMZ/GIZ, CGAP, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, IFC, The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Better Than Cash Alliance, The MasterCard Foundation, UNCDF and the World Bank. I am on the first panel of the second day, themed “Responsibility in Action” and moderated by Matthew Gamser of the IFC.

The Technology and Innovation for Financial Inclusion Expo (30 Aug) is organized by the SME Finance Forum, in conjunction with the Annual GPFI Plenary and Forum 1-2 September 2014, to showcase some of the promising emerging technology solutions that have the potential to accelerate financial inclusion for households and businesses. This event will offer opportunities to fintechs and other participants to interact directly with G20 representatives and for the G20 representatives to gain exposure to the work of a select group of emerging technology companies. AMP will be the first company to present in this expo.

The Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) Plenary and Forum ( on 1st Sept is an annual high-level event which aims to engage a select group of leading private sector innovators, global policymakers, and thinkers to discuss and influence critical aspects of the G20 financial inclusion agenda. This year’s forum will focus on the impact of digital financial services. The widespread adoption of digital payments in all their forms, including international and domestic remittances, can be instrumental in increasing financial inclusion. Moving away from cash to digital financial services can also contribute to the G20’s goals of women’s economic empowerment and inclusive economic growth. I will be on the panel on Innovation, led by the Markets and Payments Systems Subgroup.

Panel with Mark Pesce & C (yes, informal dress code and I took it literally, not that it was a huge effort)


Meet the Startups participating at the event:

Advanced Merchant Payment (AMP), Presenter: Thomas Deluca, CEO
Copsonic, Presenter: Christian Ruiz, COO
KlickEx, Presenter: Robert Bell, CEO
Mantis, Presenter: Harald Hirschhofer, CEO
Oxygen, Presenter: Rajpal Duggal, CEO
Quisk, Presenter: Dan Glessner, Chief Marketing Officer
Ripple: Presenter: Karen Gifford, Chief Compliance Officer
Verde International, Presenter: Patrick Reilly, CEO

Chat rooms for the Startups:


Now, the why …

It s what I would call a very valuable, non conventional financial services network, focused on financial inclusion.
These technology showcase have the purpose to make the public and private sector to meet and exchange, and I humbly added some “speed dating” shale to it, in order to maximise the exposure of the Startups to the crowd.

I loved everything of it, including the very informal beer and drinks in front if the ocean, with. 4000 km beach left and right … At the menu, as written in the welcome note of the bar, “beer, food, friends and sunset”. Just love Australia.