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.

WHY DID I CHANGE ?
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…

HOW DID I END UP IN SBT ?
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.

HOW WAS THE JOURNEY SO FAR ?
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

Matteo

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