I m about to go on stage at the Finance Innovation forum 2013, my first talk post-Innotribe era.
Interesting enough, until September this year I dealt with innovation from a very neutral platform, helping financial organizations to work with startups, apprehend innovation processes, build new products, and now I am standing behind one of the largest financial institutions worldwide, Sberbank, who decided to walk the innovation talk and launch a Fintech fund.
Sberbank is not the only bank in the world investing in startups.
It IS though the FIRST financial institution launching a vertical captive fund investing in Fintech startups.
So if you know put yourself in my shoes,you realize how disruptive this change is.
I literally jumped on the other side of the equation.
And – when you look at it – there is no more logical decision for a bank to take.
Many banks have an innovation department (yet not the majority, though). But without the freedom to invest, without the independence of action they need, and most importantly without managing it as a business.
Let me use one of my favorite expressions: I will not hide myself behind my finger.
There are challenges in marrying young dynamic startups to a 350 thousands people organization.
The enthusiasm, the willingness to progress fast, the freshness and sometimes the naiveness and the fragility of the startup has to cope with the sales cycle of the bank, its legacy, its policies and politics.
But is the right way to go, and the reason why I joined.
The intention is truly to walk the talk, in an unexplored field.
Again, because investing in Fintech startups for a bank seems to be the natural thing to do to reinvent itself. Yet, as all pioneers, we forge the way, learning the hard way. And I am here to write this story, together with Mircea and the team.
The team…. Let me wrote the BIO of the guys I worked with so far in three lines with my colorized expressions:
Mircea Mihaescu, my Partner in crime: the gray bald hair of the team, young hearted Rumanian Canadian, former entrepreneur, IBMer, with the balls to change his life once again to bring Innovation into Sberbank three years ago. Smart, determinate, reliable, and with the curiosity of a child.
Tony Fish, advisor to the fund: the multiple exits entrepreneur with the brightest mind, and a marvelous humility and openness that drives him to share and discover rather than show off and keep knowledge for himself (as many money-made guys do). A living book on best practices on innovation and startups, and a true good person.
Andrew Martin, the only one with hair in the team, even if white. I consider him the coach of SBT, he is behind our financials and legal negotiations, very hard to spot something he has not seen yet, but – most importantly – someone who always work with a smile on his face. A great person I am discovering day after day. His favorite sentence “I have seen it before”… And he actually has!
I can t wait to announce our next investments, and more on this journey.