“Disruptive” Spanish and Portuguese start-ups to showcase talent in Madrid
A new joint project between Spanish financial services project Next Bank Madrid and Swift’s Innotribe innovation wing aims to unleash the potential of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American start-up companies in financial services.
On 25 June, eight financial technology start-ups will gather in Madrid to showcase their businesses to an audience of financial services executives, entrepreneurs and investors. Participants include SetPay, a Spanish equivalent to Square, built on an open platform, and LoanBook Capital, a crowd lending platform for SMEs.
The event is supported by Wayra, a Latin American and European start-up funding firm created by Telefónica, as well as the IE Business School in Madrid. After the presentations, a winner will be chosen and granted a demo slot at the Sibos conference in Dubai in September.
“The idea is to unlock some of the potential of Spain in financial services,” said Andres Fontao, partner, Next Bank Madrid. “Spain has been the benchmark for innovation in financial services; the country leads in mobile payments. In Spain, anyone can start a financial services firm in their garage. That’s a threat to the traditional players – and the banks are trying to get as close as they can to the action.”
Spain does have a history of embracing new financial technologies such as mobile and contactless payment. In 2012, Barcelona became one of Spain’s first “contactless cities” following a project between Caixa Bank, the Barcelona City Council, the Metropolitan Taxi Institute and Mercats de Barcelona. Meanwhile in May, Spanish banks La Caixa and Santander partnered with telecoms firm Telefónica to create a joint venture offering mobile payment services and a digital wallet designed to relegate conventional payment methods to the history books.
However, according to Matteo Rizzi, co-founder at Innotribe, the scope is more ambitious – Innotribe is planning to hold a whole series of events across Spain and the Latin American countries to reach out to the entire Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world.
“This is the first step of a new experiment,” said Rizzi. “When we did the Innotribe Start-up Challenge, we found that only two of the 250 applicants were from the Spanish/Portuguese speaking countries. Some 60 firms have applied for this Next Bank Madrid event. If we can ensure the quality of the start-ups and the process, the plan is to do five more events in Latin America.”
Expanding into Latin America would make sense on a number of levels; besides the fact that Spanish and Portuguese are spoken across the continent, Fontao at Next Bank Madrid estimates that one-third of the top banks in Latin America are Spanish. In addition, these countries have also seen innovative payment initiatives in recent months; in May, Telefónica formed a deal with MasterCard in Brazil to create a new service called Zuum, which will allows Brazilians to transfer money, buy credits for pre-paid mobile phones and pay bills with their mobile phone.
Sao Paulo in Brazil, Santiago in Chile, Mexico City in Mexico and Bogota, Colombia have already been shortlisted, according to Fontao.
Registrations for the event in Madrid are open until 16 June: the competition is open to any Spanish financial technology start up aged three years or less, with a market-ready product, and with less than €1 million funding obtained in the last 12 months, and with an annual turnover of less than €1 million. NextBank Madrid is a collaboration between Spanish start-up support organisation Finnovista and Nasdaq.