This week I made the cross global trip to Bogota, for my first visit to the South American continent. The trip was for the first Next Bank event in Latin America, hosted by our partners Finnovista as a follow up to the hugely successful, Next Bank Madrid. I have to admit, I was quite excited to be visiting Bogota as my insights suggested that it has developed into a hot bed of innovation for the region through strong support from the public and private sector. And the event only worked to improve that opinion.
The event was split into two days, and included Innotribe Startup Disrupt. Innotribe, SWIFT’s initiative to enable collaborative innovation in financial services, announced the first Latin American ‘Innotribe Startup Disrupt’ event, in conjunction with Next Bank LatAm. Aimed at Latin American-based financial technology startups. This would see a fresh new bunch of fin-tech startups strut there stuff in front of an audience of bankers, venture capitalist and change makers. Together with Next Bank LatAm, Innotribe will select up to ten startups to showcase their businesses to an audience of the financial industry’s most influential executives, entrepreneurs and investors. The winning startup will receive a demo slot at the Innotribe space at Sibos, SWIFT’s annual conference, taking place in September 2014 in Boston; a spot at the 2014 Innotribe Startup Challenge semi-final for the Americas in New York; and 30 days co-working space at the 13 academies of Wayra, including support from its network.
Fermin Bueno, of Finnovista and organiser of Next Bank LatAm said: “During the last decade, entrepreneurship has been growing rapidly across Latin America and tech startups are an important engine for this growth. Without the legacy of a strong physical traditional banking sector, Latin American fin-tech startups have the unique opportunity to catapult the financial services sector straight into banking 3.0 and with new services drive financial inclusion in the region. Without any doubt, it’s intriguing to see what is going on in Fintech in LatAm and we are looking forward to seeing many innovative ideas.”
Tremendous opportunities exist in Latin America to bring financial services to underserved populations and expand current offerings for a burgeoning middle class. The decreasing cost of technology and innovations such as mobile banking allow for much greater access among a critical mass of consumers. This panel will explore trends and prospects for financial inclusion throughout the region, including questions around financial literacy, micro-finance, and new solutions for consumers.
Latin America has made significant progress in adopting technology innovations leading to economic development. The outlook remains positive, Latin American economies are increasingly exposed to global uncertainty and economic volatility. In Colombia significant advances with a new IT-based institutional framework has supported over 23,000 companies. The Vive Digital Columbia high speed internet is now available to more than 90 percent of the country and an additional 2 million laptops are available to local schools.
What was clear from every angle, was the immense amount of collaboration in the region to drive success. At least a dozen people I spoke acknowledge the innovators and leaders in LatAm don't see each other as competition, more as peers on the same journey. A positive sentiment that fosters strong collaboration, industry progression and strong support for startups. Dan Gertsacov, Presidente Lenddo Américas, a self confessed gringo lost in Colombia, and a central player in the fin-tech space of LatAm was keen to share his enthusiasm for the region quoting dozens of great new players in the investment and startup space. One thing is for sure, Dan's energy is electric. Which only heightens with the support of people like Ajuna Costa of Omidyar Network, a strong enabler as a a philanthropic investment firm with an impressive portfolio that includes Lenddo.
There are definitely exiting times ahead for LatAm in the progression of Fintech innovation, and I encourage everyone to take a serious look at the region for startups, investments and opportunities. Hats off to the team that made Next Bank LatAm happen, I look forward to more in the future.