“Fintech is changing the world. If that was not so, we wouldn’t have been in this room today,” started his presentation Konstantin Djebelov of Phyre, one of the selected founders who pitched at the Elevator Lab Finals. He was one of the ten entrepreneurs Raiffeisenbank Bulgaria chose to present their products and concepts in front of a jury as part of the third edition of Elevator Lab, the CEE wide fintech accelerator of the bank.
This year, for the first time, Elevator Lab in Bulgaria featured two tracks – one for companies with products, ready to start a proof of concept process with the bank, and one for early-stage founders who went through one-day long mentoring to adjust their products to the bank’s needs, and eventually partner with Raiffeisenbank too.
“Today we had some of the best-known players of the fintech ecosystem pitching. More founders are applying each year, which gives us confidence that we’ve managed to establish ourselves as a partner of choice for startups and a hub for banking and fintech innovation,” says Y0oanna Genova, manager at Digital Banking and Innovation Department and also the coordinator of Elevator Lab in Bulgaria.
According to Daniel Aleksiev, who is leading the same department, every year the fintech ecosystem is maturing, and so is the challenge. “We’ll continue our conversations with almost all of the participants, as even the early-stage companies presented solutions that are of interest to our clients,” he said.
“For me, it was truly an amazing opportunity to experience the vivid Bulgarian Fintech ecosystem live and in person, and finally see how many customer-oriented, cutting-edge, yet straightforwardly implementable innovative Fintech solutions are on the local market,” shared Istvan Kovacs, fintech Partnerships Manager, Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI). According to him, the companies attending the Elevator Lab Challenge Bulgaria have a very serious opportunity to scale up their products in multiple markets.
And the winners are…
After a day of mentoring and pitching sessions, two companies were selected. Phos, a software solution that turns Android smartphones into POS terminals, is the big winner and receives a wildcard to pitch directly on the global semifinals of Elevator Lab Challenge. The company also starts a PoC with the local branch right away. In the track for early-stage founders – the Bootcamp – iRoboinvest, a young developer of automated investment consultancy system, was selected. iRoboinvest will receive the chance to go to a two-week-long training in Vienna, where Raiffeisen Bank International is headquartered.
Phos, part of the Bulgarian Paynetics group, started as a concept three years ago and spun off a bit later. Led by Ivo Gueorguiev, the company has developed a mobile application for Android devices that turns them into POS terminals and thus eliminates the need for additional hardware products. Once launched on the market, probably at the beginning of next year, Phos will allow small and midsized merchants to easily onboard and offer contactless payments to their clients. The system is currently passing the security tests with Visa and Mastercard. “With Raiffeisenbank as a partner, we could faster and more easily reach out to a broad base of customers,” tells us Gueorguiev.
For early-stage venture iRoboinvest, the partnership is related to the further development of their product and the adjustment to the bank’s potential use cases, but also systems and processes. Originally started in Hong Kong, the company, led by Krasimir Yuriev is now back in Sofia, developing an automated investment advisor for millennials.
“Phos perfectly fits our strategy, and I think this solution could significantly enhance the businesses of our clients – small and medium-sized companies. It will allow them to have POS terminals faster and easier without the whole installation and onboarding process they would need otherwise,” tells us Daniel Aleksiev.
“Personally, I’d be really glad to see for example PHOS doing a proof of concept in multiple Raiffeisen banks in the region in the near future, “ comments Istvan Kovacs of RBI.
As of iRoboinvest, Aleksiev sees an opportunity for further development of the product together with the bank.
The other disruptive ideas
Mobile wallets, next-generation loyalty systems, real estate market evaluation companies, and secure document exchange on the blockchain were part of the selection in the mature phase trach – Elevator Lab Challenge.
Phyre is a digital wallet that features mobile payments, digital loyalty cards, peer-to-peer payments, and allows users to pay contactless via smartphone. The company already has 27K+ paying customers on the domestic market. Reloyalty offers a new generation loyalty system that takes into account customer’s behavior and helps small and mid-sized businesses offer their loyal clients contextual rewards – sometimes even products and discounts from other stores and brands they use. After receiving an investment of close to €800K startup is already testing the product on the market in London. Another participant – Appraiser, better known as ocenime.bg, offers a platform that scrapes data from various public resources and uses specific algorithms to evaluate real estate prices. Thus Appraiser could help banks eliminate hierocracy and speed up the process of releasing mortgages. Blockchain company ReCheck has been around since 2016 and presented ts core product – a secure data management and document exchange platform, that allows encrypting a document to the identity of particular recipients. The solution allows users to securely share sensitive information.
In the bootcamp track, the pitcher presented rather end-customer oriented products, that are yet to be adjusted to banks’ particular use cases. ChatBot System is a system that understands the client’s native language and provides the necessary financial information, or even allow money transfers via chatbot. In the future, the team of seven engineers hopes to be able to integrate with banks’ mobile apps add this additional layer in their service channels. Swipe and Tip is a mobile app for quick contactless payments in the service sector. It allows waiters, for instance, to easily split bills, and receive their tip directly in their bank account. Revalue has developed a technology solution for analyzing property market data and investment advice targeted at real estate market players. RICS introduced software for real-time stock market advice, which helps traders improve their performance by sending them personalized advice.
This is just the beginning
One rarely sees fifteen bankers and top managers in one room listening to startup pitches, asking questions and indeed looking excited. Yet the Elevator Lab Accelerator and the first-hand experience of startup culture and approaches seem to have many potential benefits for both sides.
“For us, this is a great opportunity not only to source innovative solutions that will enhance our product portfolio but also a chance to introduce new types of working and mindset into our structures,” says Aleksiev. He is keen on working closely with founders and entrepreneurs in his department, as the manager believes this will infuse an innovation spark into the banking sector.