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Many Bitcoin Companies Compete In Semifinals of the SWIFT Innotribe Startup Challenge

Op-ed - Many Bitcoin Companies Compete In Semifinals of the SWIFT Innotribe Startup Challenge

Bitcoin companies who are part of this year’s Innotribe Startup challenge, a contest run by the international payment network SWIFT, have the opportunity to partner with and be mentored by some of the world’s most prestigious financial institutions.

“What really sets the Innotribe program apart is the coaching we give the startups in how to engage the more established financial services providers,” said Mike Sigal, Innotribe’s lead coach. “There’s a chasm between how startups and banks practice innovation, and helping our startups understand how to communicate their value propositions to SWIFT’s community helps banks quickly evaluate new technologies and models, and helps our startups identify appropriate partners and investors.”

Since its inception in 2014, the Innotribe Startup challenge has provided fintech startups monitoring and opportunities to pitch banks and investors. During the challenge, more than 500 venture capitalists, banking professionals and financial technology experts will judge the contestants on how much their business could impact the world.

“We are delighted that Wells Fargo, Luxembourg for Finance, Level39, Invest Northern Ireland and HP have confirmed their support for 2015. I’m confident our collaboration will help us further advance innovation in financial services and also benefit the startups participating in this year’s startup challenge program,” said Fabian Vandenreydt, head of markets management at Innotribe and the SWIFT Institute.

Interest in Digital Currencies

Last year’s winner was a payment solution for banks based on the bitcoin blockchain, called Epiphyte. According to Epiphyte’s former director of research, Jo Lang, Innotribe helped open doors, gave them legitimacy and, most importantly, access to the private SWIFT payment network.

“At Innotribe, a lot of discussion revolved around cryptocurrency and whether it’s a currency or a system,” wrote Lang.

Out of the 60 startups chosen to be semi-finalists in this year’s challenge, about one sixth of them are digital currency companies. The digital currency companies that made the cut included Asian bitcoin exchange BitSpark, cryptocurrency debit card Shift Pay, bitcoin remittance company Xendit and decentralized digital asset ledger Hyper.

Unlike previous years, 2015 semi-finalists have been cut up into geographical regions, consisting of Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. Each region will have its own showcase, where 15 startups belonging to the region will pitch their startups to judges. The final 20 contestants, five from each region, will pitch their startups at the Innotribe Startup Challenge Grand Finale, which will be held on October 14, 2015 at Sibos in Singapore.

Beyond the opportunity to pitch investors and financial institutions, the winner of the challenge will get access to the SWIFT payment network and a $50,000 prize.

Tough Competition

“Every year the bar gets higher, with many impressive applications from startups coming from across the globe. It is great to see this community using Innotribe as a platform of choice, and allows us to provide them with even greater opportunities to connect with the financial industry,” said Vandenreydt.

One of this year’s non-bitcoin competitors is the Chile-headquartered remittance company, Crowdtransfer, which will take place in the North American region. Like TransferWise, it delivers remittances without sending money over borders. Instead, it uses internal sources to send money to the desired recipients. But it connects people directly, making it the first P2P remittance service provider.

Another unique company in the running is South Africa-based YueDiligence, a self-assessment valuation tool for entrepreneurs to access funding readiness and to help analyze deal flow.

“We are eager to see what the 2015 applicants have to offer, and look forward to giving them that much-needed exposure to financial institutions,” said Vandenreydt.

Hackathon image via TechCrunch / CC BY 2.0