Innotribe Startup Challenge expects cryptocurrency, payments to be big


Sub-Saharan Africa’s fintech scene is really exciting. From innovative lending solutions like peer-to-peer services like RainFin and Lendico to interesting payments companies like Nomanini and SnapScan.

To help put these startups on the global stage, the Innotribe Startup Challenge is calling for applications. While the competition is open to startups across the globe, 2015 is seeing Innotribe’s first entry in South Africa where it will be hosted in Cape Town.

Brought to us by global financial telecommunications giant Swift, the Innotribe startups challenge is seeking to identify and address innovation trends and opportunities within the financial industry. It’s also hosted in major cities like New York, London and Singapore.

Speaking to Innotribe Startup Challenge Manager Kevin Johnson about what we can expect from the startups this year, he suggests that usability and user experience, cryptocurrency and APIs will be the three main areas startups will be looking to innovate.

In terms of layering APIs on existing banking infrastructures, Johnson says that “Many banks have a lot of legacy infrastructure. If we can get companies to come in and get that exposed, I think it would be massive.”

“A lot of financial institutions still don’t fully understand how cryptocurrency can really benefit them. They tend to see it as a threat or a competitor because there are a lot of regulation required in the industry,” explains Johnson.

Read more: 11 crafty fintech startups changing the way South Africans spend money

“So far there has been no magic bullet to come out of this sector as of yet. But I reckon that within the next two to three years we’ll start seeing some interesting applications for the distributed ledger,” Johnson predicts.

He points to last year’s winning startup which is doing great things in this space. “It’s not exposing banks to the digital currency but instead building a bridge between cryptocurrency and the banks,” Johnson says.

Read more: 6 clever tech startups trying to pop Africa’s remittance bubble

Last year’s winners were cBridge and MatchMove. The former won the title of best overall winner for providing banks with the tech for real-time international transactions at reduced costs using cryptocurrency. The latter won the award for best innovator for its innovative wallet which is aimed at the world’s 500 million plus smartphone users in emerging markets who don’t have bank cards.

“Payments is a big scene in Africa, not just to make money but as fulfilling actual needs,” Johnson says.

“Last year we saw over 280 applications which is a 60% increase since 2013,” Johnson says. This time round Innotribe is expecting to a lot more.

Startup finalists will receive couching, exposure, networking as well as a cash prize. The 20 companies selected automatically secure their place as finalists in the Innotribe Startup Challenge Grand Finale which will be taking place at Sibos — one the world’s premier financial services event organised by Swift and held in Singapore.

The Cape Town arm will happen on 5 to 7 May while applications for fintech startups will close 22 February. Click here for more information and to apply.

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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