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The Innotribe Startup Challenge began in 2011 at Sibos in Toronto, after recognising an increasing need to connect the start-up community with the banking industry. As a result of the Challenge, one start-up has since taken $12million in funding, with others working in partnership with major banks and developing global projects, in the US, Canada and Europe.

Designed to introduce the most promising financial technology and financial services start-ups to SWIFT’s community of more than 10,000 banking organisations globally, the 2011 Challenge saw 10 finalists selected from over 100 applicants. The finalists were flown to Toronto to present in front of an invitation-only audience of decision makers from the world’s largest financial institutions, serial entrepreneurs, investors and media.

Guardtime – Mike Gault, CEO – 2011 Top Startup: “Innotribe is one of the best run and most compelling start-up events with real monetary awards and great opportunities to work with SWIFT on solving real problems for the industry.


Truaxis - Shehzad Daredia, Head of Product – 2011 Top Innovator: “the Innotribe event was extremely beneficial to business and gave us a seal of approval from some of the industry’s top critics. This industry-wide acknowledgement of our service has been immensely useful in starting discussions and building partner relationships.” Alex Gutow : “As a result of Innotribe, we’ve started multiple conversations with banks, credit unions, and other companies in the banking space. It provided even greater marketing traction than we had before the event, which led to an inflow of emails and phone calls from prospective clients who congratulated us on the win and wanted to learn more.

Success doesn’t end there. You don’t have to be the winner of the Innotribe Startup Challenge to receive recognition and funding, as almost all of the other finalists from Toronto have gone on to reach dizzying heights. The Challenge not only opens the door to opportunity for start-up businesses but helps to facilitate the expansion and growth of both start-ups and young innovators.

Wave Accounting – Kirk Simpson, CEO – Finalist: “I like to believe that some players in the banking industry began the event with no knowledge of Wave, and left knowing who we are and what we do.” Wave has since taken $12m Series B in the spring of 2012 and new features and improvements are continuously being added with Wave Payroll being rolled out in Canada in early 2012.

miiCard - Stephen Brannan, Director – Finalist: “miiCard has had two successful funding rounds in the last year, the first £500k in September 2011 and the second £1.6 million in April 2012, demonstrating the market’s recognition of the need to solve the problem with ID verification. We intend to continue to develop as the industry standard in real online identity verification.” James Varga, CEO: “We’ve been involved in the Innotribe Startup Challenge since miiCard’s inception and have really benefited from the insights, opportunities and support that have come through the Innotribe network. The exposure we’ve received has helped miiCard get recognised as a global player in electronic identity and verification and paved the way for a number of discussions with innovating financial providers and banks. We have had two very successful funding rounds, the first £500k in September 2011 and the second £1.6 million in April this year and believe every bit of exposure and support we get from the financial services industry, including Innotribe, has helped us in our investment endeavours.

Since the Startup Challenge in Toronto, Cellfony has begun to find investors and banks to work with, and are now working directly with a major bank on a breakthrough project. Jean-Luc Leleu, CEO, is hoping that this project leads to the opportunity to set up another company within the next 12 months.

TransferWise - Taavet Hinrikus: “Our business has grown by a factor of  400% since then. We have raised 1.3M USD from leading venture capital investors and strategic angels. Our investment was led by IA Ventures from New York and Index Ventures from London – both are leading VC firms. The strategic angels include Max Levchin (co-founder of PayPal) and Errol Damelin (co-founder of Wonga)”.

ChangeIt program from Formulating Change Inc. - David Beaton, President & CEO – Finalist: “the Innotribe event was fantastic for us. The key piece of feedback that we received was to build out the business case for banks on how ChangeIt fully supports and enhances their corporate social responsibility strategies. This valuable advice has helped to accelerate our growth.” “Currently, we are building a footprint across Canada with credit unions, but in time we see ChangeIt as a program that every bank should adopt.” “The event was fantastic for us.  The key piece of feedback that we received was that we needed to build out the business case for banks on how ChangeIt fully supports and enhances their corporate social responsibility strategies. Banks stand to gain a powerful marketing channel (the entire charitable industry), increased card spend (top of wallet behavior), and brand equity (value alignment with their customers).” “Although we have not launched with any of the banks we met with at the event, we have certainly used this experience as a vehicle for opening other doors which have led to strategic partnerships.

SynerScope – Jan-Kees Buenen, CEO – Finalist: the Challenge “provided feedback that the company should focus on developing the business plan on all fronts, with a product that addresses real problems in the financial industry.” “It provided the company with a focus on developing its business plan on all fronts. It also provided a factor of reference for the financial industry.” “We have engaged with at least three banks as a direct result of the program.

Pendo Systems – Pamela Pecs Clayton, CEO – APAC Top Innovator/Finalist: “We have developed one of the most innovative applications to hit the market in decades. We have had some great early success, but it’s no secret the financial crisis has affected everyone – including Pendo. Far too often, those considered ‘too big to fail’ view us as ‘too small to succeed’. That is not only unfair, it’s wrong. To win ‘top innovator’ at the Innotribe Startup Challenge is an honour and I look forward to the opportunity of meeting key players in the industry at Innotribe Bangkok and Sibos.

Digital Shadows – Alastair Paterson, CEO – 2012 EMEA Top Startup: “The ability to reach out to so many top-tier companies has been invaluable for us and we are excited to be competing again in Osaka.

Open Gamma – Kirk Wylie, Co-Founder and CEO – 2012 EMEA Top Innovator: “This was a fabulous experience for OpenGamma, and our win in Belfast, coupled with our opportunity to now move on to the final stage of competition at Sibos in Osaka, gives us fantastic exposure to the entire SWIFT community.

Duo Security’s two-factor authentication is the simplest and safest way to secure any Internet login or transaction and prevent online fraud and account takeover. In the last year, Duo Security received $5 million in the second round of funding from Google Ventures, True Ventures and Resonant Ventures. They have recently announced a partnership with Internet2 to offer an easy-to-use and low cost two-factor authentication technology to protect information and access to services on college campuses.

The achievements of all the companies, both start-ups and innovators, involved in the first Innotribe Startup Challenge demonstrate the value of the initiative. Whether by gaining feedback from leading VC investors, starting conversations with banks or generating funding, the Startup Challenge is significantly valuable in offering exposure and networking opportunities to other businesses and banking professionals in this highly competitive industry. It is proving the effectiveness of the new network we aim to build, where start-ups are getting exposure to FIs and ease their development within this ecosystem.