“Software is eating the world.”
So declared Marc Andreessen, Netscape co-founder and partner at venture capitalist firm Andreessen Horowitz, in his famous 2011 essay for the Wall Street Journal. And in the years since, clusters of FinTech startups around the world have emerged to lead a rethinking of financial services—including all aspects of payments, credit, investment and banking.
Over the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel throughout the world, meeting the people and companies driving this FinTech revolution. I’ve observed the evolution of FinTech ecosystems through various stages of development and I would characterize them as follows:
- Disconnected – In many countries, some form of gathering for startups and related capital has appeared. FinTech is a “wave” being talked about, but there is no dedicated place to have a meaningful discussion. At best, there is a Meetup around a beer. (No disrespect intended; it’s actually a great excuse to have a beer with like-minded people.)
- Connected – FinTech initiatives appear in the form of conferences and events, as well as incubators and accelerators sponsored by financial institutions or private ventures. Often, there’s a shortage of local FinTech capital available, but global VCs have these countries on their radar.
- Organized – A local FinTech catalyst emerges—usually some sort of non-commercial government and/or community-backed body—fostering a sense of sharing and collaboration. Examples include Luxembourg for Finance, Holland FinTech, FinTech CH, Innovate Finance, France FinTech, FinTech.HK and others. While some countries struggle with large banks that don’t play well together, organized FinTech ecosystems understand how engagement with local startups, investors, and other innovators from around the world builds value.
- Recognized – London and New York are key examples of recognized FinTech ecosystems of global importance. For Singapore and Honk Kong, we have to differentiate between the financial services centers (of which they are clearly examples) and recognized FinTech ecosystems—into which they may be transforming.
The U.S. FinTech ecosystem is the largest in the world. Although New York is arguably the center of the U.S. FinTech ecosystem, Silicon Valley is rapidly emerging as a role model in nurturing the best startup ecosystem, in large part due to the increase in the past 18 months of large VC involvement (Andreessen and Horowitz, Sequoia, 500 Startups, etc.), many with dedicated teams and resources in this sector.
The recent launch of the Global FinTech Hubs Federation initiative by Innotribe is a much needed effort to foster collaboration within the international FinTech community “to create a truly cross border and open platform that brings together established and emerging FinTech hubs.”
In collaborating with BAI, FinTechStage (the organization that I co-founded with Lazaro Campos) seeks to fulfill our mission to help create, structure, and bridge FinTech ecosystems globally. Together with BAI, we will provide a deep learning FinTech experience, together with exposing the community to what we believe are some of the best startups and strategies fueling the disruptive thinking being applied to financial services.
Matteo Rizzi is currently a partner with Omidyar Network and the co-founder of FinTechStage. Previously, he was with SWIFT for 13 years, during which he co-founded Innotribe, the innovation arm of SWIFT.