Suppose you want to start a fintech company in Cyprus? Perhaps you have the technology, but there is so much more to it than that? Banking know-how, legal know-how, and many other types of knowledge are required to get, for example, an online mortgage lender started.
In the UK, since 2013, startups of this type have been able to go to Level39, a fintech and retailing incubator based at, and owned by, Canary Wharf. Unicorns like Revolut and eToro got their start there.
But now, Cyprus fintech entrepreneurs, and others from Europe, can get EBRD financial support enabling them to work with a tried-and-true fintech ‘accelerator,’ (meaning an incubator), the Startup Wise Guys.
“We have an intense, high energy, no BS, straightforward approach to coaching from practitioners not consultants!” the Startup Wise Guys say.
The Fintech accelerator programme is a five-month, mentors-driven programme taking place in Vilnius, where the Wise Guys are located. The EBRD will provide up to €100,000 in funding for fintech startups that are accepted in the programme.
And, anyone who is based in a region where the EBRD is active may apply. That includes Cyprus!
Startup Wise Guys is one of the leading fintech accelerators in Europe, having launched 19 accelerator programmes since 2012. It is supported by founders from 45 countries and over 200 international mentors. It has been named among Europe’s top 10 accelerator programmes and as the Top VC fund in central and eastern Europe in 2019.
It’s no accident that Startup Wise Guys is based in Vilnius. The capital of Lithuania has become a fintech hub over the past decade, giving birth to unicorn startups like Transferwise – a send-money app that moves about $4 billion in funds every year.
Bear in mind that fintech is not just some minor geeky sector. According to KPMG, the total value of investments in fintech businesses in Europe was $58.1 billion in 2019.
Fintech started out as a means to provide alternatives to the mainstream banks and insurance companies, for whom customer service was never much of a priority. Fintech firms took just the opposite tack and provided customer-centric services – if you wanted to find a mortgage, fintech apps that did nothing else would answer your every question, or if you wanted to transfer funds to a company or friend, fintech apps would do it for a fraction of the cost that banks demanded.
Regtech, or technology that manages regulatory processes was one of the biggest areas for fintech investment in 2019. Driven in part by the coming into force of the General Data Protection Regulation, and the second Payment Services Directive in Europe, each of which involves complex compliance requisites, the massive investment in regtech is intended to make staying on the right side of the law easier for companies, as KPMG notes.
Proptech, which means technology in the service of the property sector, is another area seeing intensive investment in Europe. There are more real estate firms globally focusing on identifying innovation and proptech opportunities and incorporating digital solutions within their primary business processes, KPMG continues.
But there are quite a number of different areas in which fintech firms may specialise.
As for the EBRD, the bank has already accelerated and invested in more than 30 fintech startups such as EstateGuru, ONDATO, PayQin, Investly and others as part of B2B SaaS and Fintech focused programs.
This will be the second fintech programme held in Lithuania. Previous fintech programmes were run in partnership with Swedbank, and other competence partners such as Google.