FinTech Innovation Lab Asia Pacific
My name is Bart Jesman. I am the Founder and CEO of FinSuite. We’re 5 years old, based out of Melbourne Australia and provide software that helps to automate various internal bank processes.
After four years of trading and good traction in the Australian market, we decided to expand internationally. We tried a few things – partnering with other software vendors, targeting overseas industry associations and plain cold-calling to potential customers. This proved very difficult, especially as we are a small startup in a remote location.
Through a cold-call to a senior banker in Asia, we learned of the FinTech Innovation Lab. The accelerator appealed to us for two reasons: (1) It provided an opportunity to get open and honest feedback about our products in a non-sales environment. The importance of this should not be underestimated. The feedback in such a collaborative environment is very different from the feedback you get in a sales process. (2) It was a chance for us to be exposed in a very focused and structured manner to a large portion of our target customer-base in Asia.
From a personal perspective, we had a lot of fun in the programme. Being located in the wonderful city of Hong Kong with other like-minded startups from across APAC meant that we learned a lot, and we also enjoyed exploring the city together. Accenture and the banks involved selected a very diverse range of startups, helping us to establish a really collaborative environment in which we all tried to help one another get the most out of the programme.
From a product perspective, we learned what was good about our product and what required some change. We also learned how to make our product easier to sell to a bank. That meant integrating our product into an existing bank vendor’s products as a complement could be a better approach than trying to replace its existing products. We also learned that our software could be applied in many areas of a bank, rather than just the few business units that we’d always been targeting.
From a business perspective, we gained excellent contacts with whom we continue to pursue sales discussions. The programme involved numerous events and functions where we had a chance to build strong relationships with senior-level bank executives, and we were able to develop in 12 weeks what a business normally struggles to build in its lifetime.
I think a startup that has either an established product – or is close to developing one – designed specifically for the finance industry would be the type to benefit most. These startups will not only get an opportunity to ratify their proposition, but also the chance to establish invaluable relationships that they would not normally have beenable to build.
I think that banks being banks, it’s difficult for them to bring very early stage startups into their operating environments. That said, most banks are now focusing heavily on innovation, so I wouldn’t necessarily discourage early stage startups from applying. The banks in the programme may well see in your product/idea something that you did not, as happened with us.
Updated: May 2015