How important are FinTech incubators? (Interview)

Visa Logo on top of map of Europe

As the FinTech sector expands, becomes more competitive and full of start-ups looking to innovate every aspect of the industry, the bigger,more traditional players have adapted to not only work alongside these smaller enterprises but also to actively support them.

We speak to David Page, co-creator and innovation partner at Visa Europe Collab, about the importance of incubators for companies starting out, what are the emerging European capitals of FinTech and what the future holds for cash and card methods of payments.


What are Visa Europe Collab’s key goals and purposes?

Our ultimate goal is to reduce the friction of payments for consumers by supporting  innovation across Europe. We want to bring together stakeholders from across the startup, tech and digital communities to deliver the best new payments solutions.

Working as an independent division of of Visa Europe allows us to explore a range of ideas, from new authentication methods through to group payments solutions. We’ll be looking to explore these ideas through our time boxed innovation sprint where we’ll invest in taking them from initial scoping and qualification, through market testing and design to proof of concept.

Of those completed proofs of concept, the best new validated and commercially viable services will be handed back into the main body of the Visa business where they’ll be nurtured into fully grown services that can be rolled out to Visa member banks, retailers and consumers across Europe


You have opened up innovation hubs in London, Berlin, and Tel Aviv. What makes them such attractive locations for the FinTech industry?

London, where we opened originally, is the global capital for FinTech innovation with a strong startup community in Tech City, early-stage investors and government support all allowing new FinTech businesses to thrive. Israel is widely considered to be the ‘startup nation’, with more startups per capita than any other region globally. There is a culture of innovation here and, just like in London, it is focussing its creativity in the FinTech arena. Slightly different is Berlin which is a creativity hotspot, with over half of Germany’s more than 5,000 startups, but not known for FinTech. We want to harness the innovation ecosystem and direct it at payments.


What are the next FinTech centres of Europe?

There are a number of emerging FinTech centres across Europe. We’ve opened hubs in London, Berlin and Tel Aviv since we feel that at this point, these are the places it makes most sense for us to be. But of course, FinTech innovation is taking place all over Europe. For example, Stockholm is becoming the FinTech capital in the Nordics and there are some exciting startups coming out of Barcelona. But there really is FinTech innovation happening everywhere from Helsinki to Istanbul.


Why do you think incubators are important for start-ups?

Incubators provide startups with invaluable support through mentoring, services, connections and R&D. At Visa Europe Collab we’re different in that we focus on collaborating with startups to develop Proof of Concepts in a unique 100 day process. By getting ideas developed, tested and researched swiftly, following a robust and standardised methodology, we can very quickly assess the opportunity. By giving startups the support and expertise to get to POC stage so quickly, we can really accelerate their business. For the strongest ideas, Visa Europe Collab can offer unsurpassed scale for growth through over 3,000 European member banks and financial organisations.


Are there any exciting start-ups coming out from Visa Europe Collab?

We have a number of exciting ideas passing through our 100 day innovation funnel at the moment which are both evolutionary and potentially revolutionary for the payments landscape. One recent example is our work with Flypay to ‘reinvent the bar tab’. Consumers can set up an instant pre-authorised tab through the Flypay app, add others to the tab, see live bill information through a POS integrated approach, and leave at the end of the night without needing to remember to settle their bar bill. This solution really does reduce the friction of payments and it’s being tested now in a number of pubs across London.


At the end of June you spoke at the DigiSEq NFC Wearable Boom event about grabbing the wireless opportunity. Can you expand on that?

The world is changing and the payments ecosystem needs to change with it.  The opportunity is to embrace the disruption that change brings and take a leading role in guiding the ecosystem to a future state with new tokens, different authentication approaches and emerging technologies like block chain that could have far reaching impacts.


What does the future of wearables look like? Could wearables push the UK towards becoming a cashless society?

Ultimately, cash and cards are bearers of value – they enable a transaction, an exchange, and derive their value from that. To truly gain traction, new payment technologies need to be implemented in ways that add real consumer value. They need to solve old problems in new ways or create new uses cases that people want. Apple Pay  – and Apple Watch – will play an important role in increasing consumer understanding and merchant acceptance of new ways to pay. Its early days but certainly, we’ll see other new wearable technologies used to create new payment experiences.


What’s next for Visa Europe Collab?

In our first year, our aim is to take at least 20 companies through our innovation funnel to proof of concept stage. We have a remit to explore different technologies and we want to test as many interesting ideas as we possibly can in order to truly shake up the way we pay. We’ve established London and we’ve established a strong pipeline of POCs that you’ll hear more about over the months ahead. We’ll be investing time and energy in our new hubs in Tel Aviv and Berlin and bringing them to a similar space. Longer term, we have a clear mission – to transform the way that citizens interact with payments. It’s early in our journey but already we’ have made some very positive steps – and we have exciting times ahead.

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