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The dust has settled, and everyone has returned home from Copenhagen. And perhaps the biggest take-away from Money 20/20 Europe, was that banks, credit companies, insurance companies, and the rest of the financial ecosystem are courting startups in an effort to gain access to the latest technologies. And Visa was in the thick of it. During the conference, we held the finals for the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative, a competition aimed at supporting promising fintech startups. The competition was pan-European but a third of the candidates, half of the finalists and two of the three category winners were Israelis.
Like most other industries, payments is also undergoing rapid digitalization. This was palpable in every hall and booth at the Money 20/20 exhibition.
Open banking has created new opportunities to deliver good service to customers while also creating new business models. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and big data analysis are moving payments, financial services and retail services sector into an accelerated period of product development, disrupting the existing industFry and challenging the regulators. In this new environment, cooperation between Fintech companies and the financial services companies is only natural, with startup entrepreneurs providing out-of-the box new use cases.
Visa’s Everywhere Initiative was expanded this year to include 19 countries in Europe, encouraging start-ups to enter their solutions in response to three challenges: community support, regional travel and international travel. Two of the winning companies were from Israel: Fly Money, which developed an innovative tender platform for foreign currency conversion for international travelers and BiteMojo, which develops an application which enables the individual traveler to conduct tasting tours, in the “Local Community Challenge”.
Tal Ekroni, founder and CEO of FlyMoney, explains that the company addresses a gap in the tourism industry whereby in contrast to flights, hotels and car rentals, the foreign currency aspect has remained completely off line and there was no service coordinating the supply. “We developed an interface and integrated with the currency suppliers’ databases around the world.”
“Our connection with Visa”, he added, “is intended to enable us to offer customers foreign currency in exchange for loyalty points from airlines, hotels, and other tourism organizations. There are huge sums of money lying idle in these loyalty programs, burdening these companies’ balance sheets, so this way the customer can benefit from cash money, and the companies can benefit from an easing of the pressure on their balance sheets”.
Michael Weiss, one of the founders of BiteMojo, an independent culinary tours application: “Till today we have launched culinary tours through the application in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Berlin, Rome and soon Barcelona, to be followed later on by other European cities. Our growth model is through partnerships in each destination with companies which conduct local culinary tours. That way we also gain a local partner, we also gain an understanding of the product and of course we achieve considerable cost savings.”
“The connection between BiteMojo and Visa is very natural because it can enable a user experience which right now sounds unimaginable - the ability to buy further tastings already in the course of the culinary experience. In other words, to enjoy additional benefits at the merchant the tour is visiting, and even to provide a tip through the application. These are features the users and merchants were asking us to provide”.
The other Israeli finalists were: Save A Train, HereO; HopOn and Pcentra, which competed in the “Regional Intercity Challenge” category and Visual Travel, which competed in the “International Travel Challenge” category.
Oded Salomy, General Manager of Visa in Israel, said: “Israel is a huge source of technological innovation and developments that improve our lives. We at Visa have the opportunity and the means to expose this innovation to the relevant stakeholders. The finalist of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative, as well as the prize winners, have come a long way and have accomplished these achievements through hard work. With their far-reaching innovations I have no doubt they will impact our lives and we wish them success for the future..
Through Visa’s innovation activity in Israel, we are increasing our footprint within the developer industries and hope to meet more and more companies and ideas that will be leaving their mark in our industry and our lives.”
To contact Visa’s Innovation division in Israel, please click here.