Visa Innovation Program attracted stellar regional fintech startups during Webit Festival, Sofia

Becoming a partner of choice

Stellar selection of fintech startups from SEE was featured this week at Visa Startup Zone during Webit Festival, Sofia. This came across thanks to Visa Innovation Program – an initiative aiming at growing the fintech startup ecosystem in the region and encourage it to transform the future of payments by accelerating the opportunity for startups to secure their first enterprise client or launch a pilot project with a bank.

The local folks LogSentinel, Payhawk, Reloyalty and the neighbours SpinSpin (Greece) and Peppara (Turkey), plus Morning (France) were among the selected companies that presented their fintech solutions to a diverse audience of international clients and partners of Visa, VC representatives and investors and also to Visa’s senior leadership team members.

During his stop at Visa Startup Zone, Bill Gajda, Global Head of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships, who is responsible for Visa’s Innovation programs and activities in Europe and CEMEA, met the founders and highlighted Visa’s commitment to be the most responsive and supportive network for both emerging payment players and its existing clients and partners.

Vassil Terziev, Partner at Eleven Ventures and active early stage investor, highlighted Visa’s instrumental role for local fintechs’ scaling up and growth and highly praised the collaborative and engaging model that Eleven and Visa established on the local market in Visa Innovation Program. Visa and Eleven have already joined forces to catalyze the growth of Payhawk, which recently has been awarded the grand prize of Fintech Startup-Pitch at Paris Fintech Forum.

One fundamental topic  – innovation shouldn’t be just a fancy accessory in your closet  – gained a significant number of mentions during the onsite discussions. According to the founders, the corporations should engage with startups at desk level, not just at the highest echelons.This requires critical mass of their own intrapreneurs with the right skill set who can approach the startup-corporation relationship accordingly but also set some pilot budget aside. Startups are good at exploration, while companies at exploitation, so all need to focus on the innovation sweet spot where both sides will benefit from the relationship and feel satisfied while setting up their relationship. Here Visa Innovation Programs across the region also come to facilitate the work towards fast-track PoC and partnership opportunities with banks and other players via Visa’s network and to provide tools, new technology and guidance within the process.

Daniel Tomov, Partner at Eleven and George Karamanolis, Co-Founder and CTO Crowdpolicy, Greece, focused their discussion on the importance of the intraconnected regional partnerships and know-how exchange for developing a vital and resourceful ecosystem that could accelerate the growth of CEE on the European fintech scene. Ivaylo Simov, Partner at Eleven, encouraged the companies to be brave and think big when it comes to tackling fintech opportunities, since the consumers don’t actually care what technology you use, as long as you solve a real problem.

Next stop for us is Fintech Junction in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 26 – June 27. See you there!

About Visa Innovation Program

Visa Innovation Program leverages startups’ brightest ideas, enhancing the traditional financial services offering for end consumers and businesses. It is a door-opener which provides faster market access for the startups, shortened sales enterprise cycle and a ton of industry knowledge.

Andrey Bankovski (Payhawk) and Ivo Vassilev (Reloyalty) with Joao Duarte, Investor at Lighthouse Ventures (left to right)
The team of Evrotrust Technologies
Eleni from SpinSpin with the team of Crowdpolicy, Greece - Vicki, Program Manager and George, Co-Founder and CTO (left to right)
Berna Ülman, Executive Director, South East Europe, Visa Europe
Guergana Stoichkova, Director Bulgarian Fintech Association
Anton Gerunov, COO, LogSentinel
Hristo Borisov, Founder, Payhawk with Daniel Tomov, Partner at Eleven Ventures (left to right)