Konstantin Peric. Photo: Questex Asia Ltd

The Innotribe Startup Challenge recently held its Singapore semi-final challenge showcase in Singapore. e27’s writer, Joanna managed to get a quick interview with the the Head of Innovation at SWIFT and leader of the SWIFT innovation challenge community, Konstantin Peric (or more affectionately known as Kosta) at the event.

On why was the Innotribe Startup Challenge created. Through the Innotribe network, Kosta and his team have met up with a lot of people over the years and noticed that there has been very little interaction between the financial community and the startups. Some banks do actively connected with startups. However, in general, there are not a lot of bridges between startups and banks. These banks don’t make the connection as there are plenty of costs involved- from getting informed of these startups, being in the network, meeting them to understand what they do. In short, a lot of time and effort is needed to bridge these two communities together.

However, Kosta agrees that it is important for banks to be aware of what is out there. So, the Innotribe team proposed to a service to the banks, whereby  quality startups are selected and connected to them so that they can realise and engage with what is happening outside the financial world without incurring much of the cost involved.

From interacting with the startups, Innotribe noticed that they are not getting sufficient exposure. It is pretty much impossible to call up a CEO from a bank to introduce their products.

Innotribe wanted to provide a platform for these startups to meet the relevant people from these banks. Since it’s Innotribe’s mandate to enable collaborative innovation, it was a natural thing for them to try and thus, the Innotribe Startup Challenge was created. They first tried it at Sibos Toronto 2011 where it turned out to be a great success. Both financial institutions and startups loved it. Therefore, in 2012, a complete program was created.

Opening panel with Chris Shipley, CEO of Guidewire Group and Konstantin Peric, Head of Innovation, SWIFT at Innotribe Challenge Singapore semi-final showcase.

On why New York City, Singapore and Belfast was chosen to hold the semi-final challenge showcases. New York is financial center of the world. Thus, it was a natural thing to hold it NYC. They decided to hold it at NYC instead of Silicon Valley as they wanted to bring startups to the finance headquarter of the world instead of bringing the banks to the tech hub.

Singapore was chosen as it has a thriving startup community with a lot of sponsorships provided by the government, universities, incubators and the tech and entrepreneurial network. Kosta added that he simply loved the location (Plug-In@Blk71) where the challenge was held.

Belfast is pretty much similar to Singapore, but in the Europe. There is also a lot of focus by the government, universities and businesses to make it a thriving startup community.

On the areas in the financial sector that needs innovation. Kosta cheekily laughed and commented that there were a lot of areas that were lacking. Of which he sums up into 3 main categories: Technology, Business and “Banks for a better world”.

1. Technology: Technology holds great importance to banks. Challenges in this area includes social network and an upcoming hyper-connected generation.  Banks have to come up with products for young people who are educated on Facebook, Google etc. as the new generation of people expects something else from the banks. The areas where innovation needs to be worked on includes analytics, aggregation of data, social networks, cloud computing and mobile. Kosta predicts that in 5 years’ time, there will be a drastic change in the world, especially in the finance sector.

2. Business: On the business side of matters, digital currency is drastically changing the world. The notion of value in people is changing completely. Kosta gave an example: A person’s reputation on ebay has a value, however there is no way to express that in monetary terms today. That same reputation on ebay will also not work on another ecommerce site, say, Amazon. There is a lot of change here. Therefore, the financial institution and the startup community can work on and invent a new product/ service to address this issue.

3. “Banks for a better world” – A redefinition for the community itself: Banks have long been known to be profit-oriented. Kosta believes that there’s should be a way for banks to invest in ethical, green, social enterprise-oriented investments. The Innotribe team is exploring with banks a lot of innovations that can change the profit-oriented attitude of banks to a more community-centred in the “Banks for a Better World” initiative.

On the hottest areas for banks and startups to innovate and tap on. Without a doubt, Kosta pointed out that it was definitely technology. This includes mobile, big data, social networks, analytics, augmented reality etc.

“The bottomline is that banks are just information processors. So, all things that can aggregate and make new meaning of data is going to be important. Key areas lie in mobile, big data and analytics.” as quoted from Kosta.

At the Singapore semi-final showcase pitching session, he saw a lot of startups going in that trend.

On Kosta’s favorite startups. As a technologist at heart, Kosta knows and is very much excited about technology. At the startup pitching sesion, Kosta saw 2 startups (that Kosta kept mum about the names of these two startups even after probing) that fit into the “Banks for a better world” bill. He added that he loved what they were doing! He likes that they have a purpose and loved the fact that they have chosen to come over and pitch a different thing.

Kosta however, revealed that his favorite innovator at the innovator’s pitching session was PocketSmith, a smart personal finance application. He liked that the product is simple, made sense and one in which he can easily explain to his Dad. Technology wise, the product is nothing new. But, its simplicity and great user experience is what he liked about it.

Kosta extending a warm congratulation hug to Min Xuan, co-founder of PlayMoolah and winner of the Singapore semi-final challenge showcase

On what happens after the competition. For the two winners, PlayMoolah and Pendo Systems, they will be heading to Sibos. Kosta spotted a lot business cards being exchanged at the event and suspected that like last time, there will be many followups amongst the people in the room and the startups. In some cases, Innotribe will approach some startups to participate in their incubation program. He added that this may be e case for this event. Not revealing any further information he added that they will be approaching some of the startups at the Singapore showcase to participate in the Incubation program. But, as of now, nothing concrete has been finalised. However, there is definitely going to be a lot of followups.