Looking East for Fintech Trends

FinovateMiddleEast will take place February 26 and 27 in Dubai.

We’re taking the fintech conversation to a new region this year, and with a new territory, comes new themes, trends, banking interests, and startup portfolios. FinovateMiddleEast, scheduled for February 26 and 27 in Dubai, will showcase 20+ companies’ newest fintech innovations in Finovate’s signature 7-minute demo format. For more about these companies, check out the presenter announcement. Then tune into our blog series over the next few weeks for a sneak peek of the new technology we will unveil on stage.

Analyzing regional trends

For the Middle East debut, we’re going beyond our traditional demo-only format. Through keynote speeches, panel discussions, and fireside chats, we’re taking the discussion further. Here are some of the hot-button issues we’ll explore:

Accelerator opportunities

Over the past 10 years, accelerators and bootcamps have played a crucial role in helping startups not only fast-track their ideas into working realities, but also fostering their key partnerships with banks and major financial institutions. And while fintech accelerators have existed for many years, emerging fintech hubs are placing greater emphasis on them as a means to accelerate innovation. In this session, we’ll look at how Fintech Hive at Dubai International Finance Center (DIFC) is doing this.

Through an interactive session, we’ll take a closer look at how Fintech Hive at DIFC is creating a supportive regulatory framework and how it enhances innovation, growth and testing new fintech ideas.

Cross-border payments

Large firms such as IBM and Mastercard are leveraging the blockchain for a less expensive and faster way to transfer funds. Additionally, startups such as KlickEx, Transferwise, and The Currency Cloud have each launched their own competing platforms. The application of this technology is already in place. In fact, last October, India-based ICICI Bank and Emirates NBD announced they made a cross-border transaction using the blockchain. With money on the move in today’s global environment, it’s time to start paying attention.

In a keynote discussion titled The Future of Cross Border Money Movements and The Direction They Are Headed, Steve Naude, Head of Middle East and Africa at Transferwise, will share his vision for the future of cross-border transactions.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) was one of the hottest fintech trends in 2017 and will surely dominate the conversation in 2018, as well. The enabling technology is no longer simply a “nice to have,” add-on feature for banks and fintechs; it is the norm. Common applications include using AI to create chatbots to have a human-like conversation with clients, bolster application security by monitoring consumer behavior to detect non-normalities, and help consumers understand budgets and spending behavior to increase savings.

Fintech guru Paul Schulte will deliver the keynote discussion on AI. Schulte’s resume includes the U.S. House of Representatives, White House, and International Trade Commission. Additionally, he served as an advisor to the IDA in Singapore, Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), Hong Kong Stock Exchange, SEBI and Malaysian Securities Commission on developments in financial technology. With such a broad outlook, the audience is sure to get a global view of AI usage in banking.

Dubai’s local startup ecosystem

Fintech is global, but the focus of startups is uniquely regional. For a distinctive look at fintech in MENA, several companies will participate in rapid, three-minute pitches, followed by interactive Q&A. Here’s a look at a few:

  • Democrance, an insurance technology company with a mission to create partnerships that make insurance accessible for those who need it most but can afford it least
  • Maliyya, a platform that is Shariah compliant for both borrowers and investors
  • Qlikcash, an app-based payment platform that allows users to send and receive payments both locally and internationally
  • ZagTrader, a ready-to-deploy brokerage and asset management platform


While traditional payment systems exist across the globe, payment technology extends far beyond swapping cash, swiping credit cards, or even clicking “Order now.” Fresh iterations of mobile wallets have been pushing to the forefront of in-person payment methodologies, particularly in the Middle East and Asia. This has been amplified by the increased popularity of IoT devices, especially wearables. New Zealand-based WestPac, in fact, launched its own line of wearable payment devices called PayWear this week.

But how many of these developments are useful or simply noise? In our Payments Transformation panel, a group of experts will discuss and debate what’s working, what’s not, and what’s next.

Blockchain and Bitcoin

Are we in a bubble? That’s the question our panel will investigate during this half hour session. Increasingly, fintech startups are leveraging the enabling capability of the blockchain for more than just payments: The immutable ledger also offers the ability to track and manage identities, manage smart contracts, and create data transparency. While these capabilities are unlikely just a passing fad, what about Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies, and ICOs?

On the first day of 2017, Bitcoin surpassed $1,000 for the first time since 2014. Now, 10 months later, the price is reaching all-time highs, having spiked up to a record high today of more than $6,200. Between the inflated price and public comments from high-profile players such as Warren Buffet, who proposed Bitcoin is in “bubble territory,” and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who suggested Bitcoin is a “fraud,” there’s a lot to consider about its future success.

Featuring industry leaders and big banks

In addition to discussing key trends, industry leaders and big banks will share their views on the state of fintech and how they are addressing key issues.

  • Chris Skinner, Founder and Chairman at The Financial Services Club and Independent Commentator, Author, and Fintech Guru
  • Suvo Sarkar, Senior Executive Vice President & Group Head, Retail Banking & Wealth Management at Emirates NBD
  • Emre Karter, Citi Managing Director, Head of Treasury and Trade Solutions, MENAPT at Citi

And for the latest, check out the full, two-day agenda and stay tuned to the blog!

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Stay Current with Financial Market Changes Courtesy of RateSeer’s Denoti.
  •  BondIT Closes $14 Million in Funding.
  • Stronger Together: Fintechs, Techs, and FIs Collaborating on Cybersecurity.

Around the web

  • Check Point teams with LG to secure IoT devices.
  • Irish Tech News features Pendo Systems.
  • ACI Worldwide to provide access to all instant payment schemes in Europe.
  • Uniken CEO Bimal Gandhi quoted in USA Today special supplement on the future of digital security.
  • VP of Risk Management for WePay John Canfield talks about fraud prevention for SMEs.
  • Inc.com features Flybits in an article on real-time personalization and app design.
  • Kasasa earns finalist spot in the Ethics in Business & Community Awards.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Nubank Reaches Out to Brazil’s Underbanked with Addition of Digital Accounts.

Around the web

  • Built In Colorado names Gusto, Ping Identity, Personal Capital, Xero, PaySimple, Vantiv in its list of Top 100 digital tech companies in Colorado.
  • Compass Plus among the first software vendors to connect to the MirAccept 2.0 platform from NSPC.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

FinovateAsia Sneak Peek: Jscrambler

A look at the companies demoing live at FinovateAsia on November 7 and 8 in Hong Kong. Pick up your tickets today and save your spot.

Jscrambler, leader in JavaScript Application Security, trusted by more than 30,000 companies and individuals, gives now unparalleled visibility on the client-side of web applications to prevent fraud.


  • Protect your website against fraudsters and malicious injections
  • Prevent loss of credentials, private data, credit card information
  • Detect defacing and tampering of your users’ experience

Why it’s great
Jscrambler presents an innovative solution tailored to financial services allowing organizations to spot fraud in websites. No more stolen data, tampered transactions or hijacked content.


Pedro Fortuna, Co-Founder and CTO
Fortuna is Co-Founder and CTO of Jscrambler, leading the technical vision for the product and R&D activities. Has more than a decade of experience and knowledge working in the cybersecurity field.

Carlos M. Gonçalves, Head of Marketing & Sales
Gonçalves, responsible for marketing and sales at Jscrambler, leads a team of professionals from both business and technical backgrounds. His role also includes managing several deals and partnerships.

FinovateAsia Sneak Peek: Hyper Anna

A look at the companies demoing live at FinovateAsia on November 7 and 8 in Hong Kong. Pick up your tickets today and save your spot.

Hyper Anna wants you to meet Anna, your artificial intelligence-powered data analyst.


  • Real-time business insight
  • Insight recommendations
  • Natural language interactions

Why it’s great
Hyper Anna offers 24/7 business intelligence.


Natalie Nguyen, CEO

Sam Zheng, CTO

FinovateAsia Sneak Peek: Kript

A look at the companies demoing live at FinovateAsia on November 7 and 8 in Hong Kong. Pick up your tickets today and save your spot.

Kript is a decentralized mobile application designed to help invest in crypto assets.


  • Investment in cryptocurrencies and ICOs
  • Personalized insights about the crypto-market and the potential price of the crypto-assets
  • Building and management of the crypto-portfolio

Why it’s great
Kript is a multi-blockchain platform that implements a service function — a community for like-minded people, informational services, personalized support, and advice.


Philip Joslin, Director
Joslin has been working in the financial services industry– brokerage and exchange and risk management– for over 20 years in Europe and Asia Pacific.

Persado Unveils Persado One, Lands $30 Million Credit Facility from Silicon Valley Bank

Artificial intelligence (AI) -generated marketing campaign company Persado unveiled a new product this week, along with a fresh $30 million credit facility to fuel even more expansion.

Persado One

Persado One, the new offering, provides personalized emotional engagement at scale. The company says the new development represents the “most significant advancement to date” of Persado’s AI platform. Available through the company’s Enterprise Level of service, Persado One uses deep learning algorithms to deliver personalized messaging to a customer based on their emotional profile.

The company is also launching a professional class of tools to help marketers predict response rates, generate higher performing campaigns, and refine language according to a brand’s style. At launch, the tools will be available for email and social media channels.

“The debut of Persado One and the expansion of Persado’s marketing language cloud solutions mark an important milestone for our company as we continue to reach a broader audience of marketers with tools to directly impact their business,” said Assaf Baciu, Co-Founder and SVP Product & Engineering at Persado. “These innovations are reflective of Persado’s success in generating ROI for the world’s leading brands and increasing marketplace demand.”


Silicon Valley Bank provided the credit facility, which Persado will use to “fuel the expansion of the Persado Marketing Language Cloud and further the rapid growth of the business.” Alex Vratskides, Persado Co-Founder and CEO said, “As a bank built around supporting innovation, Silicon Valley Bank is the ideal partner in our drive to challenge what’s possible in applying an industry-leading AI technology to marketing and beyond.”

Persado was founded in 2012 to offer brands insight into how consumers respond to their messages in different channels and scenarios. At FinovateEurope 2016, the company’s Chief Revenue Officer Lawrence Whittle launched Persado Go, an automated solution that offers business customers persuasive messaging in real-time via a self-service interface. In the demo, Whittle showed how a bank can create a marketing email to persuade dormant credit card clients to resume their relationship with the bank.

Since 2016, the company has seen a 3.6x increase in user numbers. Pesado counts Oracle, Salesforce, Cheetah Digital, and Oracle+Bronto, as clients and has expanded globally to Europe, Australia, Mexico, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.

Personetics Leverages AI to Help Chip Away at Student Loan Crisis

Cognitive analytics company Personetics announced this week it is using its AI technology in a new way. The Israel-based company launched Personetics Act this week to offer banks a way to help customers repay their student loans ahead of schedule.

The new service uses the Nudge Theory to incentivize the 44 million U.S. student loan borrowers who owe more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt to pay down their loans early and avoid paying thousands in interest. The Nudge Theory was demonstrated by 2017 Nobel Prize winner Professor Richard Thaler, who noted that people make better decisions to improve their financial health when the choice is made easy for them.

Personetics Act puts the Nudge Theory to work by helping banks identify consumers that 1) have a student loan and 2) can afford to pay it off faster. The program offers these consumer a tailored, automated service that adjusts to changes in their spending behavior and continually analyzes their financial picture to find unused funds that can be applied toward the existing loan balance. This can be set to automatically make payments on the customer’s behalf or to appear as a suggested recommendation. The company notes that applying an additional $50 per week towards a $40,000 student loan that bears a 5% interest rate can allow a customer to pay off the loan 3.5 years faster and save over $4,000 in interest payments.

“Existing bank plans are limited in scope and therefore unlikely to make a visible dent in any customer’s outstanding loan balance,” said David Sosna, Personetics’ Co-founder and CEO. “By applying AI algorithms to analyze individual customer cash flows, we’re able to identify windows of opportunity for customers to make these extra payments with no effort on their end.”

At FinovateFall 2016, Personetics demonstrated its Personetics Anywhere chatbot solution. The company was founded in 2011 and has received $18 million in total funding. Personetics recently onboarded Royal Bank of Canada to pilot an AI-powered financial guidance solution, NOMI Insights, and an automated savings platform, NOMI Find & Save. Last month, the company’s VP of New Markets and Solutions, Sudharshan Krishnan, authored a guest post titled, “Enabled by AI, Self-Service Is the Future of Banking.”

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Swych Introduces Themed, Multi-Currency, Digital Gifting Options.
  • Persado Unveils Persado One, Lands $30 Million Credit Facility from Silicon Valley Bank.
  • Personetics Leverages AI to Help Chip Away at Student Loan Crisis.
  • Two-Time Best of Show Winner Finn.ai Raises $3 Million in New Funding.

Around the web

  • Actiance launches Safe Landing Program to ensure continuous compliance for stranded CA data protection customers.
  • PayNearMe helps NYC residents and visitors pay parking tickets with cash.
  • Mitek partners with handwriting-based biometric authentication service Asignio to deliver IDaaS solution.
  • Revolut announces plans to expand to Singapore.
  • Zafin launches digital origination platform and partner ecosystem, Zafin Origin.
  • Klarna expands partnership with Arcadia, adding new payment solutions.
  • Yoyo Wallet reaches processing milestone of more than 1.75 million transactions per month.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

SelfScore Rebrands as Deserve, Closes on $12 Million in Funding

Consumer analytics company SelfScore rebranded to Deserve today. The California-based company is still committed to providing underbanked Americans with access to credit, and to fuel that mission, Deserve has received $12 million in funding. Today’s round was led by Accel– with participation from Aspect Ventures, Pelion Ventures, Mission Holdings, Alumni Venture Group, and GDP Venture– and brings Deserve’s total funding to $27 million.

Deserve offers a credit card designed for Generation Z, whose members currently range in age from 6 to 21 years. This group accounts for 25% of the U.S. population and is projected to make up 40% of consumers by 2020. Because Generation Z consumers have thin-to-no credit files, they have difficulty accessing credit products at a fair rate. To combat this, Deserve uses an algorithm to predict credit potential by analyzing consumer attributes such as education, current financial health, and future employability. Sameer Gandhi of Accel described this application of machine learning as a “big opportunity to evolve past the antiquated FICO system in a technologically sophisticated way.”

The company’s Deserve Edu card is specifically focused on students, including international students. The card offers benefits such as an 18-month subscription to Amazon Prime Student, 1% cash-back on all purchases, and no fees on foreign transactions. And, for international students, there is no SSN required. To promote and encourage consumers to build their credit score, the company offers incentives for consumers to upgrade to the Deserve Pro Mastercard, which features 3% cashback on travel and entertainment, 2% cash back on restaurants, and 1% unlimited cash-back on all other purchases.

Under the SelfScore brand, the company assessed credit for more than 100,000 international students. Now, under Deserve, the company will target all 20 million college students and another 20 million young adults in the United States. “When I immigrated to America in 1995, one of the hardest parts of settling down in a new country was my lack of financial security and independence,” said Kalpesh Kapadia, founder and CEO of Deserve. “A credit card is one of many tools that was not accessible to me. This is why I wanted to implement technology that rethinks the process for offering access to fair and simple credit. Deserve represents that mission.”

Founded in 2012, Deserve demoed a consumer behavior analytics service at FinovateFall 2014 under the name SelfScore. The company’s accounts are issued by Utah-based Celtic Bank. Check out our profile of Deserve in our Finovate Debuts series in 2014.