Coinbase Names Asiff Hirji as President and Chief Operating Officer

Bitcoin exchange Coinbase has a new president, Asiff Hirji, who will also serve in the newly-created position of chief operating officer. Formerly of Hewlett-Packard and Andreessen Horowitz, Hirji joins the company at a time of soaring interest in bitcoin and digital currencies, and will bring his expertise in managing large investment platforms and brokerage firms to Coinbase at a key moment in the company’s growth.

Writing at The Coinbase Blog this morning, co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong said, “Coinbase is moving into an exciting phase of our journey. Asiff’s knowledge of traditional financial services, as well as his deep technical expertise, makes him the perfect person to guide our operations as we grow into new markets and products.”

“Asiff is an elite operator, with fantastic domain expertise from Ameritrade, and a deep technical background,” Andreessen Horowitz General Partner Ben Horowitz said, calling Coinbase’s new executive “the perfect fit.”

In addition to his experience with Hewlett-Packard and Andreessen Horowitz, Asiff Hirji (pictured) has served as a senior advisor at Bain Capital, founded private investment and operating company Inflekxion, and is a director at number of technology firms including Eze Software Group, TES Global Limited, RentPath, and Saxo Bank. With a BSc in Computer Science from University of Calgary, he earned an MBA from the Ivey Business School at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada.

“Coinbase is uniquely positioned like no other company to capitalize on the burgeoning crypto-economy,” Hirji said. “Its breadth of offerings, global footprint, and unique capabilities mean that it will continue to be the first place that retail and institutional investors look when they invest in cryptocurrencies.”

As such, Hirji told The Wall Street Journal that the challenge for Coinbase will “definitely” be growth. He said that both finding engineers that are well-versed in cryptocurrency technologies and dealing effectively the “patchwork of regulations around bitcoin” have been among the challenges to bitcoin businesses that “have yet to be resolved.”

With more than 10 million customers served, and more than $50 billion in digital currency exchanged, Coinbase demonstrated its Instant Exchange technology at FinovateSpring 2014. Earlier this month, the company introduced Coinbase Custody, a new solution to help institutional investors securely store digital assets. In August, Coinbase closed a $100 million Series D funding round led by IVP that took the company’s total capital to $217 million and an estimated valuation of $1.6 billion.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Coinbase Names Asiff Hirji as President and Chief Operating Officer.
  • ID.me Teams Up with General Motors to Support Military Discount Program.

Around the web

  • Forrester Research names TIBCO a leader in Enterprise Data Virtualization.
  • Entrust Datacard acquires cloud cryptographic service provider, Trustis Limited.
  • Finastra finishes testing to provide connectivity to the European instant payments infrastructure.
  • The Silicon Review features IDology in its list of the 50 fastest growing tech companies in 2017.
  • Credit Strategy reviews how Intelligent Environments won the Best Collections Technology Award.
  • savedroid initiates the first German ICO to drive broader blockchain inclusion.
  • Voleo enables cryptocurrency trading on its SimuTrader App.

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.

Plug and Play Plans New Middle East Innovation Platform in Partnership with Abu Dhabi Global Market

The agreement by Silicon Valley accelerator Plug and Play and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) is the latest sign that the hot MENA fintech sector is about to get a lot warmer. The new partnership calls for Plug and Play to open a new office in Abu Dhabi and bring some of its top fintech startups along to work with local FIs.

“We have already talked to close to 100 portfolio companies that we have investments in, (who) would like to come to the Middle East, implement their technologies with different banks, as well as perhaps raise money here and have a technical team here,” Plug and Play chief executive Saeed Amidi told The National late last month when the project was announced. The Abu Dhabi-based accelerator will be part of the new ADGM FinTech Innovation Centre – slated to open in 2018 – which will house ADGM’s RegLab fintech sandbox program.

“We are planning to bring to this fintech innovation platform 10 to 20 startups per year,” Amidi added, “say 10 in each batch; generally we (would) invest in half of those startups.” Accelerator programs would run for three months with the first cohort coming onboard in the third quarter of 2018.

A frequent Finovate event sponsor, Plug and Play has made the globalization of Silicon Valley one of its top goals in recent years. The accelerator has expanded from six satellite offices to 24 since 2015, and refers to their upcoming Abu Dhabi branch as “the latest addition to our global family.” In addition to helping connect local FIs with fintech startups and international banks, Plug and Play is hoping the initiative in Abu Dhabi will “generate POCs, commercial agreements, and investment opportunities” for startups and FIs.

“Through ADGM’s regional sphere of influence, we are able to empower startups and entrepreneurs to gain access to top-tier regulatory mentorship, whereby they can gain more ‘push-power’ in working with financial enterprises in the private sector,” explained Director of Plug and Play EMEA Omeed Mehrinfar.

Founded in 2006, the Sunnyvale, California-based innovation platform has invested and accelerated some of the most familiar names in technology such as Dropbox, SoundHound, and Zoosk, as well as Finovate alums like PayPal, Credit Sesame, and Lending Club. The firm has more than 6,000 startups and 180 official corporate partners, and provides active investments with 200 leading Silicon Valley VC. More than $6 billion has been invested in Plug and Play portfolio companies.

RightCapital Announces Integration with Envestnet | Tamarac

Thanks to a new partnership between RightCapital and Envestnet | Tamarac, financial advisors on RightCapital’s platform will be able to use Tamarac’s API to directly access account and holdings information from their clients, enabling real-time financial and tax planning advisory.

“We are very excited about our integration with Tamarac, an industry leading performance reporting and portfolio management system,” RightCapital CEO and co-founder Shuang Chen said. “We’re pleased that this integration will allow advisors to seamlessly connect our two platforms and get the most up-to-date information they need to create comprehensive financial plans for their clients.”

RightCapital’s technology leverages advanced Monte Carlo simulations to enable financial advisors to build personalized retirement plans, optimize Social Security, as well as manage tax liability, budgets, and debt retirement. The solution provides both cash flow and goal based planning, stress testing, and exploration of what-if financial events. RightCapital also helps advisors and clients manage their annuity products, and see how the value of these investments would be affected by changes in market volatility.

(left to right) Song Chen (CTO) and Shuang Chen (CEO) demonstrating the RightCapital platform at FinovateFall 2016.

“Financial advisors have delivered holistic financial planning in the past, but mostly for their high net worth clients,” RightCapital CEO Shuang Chen explained from the Finovate stage last fall. “Not so much for the mass affluent client.” Chen cited complexity, cost, and the time-consuming nature of the financial planning process as the main challenges, and pointed to RightCapital’s approach of digitization and simplification as the solution.

“Our vision at RightCapital is to create a cutting-edge technology that digitizes and streamlines the financial planning process, making it easy for a financial advisors to create a financial plan and intuitive for a client to understand their plan,” he said. “This enables financial advisors to profitably and efficiently create financial plans and serve their mass affluent clients.”

RightCapital was founded in 2015 and is headquartered in New York City. The company demonstrated financial and tax planning solution for financial advisors at FinovateFall 2016. The company has enjoyed a very busy 2017. RightCapital began the year announcing partnerships with Garrett Planning Network, Parsonex Advisory Services, and Wells Fargo clearing service, First Clearing. Integrations with Albridge, Interactive Brokers, and XY Planning Network followed in the spring. RightCapital has raised $2.6 million in total funding, including a seed round of $1.6 million raised in June.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • RightCapital Announces Integration with Envestnet | Tamarac.
  • Plug and Play Plans New Middle East Innovation Platform in Partnership with Abu Dhabi Global Market.

Around the web

  • FIS introduces FIS Code Connect to facilitate access to its APIs.
  • Ixaris launches its Open Payments Cloud initiative.
  • Auto Finance News interviews AutoGravity EVP of Business Development, Stuart Holmes.

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.

Ephesoft Unveils Transact Mobile SDK 4.0, Leveraging Deep Learning to Create Clearer Images

Document capture and analytics solution developer Ephesoft released version 4.0 of its Transact Mobile SDK this week. The latest version of the technology takes advantage of innovations in everything from deep learning to mobile architecture to give consumers more accuracy and flexibility when it comes to document capture with their mobile devices.

Ike Kavas, Ephesoft CTO, highlighted the way the enhancements paved the way for better, easier-to-read images. “For example, deep learning is employed in our live-edge detection functionality that has historically been a challenge for identifying document boundaries on mobile devices,” Kavas explained. “This new approach captures clearer images.” Deep learning provides a better solution than typical bitonal image recognition because deep learning has predictive capabilities. The system is able to predict edges, for example, which along with the ability to extract text and numbers, makes it ideal for credit card recognition.

(left to right): Alastair Allars (Success Engineer) and Ike Kavas (CTO) demonstrating Ephesoft Transact Cloud Service at FinovateAsia 2017 in Hong Kong.

Ephesoft’s Transact Mobile SDK 4.0 also includes image auto-capture and auto-alignment, making images scanned by mobile devices comparable to those created by topline scanners. Online and offline batch processing enables users to do character recognition, document classification, and data extraction when offline. Version 4.0 also features security enhancements such as a private directory for storing images temporarily when using mobile devices (the directory is erased when the application is closed). The solution uses ARM 64-bit architecture to improve memory capacity for more powerful processing, and also includes image enhancement tools, simple barcode interpretation, and on-device OCR.

Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Laguna Hills, California, Ephesoft demonstrated its Ephesoft Transact Cloud Service at FinovateAsia 2017 earlier this month. The company has raised $15 million in funding, completing a Series A round led by Mercato Partners in August. Also in August, Ephesoft announced that New Zealand’s Motor Trade Finance (MTF) would use Ephesoft’s Transact platform. An Inc. 500 company with customers in more than 30 countries. Ephesoft released its analytics and business intelligence platform, Insight 3.1, in October. Don Field is CEO.

Concur Launches e-Fapiao Solution for China’s WeChat Platform

Business expense management specialist Concur has introduced a new receipt solution, integrated with China’s WeChat platform, that makes it easier for businesses and their employees working in China to track expenses and remain compliant. The technology, Concur e-Fapiao, gives employers real-time access to an employee’s receipt, Concur Greater China MD Boonthai Hoh explained, which streamlines the process, improves accuracy and eliminates the need for paper documentation.

John Gibbon, SVP of Platform for Concur highlighted the digitization of China’s fapiao system of tracking business transactions. “As a global leader in travel and expense, Concur is committed to promoting the development of electronic receipt solutions around the world,” Gibbon said. The integration of Concur e-Fapiao and WeChat, he added provided a “localized” solution that was “tailor made for the China market.”

The integration was provided by Concur China platform partner, Pactera, and enables users to transfer fapiao information from WeChat Wallets into Concur WeChat Official Account, which automatically feeds into Concur’s Expense platform.

China’s fapiao invoice system is a critical part of China’s tax law infrastructure. Both individuals and businesses operating in China are required to use fapiao; individuals for reimbursement of business expenses, and businesses for the regular recording of their commercial transactions. In 2013, Chinese B2C e-commerce giant Jingdong began emailing e-fapiao to customers as part of a trial program. Since then the use of e-fapiao has spread throughout e-commerce in China, and solutions like Concur e-Fapiao will “expand the usage of e-Fapiao, which will provide users with a more efficient and hassle-free expense experience,” according to WeChat General Manager of Industry Cooperation Department John Zhuo

Founded in 1993 and headquartered in Redmond, Washington, Concur demonstrated its SmartExpense receipt management solution at FinovateSpring 2012. This summer, Concur announced the availability of Concur Locate and Active Monitoring which makes it easier for companies to reach employees during emergencies or times of crisis. Also in July, Concur announced that users would have the ability to see and book Airbnb listing within Concur Travel. The company was acquired by SAP in 2014 in a $8.3 million deal.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Concur Launches e-Fapiao Solution for China’s WeChat Platform.
  • Ephesoft Unveils Transact Mobile SDK 4.0, Leveraging Deep Learning to Create Clearer Images.

Around the web

  • Axis Bank leverages technology from Ripple to launch instant international payment service.
  • Temenos announces pair of new providers to its Marketplace: Callsign and Limitless.
  • NICE Adaptive Workforce Engagement (WFO) wins Frost & Sullivan award.
  • Infosys Finacle unveils blockchain-based trade finance solution for FIs: Finacle Trade Connect.
  • Privakey picks up patent for innovations in universal, password-free authentication.

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.

AlphaPoint Names New CEO, Plans for New Public Blockchain Network

Blockchain innovator AlphaPoint has announced plans to build a new public blockchain network that will enable users to digitize real-world assets and monetize them across new markets.  The network, dubbed the AlphaPoint Public Network (APN), will be the first public blockchain built based on Intel SGX technology. AlphaPoint will fund the project via a pre-functional token sale to accredited investors in early 2018.

AlphaPoint’s goal with the APN is to create a “confidential, high-performance public blockchain” that supports tokenization of real-world assets. The company differentiates its planned solution in three ways: (1) the ability to provide hardware-enforced confidentiality of asset data and smart contracts, (2) the ability to migrate tokenized assets across supported public and private blockchains, and (3) the use of JavaScript and TypeScript to simplify blockchain development.

The news marks the second time in as many months that AlphaPoint has put Intel’s Software Guard Extensions technology in the headlines. In October, AlphaPoint launched its trusted virtual machine, AlphaPoint TrustedVM, which is enabled by Intel SGX technology. “Our collaboration with AlphaPoint aims to deliver enterprise-ready blockchain solutions to the financial services community,” Intel’s Rick Echevarria said. “AlphaPoint is expanding blockchain use cases to include illiquid assets, art, collectibles, and real estate, and use of Intel SGX will help increase the security and privacy of those transactions.”

AlphaPoint also named a new Chief Executive Officer, Salil Donde. Donde previously served as EVP of Global Information Services at Nasdaq, where he was instrumental in launching numerous machine learning-based products, data products, indexes, and sponsored exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Donde was CEO and board member of Lewtan Technologies before moving to the Nasdaq in 2015. Previous to his tenure at Lewtan, he was CEO and board member of proptech firm Marshall & Swift/Boeckh (now a part of CoreLogic).

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in New York City, AlphaPoint demonstrated its AlphaPoint Distributed Ledger Platform (ADLP) at FinovateFall 2017. Last month Capital Trust Group and W Ventures (Hong Kong) choose AlphaPoint to provide the blockchain financial technology infrastructure for Trust City, a world exhibition and fintech hub in Thailand that is scheduled to be finished in 2020. In May, AlphaPoint unveiled its solution for initial coin offerings (ICOs), and in March, the company completed a blockchain trial with Scotiabank.

FI.SPAN Enables Banks to Maximize the Opportunity of Open Banking


Helping banks and other financial institutions manage the myriad third party fintech solutions available to them will only become more necessary as the open banking revolution takes hold. And that’s where companies like FI.SPAN come in. The firm, which made its Finovate debut earlier this year at FinovateFall, provides a cloud-based, API services management platform for FIs that allows them to rapidly deploy a wide variety of business banking solutions to their corporate customers.

Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, FI.SPAN lowers the time and cost to innovation for banks, as well as increases transactional revenues. The solution helps banks open up a new business banking channel via accounting and ERP apps which, in the words of FI.SPAN CEO Lisa Shields, “embed(s) your brand and your products into your client’s daily workflow.” FI.SPAN also enables banks to leverage any third-party fintech “under your brand and under your control and with no IT projects required.”

FI.SPAN co-founder and CEO Lisa Shields demonstrating her company’s cloud-based bank API services management platform at FinovateFall 2017.

A full, API banking system in its own right, FI.SPAN gives banks the ability to automatically control and specify which products and services are delivered and which channel is used. The company curates and pre-integrates third party apps technologies that FIs can use alone or in combination with their own solutions, and provides pre-built connectivity to major mid-market and enterprise ERP platforms. FI.SPAN currently has plug-ins for QuickBooks, NetSuite, SAP, and has many more under development.

“We believe banks can extend their brand into their customer sites,” Shields said. “(Banks) can as easily leverage fintechs as be leveraged by them, and have an opportunity to exchange rich data with their customers and become the trusted custodians of that data.”

Company facts

  • Founded in 2016
  • Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • Has 15 employees

Recent headlines for FI.SPAN include earning recognition as a CIX Top 20 company, and being chosen to participate in the start-up pitch contest sponsored by the Canada FinTech Forum – both in October.

We met Lisa Shields (pictured) and company Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder Clayton Weir at FinovateFall 2017. We followed up with a few questions by email. Below are our questions and Ms. Shields’ responses.

Finovate: What problem does your technology solve?

Lisa Shields: FI.SPAN is reimagining the business banking experience. We provide banks the ability to deliver any service directly to its business customers via accounting and ERP applications.   

Finovate: Who are your primary customers?

Shields: FI.SPAN’s primary customers are regional and middle-market banks. These banks have outdated online banking interfaces and are struggling to provide the value-added services that their business customers are demanding. While fintech startups are well positioned to create compelling payment, lending, and analytic user experiences, banks are best positioned to deliver them. FI.SPAN enables banks to leverage any fintech service and deliver all of its services through the customer’s preferred application environment.

Finovate: How does FI.SPAN solve the problem better?

Shields: FI.SPAN powers true collaboration between banks and fintech companies. It’s an API marketplace for banks to select and offer the solutions their customers have come to expect, without requiring any IT projects since FI.SPAN pre-integrates all fintech components. Also, our platform centralizes all aspects of third-party service management, including transaction monitoring, limits and risk policy adherence and exception handling. 

A look at the FI.SPAN dashboard which features pre-integrated, best of breed fintechs for services such as lending and analytics.

Finovate: What in your background gave you the confidence to tackle this challenge?

Shields: Prior to starting FI.SPAN, I founded and built a global payouts company over 15 years. That experience provided me with an appreciation of what operating a regulated business entails and what treasurers and CFOs are looking for from their transactional services providers. As a veteran of the fintech industry, I was able to identify the opportunity emerging between fintech companies and banks. I also saw the hurdles banks were facing when it came to providing their customers with the services they needed, and I knew that FI.SPAN could be the solution.

Finovate: What are some upcoming initiatives from FI.SPAN that we can look forward to over the next few months?

Shields: We have gone live with our first customer this fall and are working on some very exciting bank pilots with both large and small financial institutions across the continent. Our product capability and partner catalog are both rapidly growing, and you will start to see announcements of multiple new product lines including lending, onboarding and accounts receivable.  

Finovate: Where do you see FI.SPAN a year or two from now?

Shields: Selling to banks has a long sales cycle, and we expect to reap the rewards of seeds we have been sowing with our bank partners over the last year. I expect that FI.SPAN will become a very important part of the banking API ecosystem as it continues to become more robust over time. 


CEO Lisa Shields and CSO Clayton Weir demonstrating FI.SPAN at FinovateFall 2017.