solarisBank Raises $67 Million; More MENA Fintech; What’s Next for Wirecard

Berlin, Germany-based “tech company with a banking license” solarisBank has secured $67 million in funding (€60 million). The Series C round was led by HV Holtzbrinck Ventures and Storm Ventures, and featured participation from a wide number of investors including BBVA, ABN Amro, SBI Group, Global Brain, Hegus, and Lakestar. Also participating in the oversubscribed round were Vulcan Capital and Samsung Catalyst Fund.

The investment takes the company’s total funding to more than $180 million (€160 million), and will be used to help fuel Solarisbank’s continued expansion throughout Europe. Since 2017, the company has doubled its revenues every year, and grown its product portfolio to include solutions like decoupled debit cards and post-purchase installment products. With more than 400,000 end-customer accounts as of the end of the first half of 2020, the company also announced that it will expand its operations in the cryptocurrency space via its subsidiary solaris Digital Assets.

“solarisBank is continuing its impressive growth and the current financing round will help us to expedite building a pan-European platform,” solarisBank CEO Dr. Roland Folz said in a statement. He added, “We are the leading platform for Banking-as-a-Service in Europe and are excited that this exceptional group of new investors will now be a part of our journey.”


More on MENA Fintech

Last week we reported on a study that highlighted the fintech innovations that were most likely to drive financial inclusion in the MENA region. This week we note another report on fintech in the Middle East and Northern Africa, this time from Deloitte, which noted a growing appetite for fintech solutions from the region’s banking customers.

At the same time, Deloitte Digital’s Middle East FinTech Study, released in June, cautioned that further fintech development in the region faces challenges with regard to financing, and a wariness from traditional banks toward engaging fintechs. The latter issue in particular reflects what the report authors – Rushdi Duqah and Anthony Yazitzis – call “a certain degree of contradiction and dichotomy.”

“Customer behavior across the Middle East, especially in KSA, is characterized by a willingness to adopt innovative solutions offered by banks,” Duqah and Yazitzis observed. The two highlighted P2P money transfers, account aggregation, and roboadvisory as three such areas. “However, banks are not leveraging the full suite of FinTech solutions/features to address customer’s needs and requirements to enhance the daily banking journey and experience,” they wrote.

Read the full report to see how “harmonization and trust” are the path forward for financial services companies, fintechs, and banks in the Middle East and Northern Africa.


What’s Next for Wirecard?

We reported on the crisis facing Germany’s Wirecard two weeks ago in Finovate Global. Company CEO Markus Braun stepped down amid reports that Wirecard could not account for $2.1 billion in cash, and concerns that the company was “the victim of fraud of considerable proportions.”

This week we learned that Braun has been arrested – though since released on bail – and that Deutsche Bank has engaged with the now-bankrupt company and is considering providing financial support. A report in Bloomberg noted that Deutsche Bank had conducted talks with Wirecard last spring (referred to as “preliminary discussions” that were quickly concluded) and that, despite its woes, Wirecard could be a potentially attractive acquisition target thanks to its partnerships with Visa, Mastercard, and JCB International.


Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Billed as “the grand fintech consolidation,” TechCabal takes a look at MFS Africa’s purchase of SME digital payments provider Beyonic.
  • Nigerian fintech Wallets Africa locks in new funding from investors including Y Combinator CEO Michael Seibel.
  • The East African makes the case for Kenya as a top destination for venture capital in Africa.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Top banking-as-a-service platform solarisBank raises $67 million (€ 60 million) in Series C funding.
  • Electronic payment network Paysera expands to Kosovo.
  • Azerbaijan’s Xalq Bank launches Compass Plus’ open development platform, TranzAxis.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Digital property management and rent collection platform Ajar earns UAE’s Most Trusted Fintech in 2020 honors from APAC Business Headlines.
  • UAE’s central bank and the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) announce the start of their annual Fintech Abu Dhabi Innovation Challenge for fintechs developing solutions for local small businesses.
  • Dubai’s Mamo Pay earns spot in Visa’s Finech Fast Track Program.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Transfast, a U.S.-based cross-border payments company, partners with Pakistan’s Habib Bank to enable money transfers to Pakistan.
  • Bangalore, India-based fintech Zeta announces expansion into Vietnam and the Philippines.
  • Indian gold lending startup, Rupeek, unveils zero contact gold loan kiosks to support touchless financing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Mexican fintech ePesos announces $21 million debt financing round with Accial Capital.
  • BizCapital, a lending startup based in Brazil, raises $12 million in funding thanks to an investment from Germany development finance institution, DEG.
  • Credit Suisse buys 35% of Brazilian digital bank modalmais.

Asia-Pacific

  • Myanmar Citizens Bank (MCB Bank) issues MPU-JCB co-branded debit cards.
  • Razer’s fintech arm, Razer Fintech launches new initiative to support local businesses in Malaysia during the global health care crisis of COVID-19.
  • KrASIA profiles Indonesian fintech Akulaku, which offers online credit, wealth management, and digital banking services in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

Oh Canada! A Tribute to the Top Fintechs from the Great White North

Today is Canada Day, which commemorates the date in 1867 when three provinces – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canada Province (now known as Ontario and Quebec) – united to form a single nation. And while the global public health crisis may limit the holiday’s typical parades, cook-outs, fireworks demonstrations, and concerts, rest assured that Canadians all over the world will find a way to celebrate what is colloquially – if a bit inaccurately – referred to as “Canada’s birthday.”

With this in mind, the Finovate blog sends a hearty “Happy Canada Day!” to the dozens of Canadian fintechs that have demonstrated their innovative solutions at our conferences over the past decade-plus.


Photo by Andre Furtado from Pexels

Mambu and CredoLab Drive Digital Lending for GoBear’s Expansion to Philippines

A pair of Finovate alums have joined forces to help a leading financial platform in Asia launch a lending solution as part of its planned expansion in the region.

German cloud banking platform provider Mambu and alternative credit score provider CredoLab have announced a partnership with GoBear, a financial services platform based in Singapore. The company, founded in 2015 as a metasearch engine and now operating as a financial services platform that has served more than 55 million consumers, plans to expand into the Philippines later this year. Technology from Mambu will power the core system in GoBear’s lending architecture, with CredoLab’s credit scoring helping ensure the company is able to bring financing to those communities that need it most – and often struggle to secure it.

“Having access to responsible credit should be a financial right for all,” GoBear Chief Lending Officer Mike Singh said. “Tapping into fintech solutions like Mambu’s and CredoLab’s brings us one step closer to making this a reality for the region’s 296 million unbanked or underbanked.”

The tripartite partnership was the result of a pair of relationships; Mambu and CredoLab have been long-time partners, while CredoLab and GoBear collaborated as recently as November 2018, when the two companies worked together on a credit solution for the underbanked.

“In less than five years of operation, GoBear has built a stellar reputation as a leading financial services platform and we envisage great things for the company as it continues to build its lending business,” Mambu Managing Director for APAC Myles Bertrand said. He pointed out that the company’s technology would enable GoBear to readily add new products while maintaining a high level of customer service.

CredoLab CEO Peter Barcak pointed to his company’s SDK, API, and alternative credit score – which leverages metadata from smartphone usage – as powerful tools for companies like GoBear that are trying to serve a broader array of customers. “Our ability to generate a credit score for customers who cannot prove their creditworthiness in the conventional financial system makes us uniquely positioned to support GoBear as they diversify their business and move into lending in a controlled way.”

Finovate alums since 2013 and 2018 respectively, both Mambu and CredoLab made their Finovate debuts at FinovateAsia events. Mambu demonstrated its technology the year we held our Asian conference in Singapore. CredoLab unveiled its CredoScore the year we held FinovateAsia in Hong Kong.

Speaking of FinovateAsia, remember that our new, all-digital FinovateAsia conference begins next week. Check out our FinovateAsia hub for more details!


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Zopa Launches Digital Bank; The State of MENA Fintech


U.K.-based peer-to-peer lender Zopa announced this week that it has been awarded a full U.K. banking license and will move forward with its plans to launch a digital bank.

The bank will offer the Zopa Fixed Term Savings Account, which features FSCS protection up to £85,000. Zopa plans to introduce a credit card later this year.

“Now more than ever the banking industry needs innovative, agile providers who work on behalf of customers,” Zopa CEO Jaidev Janardana said. “At a time when people want great value, fair financial services products, and simple, intuitive digital experience(s), Zopa offers consumers a compelling and credible alternative they can trust.”

Founded in 2005, and one of Finovate’s earliest alums, Zopa raised $182 million last December in preparation for bank launch announced this week. The company has secured a total of more than $464 million in funding since inception.


Village Capital is out with its State of Financial Health Startups report which looks at the areas of innovation with the “greatest potential to improve the wellbeing and inclusion of marginalized communities in MENA.”

The State of Financial Health Startups in MENA acknowledges the attention paid to areas of fintech such as digital payments and e-commerce. At the same time, the goal of the report is to focus on those ways that fintech can solve specific problems in the region, specifically the challenge of inequality.

The report highlighted six fields of fintech innovation that are mostly likely to meet this challenge, as well as 12 startups that are active in these areas. The fields were:

  • saving and wealth-building technology
  • employment tech
  • digital ID
  • financial literacy services
  • access to capital
  • alternative lending

The twelve featured startups were:

  • Rumman (Palestine)
  • SmartCrowd (UAE)
  • Kader (Jordan)
  • Khtwteen (Egypt)
  • Hawiyati (Jordan)
  • Valify Solutions (Egypt)
  • Finllect (UAE)
  • Merakido (Egypt)
  • Fawaterak (Egypt)
  • Fundbot (Lebanon)
  • Ciwa (Morocco)
  • Solfeh (Jordan)

The Catalyst Fund, supported by BFA Global, UK aid, JP Morgan Chase and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, has announced its latest fintech cohort.

The Fund has accelerated 31 portfolio companies that have raised collectively more than $64 million in follow-on fundraising since inception. The Fund awards each of its portfolio companies $100,000 in grant capital, as well as venture-building support for six months, and one-on-one networking with investors and corporate leaders to help them scale their businesses. Of the companies making the cut were a number of fintechs including:

  • FlexFinance (Nigeria)
  • Paymenow (South Africa)
  • Mango Life (Mexico)
  • Graviti (Mexico)
  • KarmaLife (India)

“We believe we are facing a catalytic moment during which there is an opportunity to use technology to help low-income consumers and small businesses recover from the impact of COVID-19 and build greater financial resilience for the future,” Catalyst fund director Maelis Carraro said.


Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Asia-Pacific

  • Malaysian recurring payments platform Curlec announces funding from 500 Startups.
  • Thai cashless solution provider for businesses SYNQA raises $80 million in Series C investment.
  • TechWireAsia looks at the impact of COVID-19 on Indonesia’s emerging fintech industry.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Nigerian fintech KiaKia goes live with its app that enables users to invest in the funding of secured personal and business loans.
  • Centbee, a fintech based in South Africa, adds the ability to purchase prepaid electricity, airtime, and data via a new feature on its BitcoinSF wallet.
  • GhanaWeb features Ghanaian cross-border, money transfer company FXKudi.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Edenred, a French prepaid corporate services provider, launches Apple Pay mobile payments for digital meal vouchers in Romania.
  • Lithuania-based identity verification firm iDenfy partners with U.K. online banking platform Cashaa to help cryptocurrency investors in India avoid fraud.
  • Austria gains a new insurtech competitor as Hong Kong-based bolttech partners with local telcom Drei to bring the first non-insurance switch program to the country.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Egypt-based fintech MoneyFellows raises $4 million in Series A funding.
  • Global tech ecosystem, Hub71, teams up with Mashreq Bank and First Abu Dhabi Bank to help startups open bank accounts in the UAE.
  • Commercial Bank of Dubai and cross-border payment provider Thunes announce partnership, enhancing CBD’s ability to operate in countries such as India, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Central and Southern Asia

  • India-Based Slice raises $6 million for digital payments.
  • BharatPe, a QR code-based, merchant payments company based in India, enters the point of sale business with the launch of its Bharat Swipe PoS solution.
  • Alphabet’s growth equity arm, CapitalG, invests $28 million in India-based SME lender Aye Finance.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • BBVA announces that its mobile banking platform GloMo will support Apple Watch users in Uruguay.
  • Mexican bank Banorte and on-demand delivery firm Rappi partner to launch a financial services company in Mexico.
  • Central Bank of Brazil suspends WhatsApp payments in the country, citing competitiveness concerns.

Fear of Fraud Surrounds Wirecard’s Missing $2 Billion

To speake of the woe that has befallen Wirecard …

The international fintech community received an unexpected jolt on Friday on news that the CEO of Wirecard, Markus Braun, was stepping down. Braun’s resignation comes amid reports that the German digital financial platform he has led since 2002 cannot account for $2.1 billion in cash, and a delay in the release of its 2019 financial report. Reuters reported that the company admits it could be have been “the victim of fraud of considerable proportions.”

Up until recently Wirecard appeared poised for success as a leading European payment processor for both consumers and businesses. The company reported revenues of $2.2 billion in 2018 and, by the fall of that year, had reached a valuation of $26.9 billion.

But suspicious of the company deepened early last year. A Financial Times report in January alleging suspicious financial activity in Singapore, and the announcement of an official investigation by Singapore authorities a month later, tarnished Wirecard’s image despite the company’s denials. This was followed by claims of further questionable financial activity – this time in Ireland – in October.

In this week’s news, auditors at EY, formerly known as Ernst & Young, were not able to locate cash at two Asian banks – Bank of the Philippine Islands and BDO Unibank – where Wirecard said $2 billion had been deposited. Both banks have denied having a business relationship with Wirecard. Moreover, documents indicating that such a relationship did exist, according to BDO, were falsified and bore forged signatures.

In a statement, Wirecard announced that James Freis, who was recently appointed to the company’s management board, will serve as interim CEO. the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority, known as BaFin, is investigating.


Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Brazil-based SME lender BizCapital raises $12 million in Series B funding to support development of new products.
  • Banco Sabadell partners with IBM to enhances its digital banking operations in Mexico.
  • Banco Safra, based in Brazil, to deploy ACI Worldwide’s UP Retail Payments solution and UP Framework.

Asia-Pacific

  • Vietnam Plus reports surge in contactless payments in Vietnam.
  • Crowdfund Insider investigates the rise of Sharia fintech in Indonesia.
  • Malaysian fintech Curlec, which helps businesses manage recurring payments and cash flow, secures investment from 500 Startups.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • South African open banking startup – and FinovateAfrica alum – truID announces seed funding.
  • Nigeria’s Chipper Cash secures $13.8 million in Series A funding.
  • WapiPay, a fintech based in Kenya and Singapore that provides platform-to-platform integration for virtual and global accounts, raises seed funding via accelerator network FutureHub.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Estonia’s Planet42 announces $2.4 million seed round led by Change Ventures. The company helps facilitate automobile access for the underbanked in South Africa.
  • Russia’s Tinkoff teams up with online marketplace goods.ru.
  • Boku acquires Estonia-based mobile payments company Fortumo in deal valued at $45 million.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • UAE-based Buy Now Pay Later e-commerce company Postpay introduces a trio of new installment payment options.
  • The Fintech Times takes a look at the state of the fintech and financial services industry in Lebanon.
  • Tpay Mobile, based in Dubai, acquires Turkish payments company Payguru.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Cryptocurrency exchange Binance joins the Indian Tech Association.
  • Kaspi, an e-commerce banking app based in Kazakhstan, to expand to Azerbaijan and other neighboring countries.
  • India Infoline launches #IIFLDisrupt, an initiative to help early-stage Indian fintechs during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • India-based Buy Now Pay Later company Tabby raises $7 million in funding to support expansion into Saudi Arabia.

Photo by Alisha Lubben from Pexels

BankBazaar Scores $6 Million; PayPal Makes Strategic Investment in Tink

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

Courtesy of a round featuring new investor WSV – a joint venture fund of Walden International and Korean firm SKTA – online financing solutions marketplace BankBazaar has raised $6 million in new equity funding. The company will use the capital, which adds to an existing Series D round, to help market its contactless personal finance solutions as it continues its expansion in India.

In a blog post at the company’s website, company CEO Adhil Shetty noted that the current global public health crisis is fueling pre-existing trends in favor of contactless transactions. “In the post COVID-19 world, the demand for contactless finance is going to grow exponentially,” Shetty said. “(T)his round of funding will help us accelerate our plans to implement contactless access to credit.” He added that the investment, which also featured participation from the company’s existing investors Amazon, Sequoia India, Experian, and Eight Roads, represents an endorsement of the company’s “vision of contactless finance as the future of personal finance” as well as BankBazaar’s ability to make that happen.

An alum of FinovateAsia (learn about our upcoming all digital FinovateAsia event next month), BankBazaar offers an unbiased online marketplace for instant, customized rate quotes on a variety of credit products from loans to credit cards. The company, called “the Credit Karma of India” by WSV General Partner Andrew Kau, is headquartered in Chennai, India, and was founded in 2008.


Also adding new capital to its coffers is Tink, the open banking enablement platform based in Stockholm, Sweden. The company, most recently demoing its technology on our stage at FinovateEurope last year, announced this week that it has received a strategic investment from PayPal. This week’s funding, amount not disclosed, represents the second time PayPal has invested in the company; PayPal made its first strategic investment in Tink in June 2019.

As part of the agreement, PayPal will integrate Tink’s open banking and account aggregation technology into some of its customer-facing user experiences. The extended agreement between the two companies now includes all countries within the European Economic Area (EEA).

“PayPal is one of the world’s leading finech companies, serving more than 330 million consumers and merchants in more than 200 markets worldwide,” Tink co-founder and CEO Daniel Kjellén said. He added, “as Europe’s leading open banking platform, we are looking forward to continuing to support PayPal as they extend and enhance their services across the whole of Europe.”

It is an understatement to say that Tink has had a big year on the capital-raising front. The company began the year closing a $100 million round led by a pair of new investors Dawn Capital of London and HMI Capital of San Francisco. In addition to the company’s funding news, Tink partnered with Nordea to integrate its technology into the bank’s mobile app, acquired Spanish account aggregation specialist – and fellow Finovate alum – Eurobits Technologies, and teamed up with BNP Paribas to become the firm’s preferred partner in Europe.


Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Central and Southern Asia

  • DBS Bank India teams up with TCIL to facilitate real-time payments for truck drivers.
  • BankBazaar raises $6 million in new funding.
  • Hindustan Times profiles Hyderabad-based fintech Quickcredit.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Latin American open banking startup Belvo raises $10 million in new funding from Founders Fund and Kaszek Ventures.
  • On-demand insurance technology leader Trov partners with Seguros Sura Brazil to bring on-demand insurance to Brazil.
  • Santander InnoVentures leads $5 million funding round for Latin American alternative lender a55.

Asia-Pacific

  • A few weeks ago we wrote about the rise of QR-code payments in many markets around the world. This week brings news that Japan’s JCB has partnered with FIS to power its cross-border QR code payments, initially between Vietnam and Thailand.
  • Aleta Planet and Zhongguo Remittance partner to launch new online money transfer service, Aleta China Express, to make it easier to send money from Singapore to China.
  • Gojek, an Indonesian ride hailing service turned payments and financial services superapp, earns investment from Facebook and PayPal.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Nigerian digital bank Sparkle launched this week after securing its license from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
  • Forbes profiles Fara Ashiru Jituboh, co-founder, CEO, and CTO of Nigeria-based financial services “super-connector” Okra.
  • 6DOT60 introduces its digital rands platform in South Africa.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Cloud banking platform Mambu partners with low-code platform provider VeriTran.
  • Sovcombank of Russia unveils online mortgage loans.
  • Alior Bank looks for for mobile-banking focused startups to fill the ranks of this year’s ten-week accelerator program.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • MoneyGram announces strategic partnership with Al Rajhi Bank, the largest Islamic bank in the world, to support money transfer services in Saudi Arabia.
  • Dubai-based fintech JinglePay goes live as the latest neobank in the UAE.
  • OneSpan to provide mobile app security for Turkish bank, DenizBank.

Smart Messaging and the Rise of Fintech in India: A Conversation with Gupshup’s Beerud Sheth

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This week on Finovate Global we feature an interview with Beerud Sheth, co-founder and CEO of smart messaging platform, Gupshup. We talked with Mr. Sheth about the smart messaging business and its relationship to driving payments in India. We also discussed the current state of Indian fintech more broadly, including an update on Prime Minister Modi’s goal to improve financial services through a combination of better payments technology and new digital identity solutions.


Finovate: Tell us about Gupshup and the role of smart messaging in enabling payments in India.

Beerud Sheth: Gupshup is a smart messaging platform. We use messaging as a platform to make it easier to use other services such as e-commerce, payments, and more. Messaging enables one-click payments, which makes it easier for consumers to keep up with their busy financial lives. For example, they can pay bills instantly without missing deadlines, manage recurring payments, make a digital payment to an offline merchant, or pay friends quickly and easily.

Finovate: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. Why did you decide to launch the company?

Sheth: My name is Beerud Sheth – co-founder and CEO of messaging and AI-building company Gupshup, based in Silicon Valley. We are primarily focused on automating enterprises’ messaging processes across multiple channels using a single API. I am responsible for the overall strategy, execution, and growth of Gupshup.

I also founded Elance, the world’s largest online services marketplace, and also have played various leadership roles at different stages of the company’s growth.

Before founding Elance, I worked in the financial services industry, modeling, structuring, and trading fixed income securities and derivatives at Merrill Lynch and, before that, at Citicorp Securities. My graduate research, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, involved developing autonomous learning software agents for personalized news filtering.

I earned an M.S. in computer science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.Tech in Computer Science from IIT Bombay, where I was awarded the Institute Silver Medal. I am a frequent speaker at industry events as well as a holder of two technology patents.

Finovate: You recently won a $100,000 Grand Challenge competition sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Can you tell us about this contest? Why did you get involved in this event and how do you think it will help promote your technology and solution?

Sheth: The Gates Foundation in partnership with National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) sponsored a competition to discover new ideas to enable payments for the next billion users – who use low-end feature-phone devices. It attracted over 750 participant companies from around the world. They announced a couple of weeks ago that Gupshup won the 1st prize. Our key insight was that for payments to work well, the primary focus has to be on the user experience. If users have to remember and type in numerous digits, it will never work for users that may not be tech-savvy or have low-end devices.

Gupshup used its expertise in messaging to enable a one-click payment experience. The message contains the entire context about the payment, freeing up the user to do nothing else except authorizing the payment. Gupshup is now working with enterprises and device manufacturers to roll this out to consumers.

Finovate: Your winning entry was a solution called the Smart Feature Phone. What does the phone do and who is the primary market for it?

Sheth: The Smart Feature Phone brings smartphone like capabilities to the feature phone. The target users are the next billion feature-phone users in emerging markets that are left out of the digital ecosystem.

The key feature is the use of messaging to enable chatbots and payments on the feature phone. Chatbots and the Bot Store have the same impact on feature phones as Apps and App Stores did on smartphones. It opens up a wide range of use cases including commerce, gaming, entertainment, sports, etc. Payments enable the monetization of these activities.

Finovate: Can you tell us a little about your partnership with Amazon?

Sheth: Gupshup partnered with Amazon Registry Services to enable customers to validate their bots and register a domain name with Amazon’s BOT Registry.

Without getting too technical, this means users who own, operate, or manage bots published using Gupshup’s tool will be able to be found by end-users no matter what platform or framework they use now or in the future, something previously unavailable for bot owners.

Finovate: You’ve also leveraged your technology to help during the global coronavirus public health crisis. Can you tell us a little about the “COVID bot” you’ve created?

Sheth: CareMe Health, a Chennai-based tele-health company, the National Health Mission of Tamil Nadu and American company Gupshup, worked together in implementing a multi-language WhatsApp-based chatbot readily accessible by millions of citizens in Tamil Nadu and the world over.

The bot, named Careme Bot, is designed to:

  • Educate the users on the health hazards of COVID-19
  • Provide emergency helplines and information on testing centers
  • Facilitate self-reporting
  • Provide up-to-the-minute updates on the COVID pandemic

The creators of Careme Bot are Dr. Arun Babu and Dr. Vasanth Kattalai Kailasam- Chief Medical Officer, Interventional Pain Physician at Northern Light Health, Maine, USAGK, CTO of the company. Check out screenshots of the Careme Bot here.

Finovate: What do you find most interesting about the Indian fintech scene right now? What is it about the fintech scene in India that you think would surprise people outside of India?

Sheth: The scale of a billion-user market would surprise people outside India. India is leapfrogging its way to advanced fintech services since the consumer has been capital-starved for a long time. Indians tend to be conservative about debt which makes them generally creditworthy. However, the financial delivery systems have been lacking, which is now changing because of new technology and startups.

Finovate: You mentioned that one goal of your solution is to help realize the JAM initiative proposed by Indian Prime Minister Modi. Could you elaborate a little on this vision and why it is important?

Sheth: Prime Minister Modi’s vision is to transform India by making sure no citizen is left behind. Three initiatives, in particular, are critical enablers: Jan-dhan (a layer of free, basic financial and payment services for every citizen), Aadhar (unique, biometric-linked identity, like SSN + fingerprints, for every individual) and Mobile (delivery of government services through ubiquitous mobile phones).

The missing piece was the enablement of financial services on low-end feature phones. This problem has now been solved by the Gupshup solution.

Finovate: What can we expect from Gupshup over the balance of 2020 and into the next year?

Sheth: Gupshup is singularly focused on its vision of “smart messaging” i.e., leveraging the power of messaging tools to enable richer services. As people’s lives get increasingly busy and complex, messaging apps, with their ubiquity, simplicity, and richness, are uniquely positioned to be the glue that ties it all together. Gupshup will keep rolling out new components of this over-arching vision.

India Tops China in Fintech Investment in Q1 2020

China is dominating geopolitical headlines – from the country’s unique challenge with COVID-19 to tensions with Hong Kong and the United States as Chinese leaders gather for the country’s annual National People’s Congress.

But fintech observers would do well to consider developments in China’s neighbor to the southwest, India, whose fintech sector continues to challenge China’s in terms of investment.

In the first quarter of 2020, fintech investment in India again outpaced fintech investment in China. GlobalData, a data and analytics company, released an analysis this week that showed Q1 2020 fintech investment in China came in at “approximately $270 million” while, in India, fintech investment in the first quarter of this year topped $330 million. GlobalData analyst Ayushi Tandon noted that the global pandemic had played a role in dampening VC enthusiasm for fintech investment overall this year so far, and that India had benefitted on a relative basis from this easing of investor passions.

Deal volume showed the same preferences in the first quarter, with 26 deals closed in China in Q1 compared to 37 deals in India.

VC investment in the two countries differed in terms of startup maturity and sub-sector, as well. In China, there has been more investment in cross-sector fintech startups that were looking to scale. In India, payments and lending were the top sectors, and seed funding dominated the quarter’s investments. GlobalData’s report noted that fintechs involved in analytics were the biggest recipients of VC funding in both nations.

India’s fintech industry certainly had the wind in its sails coming into this year. According to research from Accenture, investment in Indian fintechs grew from $1.9 billion over 193 deals in 2018 to $3.7 billion over 198 deals in 2019. The country began to successfully compete with China in terms of fintech investment last year.

Founded in 2016 and headquartered in London, U.K., GlobalData was formed by a consortium of established data and analytics providers. Covering a wide range of industries – from banking and payments to insurance, aerospace, and technology – GlobalData serves financial institutions, government agencies, and corporations, providing thought leadership and analysis, as well as proprietary analytic frameworks to help them make data-driven decisions.


Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • NEC Payments and stc Bahrain, a telecommunications company based in Bahrain, partner to launch new virtual prepaid Mastercard offering.
  • JinglePay, neobank based in Dubai, announces plans for launch.
  • Emirates NBD collaborates with proptech startup Urban to offer financing program for property rentals in UAE.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Lendingkart, an online lender based in India, raised more than $42 million in Series D funding.
  • Indian SME accounting app Khatabook raises $60 million in Series C funding.
  • SadaPay, a fintech based in Pakistan, wins approval to launch a mobile wallet.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Brazil unveils new regulations enabling banks, payments institutions, and other licensed companies to share customer data.
  • Koibanx, a fintech based in Argentina, announces plans to expand to Mexico.
  • Colombian lender ADDI raises $15 million in round led by Quona Capital.

Asia-Pacific

  • Philippines-based mobile wallet GCash to support cashless payments system for taxi service in Manila.
  • Samsung Pay and Malaysia-based e-wallet Boost team up to support cashless payments in Malaysia.
  • Ant Financial invests $73.5 million in mobile financial services company Wave Money.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • South African business payments platform Peach Payments locks in growth funding with investment round led by UW Ventures.
  • Nigerian fintech Carbon goes live with new social banking service.
  • CompariSure, a fintech startup from South Africa, raises funding from UW Ventures.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Billon partners with Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) to pilot a DLT-based national currency.
  • EU Startups features CEE fintechs Crypterium, Humaniq, Revolut, and ANNA in its list of promising startups with Russian founders.
  • Financier Worldwide looks at AML and financial crime in Romania.

Top image designed by Freepik

China and Ghana Reflect Rise of QR Codes as Cash Alternative

QR code payments may not inherit the earth. But they may be one of the key technologies developing countries can leverage in order to bring both untaxed merchants and underbanked consumers into their formal national economies.

These are some of the top level conclusions reached in the report – QR Code Developments May Disrupt the Disrupters – from Mercator Advisory Group published late last year. The author, Brian Riley, credited three factors: better authentication, centralized clearance, and improvements to the payments network as giving QR codes renewed viability as a payment acceptance option in some markets.

The convenience of QR (Quick Response) codes as a payment option is clear. They are a fast, easy-to-use compliment to mobile commerce that requires little to no equipment. Armed with a QR code scanning app, their ubiquitous mobile devices and their cameras, consumers can make in-person purchases without relying on cash or physical cards. QR codes also have shown promise as an option for ecommerce, as well.

Adoption of QR code based mobile payments has been modest in markets in the West, such as the U.S. and the U.K. However in regions like the Asia-Pacific, QR code usage has soared. Greg Geng, VP of Tencent’s WeChat Business Group told CNBC last fall that in China, “payment methods using QR codes have replaced cash and cards in just five years.” In fact, the country is now making headlines for the way it is leveraging its affection for QR codes to help fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The news from Ghana this week is further evidence that QR codes continue to prove their mettle. A subsidiary of Ghana’s national bank, Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS) has partnered with global payments solution provider HPS to launch its Universal QR Code and Proxy Pay platform. The solution will enable consumers to make instant payments from mobile wallets, cards, and bank accounts by scanning QR codes with their mobile devices.

Ghana is a pioneer in this regard, being the first country in Africa to introduce a national, QR code payment system. The initiative is believed to be a part of the country’s attempt to transition toward significantly less reliance on cash. “At this time, our quest toward a modern, cashless society is more important than ever and we are proud to be the first African country to implement this universal QR code solution,” GhIPSS CEO Archie Hesse said. “HPS has delivered an agile, comprehensive solution during a time of global crisis and we can foresee incredible benefits.”

Abdeslam Alaoui Smaili, HPS CEO, echoed Hesse’s sentiments about the power of QR codes to support a move away from paper currency, calling the initiative “an important part to a long-term goal of a cashless society.”

HPS offers a comprehensive suite of solutions, PowerCARD, that covers the entire payment value chain and enables its partners to process payments regardless of channel or initiated means-of-payment. With more than 400 institutions in 90+ countries using HPS’ technology, the company was founded in 1995 and maintains offices in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.


Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Billon announced blockchain-based proof of concept with Polish electric company Tauron.
  • Euromoney looks at how finechs in the CEE region are benefitting as consumers opt for digital payments rather than cash.
  • Silicon Canals features Ukrainian fintech startups that are “taking the industry to the next level.”

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Dubai-based Spotii goes live in UAE with its Shop Now Pay Later platform.
  • Egyptian digital lender Shahry locks in $650,000 in pre-seed funding.
  • Securrency forges strategic partnership with investment management and banking company, Musharaka Capital, to develop digital asset issuance platform in Saudi Arabia.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Partnership between MoneyGram and India’s Federal Bank to bring a direct-to-bank-account credit solution to Indian consumers.
  • Uzbekistan president pledges reform of banking system, including the privatization of six bank.
  • Indian cryptocurrency exchange Shiftal to leverage digital identity verification technology from Yoti to support compliant customer onboarding.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Mexico’s Flux partners with Bonnuscard, Moneypool, and Cuando Volvamos to enable businesses to offer pre-paid digital gift cards.
  • Financial inclusion-based accelerator makes its Latin American debut with a launch in Mexico.
  • SME payments company Kushki goes live in Mexico, having already expanded to Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, and Peru.

Asia-Pacific

  • Validus, a Singapore-based P2P lending platform, raises another $20 million in Series B+ funding ahead of its expansion into Thailand.
  • Indonesia’s Pintek, which helps students and educational institutions alike access credit, raises an undisclosed amount of funding from Accion Ventures Lab.
  • Fintech News Singapore features the top ten fintech companies in the Philippines.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Voyance, a data science startup based in Nigeria, launches fintech fraud tracking database, Sigma.
  • South African cryptocurrency exchange Altcoin Trader enables instant EFT withdrawals from any bank account.
  • WeeTracker looks at the strength of the wealthtech component of Kenya’s fintech industry.

Top image designed by Freepik

Revolut in the CEE; Biometric Onboarding in the Baltics; Microblink Battles COVID-19

The CEE region – Central and Eastern Europe – has been the source of some of the week’s most compelling international fintech headlines. Among them was news that digital alternative bank Revolut has gone live in Lithuania. The company said that it will passport its Lithuanian banking license – which it secured in 2018 – to launch in other markets in the CEE, and rely on Lithuania as its regional hub.

“Four years ago we set out to build a new kind of bank. The kind of bank that solves your problems and treats you fairly,” the company announced on Twitter this week. “Starting today, we’re excited to launch Revolut Bank to our 300,000 customers in Lithuania.”

Lithuania is the latest market Revolut has engaged; the company made its long-awaited U.S. launch in March, partnering with Metropolitan Commercial Bank to bring its banking app to market in the States. The difference is that Revolut will be able to operate as a licensed bank in the European markets it has targeted. The company has yet to officially apply for a banking license in America.


Speaking of Lithuania, Luminor Bank – the third largest bank in the Baltics – announced that it was introducing a digital onboarding solution that would enable new customers to set up accounts with a selfie. The technology, courtesy of a partnership with Ondato, compares the image on the new customer’s identification document with an image created by a 3D biometric map of the customer’s face. Ondato checks the data on the ID document, analyzes the images, and enables customers to confirm their identity with a mobile signature.

Photo by Mihis Alex from Pexels

“When performing client identification, not only document validity is tested, but also with the aid of biometric data, it is established whether the individual in the document truly is a match of the individual seeking to open an account,” Ondato CEO Liudas Kanapienis said. He praised the bank as the first traditional bank in Lithuania to “fully embrace” the digitization of customer verification and account opening.


Leaning in on the COVID-19 crisis, intelligent data extraction specialist Microblink is offering free access to its flagship solution, BlinkID, “for all the heroes who have replace their capes with masks.” The company is reaching out to public healthcare, non-profit, and government organizations that are helping fight the coronavirus pandemic with an offer to integrate its data capture solution into their mobile or web app – free of charge.

BlinkID enables users to quickly and securely capture personal information from 400+ identity documents in the world. The data remains on the app and the identity document remains in the hands of the document bearer, providing for a safe, contactless experience. During the current public health crisis, the solution has been used in Indonesia by police officers conducting public health checks, in Dubai to track those delivering medicines, and in the U.K. to register volunteers who bring food to seniors and others in need of assistance.

Microblink said the offer will remain in place “until the virus subsides” and interested organizations should contact them directly to apply. “Tell us what you’re doing to mitigate the crisis,” the company said in a statement. “We’ll make sure you’re set up with the right license key and ready to fly off and save the world.” Based in London, U.K., and Zagreb, Croatia, Microblink demonstrated its technology last year at FinovateEurope.


This year FinovateAsia will be an all-digital affair. Starting on July 6 and running through July 10th, our new format offers more keynotes, more debates, and more insight into our demoing companies than we ever have offered before.

Photo by Matthew Simmonds from Pexels

Check out our introduction to FinovateAsia from earlier this week – as well as our feature on the event’s keynote speakers – and start saving the dates. The biggest fintech event of the summer will be here sooner than you think.


Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Dash teams up with cryptocurrency payments company AnkerPay to bring the DASH payments network to sub-Sharan Africa.
  • Bank of Ghana opens fintech innovation office.
  • TechBullion looks at the partnership between Clear Junction and Zeepay Ghana.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Germany’s Finleap unveils new white label mobile banking app.
  • Revolut launches a licensed bank in Lithuania.
  • Czech ecommerce company Fair Play partners with Indian mobile payments solution provider FSS Technologies.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Enda Tamweel, a microfinancing institution based in Tunisia, goes live with TemenosTransact core banking solution.
  • Trading Technologies partners with Turkish exchange Borsa Istanbul, enabling trading of its derivatives on the TT platform.
  • Zawya interviews Faisal Omar Alsaggaf, CEO of National Commercial Bank on how banks in Saudi Arabia are coping with COVID-19.

Central and Southern Asia

  • JazzCash and Mastercard partner to bolster payments in Pakistan.
  • Pakistan-based digital wallet SadaPay collaborates with Mastercard to support contactless payments.
  • India’s Tata Capital launches capital commercial and SME mobile app.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • BHD Leon, based in the Dominican Republic, chooses Temenos’ core banking solution, Transact.
  • FIMPE and Mercado Libre Mexico partner to develop real-time identity validation solution.
  • Mexican challenger bank Klar teams up with payments platform – and recent SoFi acquisition – Galileo.

Asia-Pacific

  • Singapore-based cross-border money transfer company Nium – formerly InstaRem – picked up investment from Visa and Bank BRI.
  • Avaloq teams up with Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).
  • Hong Kong’s first virtual bank, ZA, to offer insurance products.

Top image designed by Freepik

Mambu Teams Up with Tide; Europe’s Top Regtechs; Buy Now Pay Later Goes Global

Mambu, the cloud-based banking platform based in Germany, is partnering with U.K. business banking platform Tide to power the company’s revolving credit facilities and overdrafts for small businesses.

“There is a need to be flexible, agile, and customer-centric in the design of financial products,” Managing Director of Mambu EMEA Eelco-Jan Boonstra explained. “Legacy technology constraints can undermine even the best innovation strategy.”

The collaboration will enable Tide to overhaul its product suite in order to better serve customers in a number of locations around the world. This includes offering larger overdrafts, credit cards, and invoice financing, as well as enabling Tide members to lend to each other leveraging solutions managed by Mambu.

“When today’s customers evaluate financial institutions, they no longer compare different banks, they compare experiences,” Boonstra said. “We see this partnership approach as the future of banking technology.”


Regtech is all the rage in fintech these days. From helping businesses negotiate a wave of new regulation – from GDPR to PSD2 – to empowering firms to combat fraud, companies involved in developing technologies to ensure that businesses are getting and staying compliant are enjoying rare attention from the rest of the industry.

A recent review of top regtech startups in Europe in Fintech News was an example of the light increasingly shining on these companies and their vital role in supporting a fintech industry that a growing number of financial services customers – and other businesses – are relying on.

The review cited research from KPMG that anticipates regtech spending in 2022 climbing to $76 billion. Analysis from XAnge, a European VC firm, finds approximately 140 regtech startups in the E.U., divided fairly equally between compliance management, KYC/AML, and risk management solutions.

We were especially please to see that, of the ten regtech startups highlighted in the feature, four of the companies are Finovate alums. Apiax and NetGuardians, which most recently demoed at FinovateEurope and at FinovateAsia respectively, both hail from Switzerland. Apiax, recently profiled here on the Finovate blog, offers a comprehensive compliance solution that leverages APIs to integrate its compliance rules into digital processes. NetGuardians focuses on Big Data and uses it to help banks fight fraud and automate compliance.

Also earning recognition on the top European regtech list was Ireland’s Fenergo. The company, founded in 2009 and having made its Finovate debut back in 2012, specializes in client onboarding and account opening solutions for banks and financial services companies. Just this week, Fenergo announced that it was launching a new remote account opening solution in both the EMEA and APAC regions.

Half of the companies on Fintech News’ regtech roster are from the U.K. The Finovate alum among this group, Onfido, leverages automated machine learning, optical character recognition (OCR), and other technologies to provide identity verification to combat fraud. Demoing its technology at both FinovateEurope and FinovateFall in 2018, the company earlier this month announced a major $100 million fundraising that brought the company’s total capital to more than $182 million.

“We’ve naturally chosen the grow-fast path because we strongly feel that the time to solve the digital access problem is overdue, and urgently needs to be solved, for good,” Onfido CEO and co-founder Husayn Kassai said. “We didn’t fundraise to just get to the next milestone, we need the funding as we’re changing the world.”


The Buy Now Pay Later Revolution is sweeping the world. Check out Finovate Senior Research Analyst Julie Muhn’s coverage of Tencent’s $300 million investment in Australia-based Afterpay this week:

Tencent’s move comes shortly after its rival Ant Financial took a minority stake in Afterpay competitor Klarna. Afterpay has 3x the web traffic of Klarna and 1.5x the traffic of its other major competitor Affirm.

The buy-now-pay-later segment of fintech has been heating up this year, despite– or perhaps because of– the current economic and health crises.


Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Asia-Pacific

  • V Capital, and advisory firm based in Malaysia, and U.S.-based Cross River Bank partner to apply for a digital banking license in the country.
  • Hong Kong-based Oriente, a fintech that provides digital infrastructure for financial services, secures $50 million in its still-open Series B round.
  • South Korean cryptocurrency startup Childly teams up with blockchain analysis company Chainalysis.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Nigerian fintech startup Okra, which facilitates the exchange of real-time financial between banks, customers, and apps, locks in $1 million in pre-seed funding in a round led by TLcom Capital.
  • Flutterwave, based in San Francisco, California and Lagos, Nigeria, introduces new portal for African e-commerce merchants.
  • Visa and Kenya’s Pesapal team up to support connected digital payments.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Resistant AI, a cybersecurity startup based in the Czech Republic, raises $2.75 million in funding.
  • Azer Turk Bank (ATB), based in Azerbaijan, deploys technology from Lithuania’s Ashburn to manage EFTPOS networks.
  • Germany’s Celonis leverages its process mining platform to develop new AI-powered accounts payable solution.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Egypt’s Commercial International Bank acquires 51% stake in Kenya’s Mayfair Bank.
  • BenefitPay, Bahrain’s national electronic wallet, announces 1257% increase in remittance volume in March.
  • Tata Consultancy Services to launch a digital only bank in Israel.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Indian cryptocurrency exchange CoinDCX announces trading availability of two native tokens from Crypto.com, MCO and CRO, on its platform.
  • Amazon launches new credit service, Amazon Pay Later, in India.
  • India-based ecommerce firm Paytm unveils contactless dining solution for restaurants in the coronavirus era.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • paysafecard brings its payments platform, Paysafe, to Paraguay.
  • Latin Post looks at the use of fintech apps in Mexico.
  • Financial markets solutions provider Calypso Technology inks partnership agreement with Colombia-based consultancy Sophos Solutions

Top image designed by Freepik

Banks, Credit Bureaus Take Baby Steps Toward Broader Blockchain Embrace

From sharing customer data to smart payments, a number of central banks around the world are turning to blockchain technology to make markets easier for new entrants and to improve processes in everything from payments to regulatory authorizations.

In Argentina, the country’s central bank has embarked upon a pilot project with IOV Labs, which has developed a blockchain-based network that will support a new payments system. The network leverages RSK Bitcoin smart contract technology to improve banks’ ability to process payments, collections, as well as conduct other activities.

Photo by Carolyn from Pexels

A few miles to the north, Brazil’s central bank – the BCB – has launched a blockchain data-sharing platform called PIER that runs on the Quorum blockchain developed by JP Morgan. PIER was created to make it easier for foreign banks to open offices and do business in the country. Specifically, the solution will accelerate communication between the BCB, Brazil’s security commission, and the country’s insurance authority. The platform will also speed up the process of granting banking licenses.

Meanwhile in Central and Eastern Europe, a Polish-British fintech has teamed up with Poland’s Credit Bureau (BIK) to put blockchain to use in customer communications. Billon reported last week that its distributed ledger technology (DLT) is giving retail banks in Poland the ability to transition away from paper-based, client-facing notifications, while remaining compliant with relevant regulations ranging from MiFID II to GDPR.

Poland’s BIK is a major repository of credit history and data, with information on 147 million accounts, 25 million individuals, and 1.4 million companies, including 840,000 microbusinesses. The BIK Blockchain Platform will enable the bureau’s banking clients to notify customers on commission and fee changes on a blockchain rather than e-mail, internal banking communication, or paper delivery. In addition to providing for more secure data exchange that these methods, the DLT-based document management solution gives customers “authentic and immutable documentation” that cannot be altered.

BIK CEO Mariusz Cholewa said that further version of the technology will be applied to “streamlining complex multi-party processes” as well as expanding into other verticals in Poland.


Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Calypso Technology announces partnership agreement with Colombian financial services firm Sophos Solutions.
  • Brazil’s central bank launches data-sharing blockchain platform to make it easier for banks based overseas to do business in the country.
  • Blockchain-based smart payments could be coming to Argentina thanks to a partnership between the country’s central bank and bitcoin company IOV Labs.

Asia-Pacific

  • Digital currency pilots in China continue with initiatives in cities such as Shenzhen, Suzhou, and Chengdu.
  • Japan’s Mizuho Bank trials facial biometric authentication for online banking.
  • Fomo Pay, a digital payments company from Singapore, goes live in Malaysia courtesy of a partnership with OCBC Bank.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Social payments app Bundle goes live in Nigeria.
  • South African finech Yoco launches suite of online payment solutions for SMEs.
  • Tigo Tanzania introduces new service to enable its customers to send and receive cash on their mobile money wallet using the region’s main mobile money services.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • TransferWise brings its money transfer innovations for banks to Berlin-based Mambu.
  • Meniga partners with UniCredit to launch a new smart banking app in the Czech Republic.
  • Retail banks in Poland gain access to blockchain-based customer data platform developed as a collaboration between the Polish Credit Bureau and Polish-British fintech company, Billon.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Libya’s Jumhouria Bank, the nation’s largest bank, goes live with cash payment reconciliation technology from SmartStream.
  • TransferWise launches in the UAE.
  • Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) now accepting applications for its summer sandbox.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Facebook announces investment of $5.7 billion in Indian online marketplace Jio Platforms.
  • Federal Bank launches mobile ATM service in two India cities, Chennai and Mumbai.
  • Pakistan’s Bank Alfalah partners with PayFast to enable online payments.

Top image designed by Freepik