BBVA’s Open Innovation programme with the fintech ecosystem has helped many embryonic startups to focus their business model and make stronger progress. Lendmarket, Suscrip and WayApp Pay are three of these emerging companies that are starting to shine.
It can seem increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd. With globalisation, technology advancing at the speed of light, and hyper-connectivity, it’s hard to find a gap that someone has not already filled. It is often said that everything is being invented, that everything is written, but in fact there are a lot of blank pages left for fresh, creative and innovative ideas that respond to the new challenges of our future.
BBVA is well aware of this, which is why it continues to look for talent and support newly created startups to find what differentiates them from the rest and what makes their project unique. This was the case with the new BBVA Open Innovation Acceleration Programme, which came to an end in July. For nine months, emerging fintech sector companies have been guided and mentored to help them find their momentum. Some of them have already achieved results and are preparing for their next adventure after the BBVA programme.
Technology exists to make life easier. With Suscrip, its aim is to stop you having to go through the tedious task of dividing bills between flatmates or friends. There are those traditional monthly charges like rent, water, the electricity and phone bills, and now you can add digital subscriptions, such as Netflix, Spotify and other platforms where shared accounts can be held.
“We came up with the idea of automating the cost-sharing process. What we do is connect directly with your bank and identify those recurring payments. For example, we look at how much you were charged on your electricity bill and we automatically divide it between tenants – the corresponding money goes straight back to your account”, explains Gabriel Ayala, founder of Suscrip. He assures us that, although there are many apps for sharing bills, none do it “so automatically”.
Their next step is to launch a marketplace of digital subscriptions that will work in a similar way to dating apps, Ayala says: “You’ll pick the different services you use and the app will pair you with others so that you can share your costs“.
For Suscrip, the experience has provided a real boost to their success. “Before starting out with the Acceleration Programme we had 30 users and 500 people registered; we didn’t really know what our lines of business were, and we were naive about our plan for the future. Thanks to feedback from the mentors, we’ve redefined our business model, analysed the different scenarios, and we’re improving the flow of the app and the user experience. We now have 270 active customers and 2,700 registered users”, explains Ayala. Their plans for the future include making the leap into Europe.
Nowadays we are all used to paying by credit card. However, as the startup WayApp Pay likes to remind us, cards and credit card terminals are not particularly new technology.
“When you pay in any kind of store, you use a terminal that is about 15 years old and a card that is 60. Innovation is needed, because a whole load of companies are involved in this operation: your bank, the issuing bank, the POS company…”, explains Óscar Anzola, founder and CEO of WayApp Pay.
His startup’s mission is “to eliminate all the intermediaries and let businesses take complete control of the payment process”, indicates Anzola. For this reason, WayApp Pay offers you your own means of payment that allows you to issue cards with your own brand, without the need for a traditional POS, debit or credit cards. “It’s like paying cash, but it goes directly from your bank account to the business’ account. It completely simplifies the current process,” he summarises.
To do this, they use a technology based on payment ‘tokens’ that can take different forms. “For example, in the Asian market payment with QR codes is widely used. We also support bar code reading, NFC and others – it’s just like the contactless facility of current cards”, explains Anzola. Customers install a QR card on their smartphone, which connects directly to their bank account, and the merchant uses that same code. This represents a saving in terms of both time and costs.
For WayApp Pay the experience on the Acceleration Program has been “incredibly valuable”, says Anzola. The CEO appreciates how they have helped to improve his business model: “To begin with we wanted to do five different things at once. They’ve helped me to focus and channel resources to an initial critical mass. Now we want to secure investment to grow and scale up the business”.
The Lendmarket platform provides access to an exclusive corporate debt market to acquire assets that were, until now, reserved for institutional investors.
“We saw that non-bank debt in Spain was growing increasingly fast and we spotted a need on the part of the originators, that with a secondary market they could expand their capacity to finance a greater number of operations. We also noted that many professional investors wanted to get into the world of alternative investments, but they couldn’t access these types of products because the investment ticket was very high or because of lack of visibility”, explains Alejandro Villalonga, CEO of Lendmarket.
And so they took advantage of digitisation: “We created a platform that any accredited investor and any debt originator has access to. This makes it very easy to access this type of asset”, explains Cecilia Moreno Ferrán, Digital Sales Manager at Lendmarket. The platform is automated, and their next step is to implement the development of blockchain technology to “use ‘tokenised’ loans”, indicates Moreno.
In Spain “there’s no one else making a secondary corporate debt market in this range of companies”, states Villalonga, who as well as detecting these strengths during the Acceleration Programme, has also learned to improve weak points. “We needed a sufficiently scalable platform, and to improve the technology and strengthen the team and the business model”, he says. Thanks to these improvements acquired with BBVA, they are now bringing two to three users a day on board. “We’ve almost hit 350, and by the end of the year we expect to have 1,000 professional investors”, the CEO predicts.
Lendmarket values the experience as an indispensable learning curve, as Moreno sums up: “Having mentors is fundamental for any startup, and having the support of someone as big as BBVA helps you to get focused, spot mistakes and see that you’re not alone in this adventure”.