An interview with The Fintech Association of Colombia’s Erick Rincón Cárdenas
by Berenice Caballero
Rincón Cárdenas is the president of The Fintech Association of Colombia, a group that is credited with playing a key role in creating a climate in Colombia supporting Fintech innovation. Portions of the interview have been condensed to fit an article format.
The Fintech Association of Colombia is relatively young, but you have done a lot in a short time, how many members are part of the organization and what companies are part of it?
There are 150 Fintech companies, 20 affiliated financial entities, more than 200 association allies and 10,000 community members. This includes entrepreneurs working in a range of areas including payments, infrastructure, digital credit, business software, personal finance, trading and markets, crowdfunding, insurtech, and crypto/blockchain.
Founder Insights: a Q&A with Mensajea’s Jurgen Schuldt
by Berenice Caballero
Schuldt is the CEO and founder of Mensajea, a company that designs chatbots that help FIs and others communicate with their customers through Facebook and WhatsApp. Mensajea was founded in Ecuador in 2016, and now has offices in Mexico, Ecuador and Peru. The Q&A has been edited to fit an article format.
What is Mensajea?
Mensajea is a platform that lets you create, manage and maintain virtual assistants (chatbots) in channels like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
The technology helps organizations respond quickly and flexibly to customers and uses AI to continuously improve service.
When did you start Mensajea and what was your motivation in doing so?
In the middle of 2016, Facebook opened its Messenger platform and we saw an opportunity to improve communications between companies and consumers.
I had previously built a platform for personalizing SMS, used mainly by FIs and for collections. Many of those clients were interested in two-way communications, which was very expensive with SMS. At the time, WhatsApp was also exploding, and it made sense to leverage these new channels to improve corporate communications.
2020 has been a banner year for SPACs, with a record number of companies going public through this method. According to data from SPACInsider, gross proceeds this year have topped $50 billion as of early October, more than the past five years combined. Although there has been concerns about investment risk of SPACs, the trend is expected to stay for the long term.
To briefly explain SPACs (also known as Special Purpose Acquisition Companies), these are business entities that are set up solely for the purpose of acquiring an existing firm. Since this will require vast amounts of money, these shell companies usually raise money via IPOs or have extensive financial backing. After they identify a good business to acquire, a deal is to acquire a target company. After the acquisition, the latter would immediately go public. As such, SPACs could be a quick exit vehicle compared to the traditional IPO.
Based on our study, about 90% of SPAC deal proceeds this year remain unallocated (ie. dry powder). About half of this year’s SPACs have raised over $300 million each. For these large SPACs, they have either acquired a firm (or have an interest) in the following sectors in order of popularity: Technology / Financial Technology, Healthcare / Medical and Media / Entertainment / Gaming. About 46% of large SPAC proceeds were raised by SPACs with an interest in (or have made a) technology/FinTech acquisition.
Andrade is the CEO and co-founder of LISA, a company whose software automates the process of both buying insurance and resolving claims. The Madrid-based company was founded in February 2018 and is one of six started by Andrade. Andrade discusses the origins of LISA, her experience building companies in insurance, and LISA’s plans for future growth. The interview has been translated and condensed to fit an article.
What has it been like as a female entrepreneur in insurance?
I was 22 when I started my first business in insurance. They asked me if the business was my father's and things like-what is my father's name, have you inherited the business? I started young and alone in a world that was very male. In fact this year, it seems ironic, but I got an award for Insurtech Woman of the year.
But at the time I started, I saw that it was a complex world—that it cost me to have credibility. I dressed very masculine at first. I had to have a lot of courage. They debated with me on everything, and would say, “you do not know this well." I learned very quickly and forcefully a way to say to them, “yes I do.”
Is it more common to see men than women in insurance?
The industry is practically all the same, and it is not that I am a feminist, that is really just how it is. Women have spent the last 20 to 25 years developing professionally and the industry hasn’t really adapted to this fact.
I do not favor discrimination in favor of women, but I also think that is fitting that companies that have not incorporated women into their businesses have lost out in the marketplace. They ultimately must walk in front of all of their customers, including women.
Do you think opportunities are growing for women in this space?
I do not see large companies in Spain or in other countries including women in administration. I think they should just try to
bet against me.
Avocado Payments focused on hiring after seed raise, could seek A round next year, CEO says
by Kevin Nafziger
19 April 2019
Avocado Payments, a developer of software that lets merchants accept Apple Pay and Google Pay without a hardware terminal, has just completed raising a seed round and could be ready to raise an A round next year, CEO and founder Chris Sturm told this news service.
Sturm declined to say how much the company raised in its seed round, but said that the round is enough to fund operations deep into 2020
The Los Angeles-based startup’s top priority now is building out its team, with a focus on hiring software engineers, he said
Another key focus is onboarding additional merchants to its beta, Sturm said. Avocado is interested in hearing from banks, merchants and other potential customers or partners that could benefit from using its software, he said.
Avocado’s primary offering works in the same fashion as a QR code, the CEO said. It permits anyone to pay another person or business that they owe money to, without requiring special software, hardware or app downloads. The addressable market includes all businesses that use paper invoices, the executive said.
Sturm said he came up with the idea for Avocado Payments just before Memorial Day weekend in 2017. At the time, Sturm was working on a consulting project that was eating up his time and energy and which forced him to cancel a long-awaited vacation. His mood worsened when he hit a roadblock on one part of the project, and he decided to take a bike ride to clear his head.
Sturm said, as usual, he only took a phone and an insurance card with him for the bike ride. As he headed back on his bike after completing the first half of the ride, he came upon a roadside stand and had a sudden craving for a hot dog. He realized though that he had no cash, but remembered that his phone had Apple Pay, he said.
After a second thought, Sturm said he concluded it was highly unlikely that the stand had a hardware device to accept Apple Pay. He returned to his bike without the hot dog, but with the genesis of a problem, he wanted to solve—to allow any merchant to accept phone-based payments without special hardware. When he returned home, instead of working on the consulting project, he began writing the initial code to create Avocado Payments, he said.