The FinTech Hive at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) on Monday began its inaugural accelerator programme with 11 shortlisted financial services technology startups from around the globe, including two from the UAE.
The FinTech Hive, the region’s first financial technology accelerator, announced earlier this year in partnership with Accenture, brings together emerging technology leaders and entrepreneurs to address the needs of the financial services industry. The programme provides a platform that allows nascent technology firms to collaborate with top regional and international financial institutions to develop fintech business ideas, which in turn will benefit regional financial institutions and Dubai's economy.
The global fintech sector - more established in the markets such as the US, the UK and Asian jurisdictions including Hong Kong and Singapore - has attracted more than US$50 billion in investment since 2010, according to Accenture, but the Middle East and North Africa region has received around 1 per cent of this figure.
The DIFC accelerator intends to bridge that gap and drive innovation by offering the shortlisted firms the opportunity to develop, test and modify their innovations and create tailor-made solutions that will fit the needs of the regional financial industry.
“Today marks a pivotal moment for FinTech Hive at DIFC,” Raja Al Mazrouei, the acting executive vice president of the accelerator programme said at the launch event in DIFC. The 11 start-ups selected for the programme, she said, demonstrate "a delicate balance of remarkable vision, practical application and commercial potential in the FinTech space."
The two UAE startups that have made the final list are Bridg and Sarwa, alongside nine companies from the UK, the US, Sweden, Azerbaijan, India, Jordan and Singapore.
Bridg provides custom-built communication technology that allows smartphones to send and receive money while offline via common technologies such as Bluetooth, aimed giving the financial sector greater reach in developing countries with lower internet penetration.
Sarwa meanwhile describes itself as "the first hybrid automated investment management platform for young professionals in the Middle East," which aims to make investing simple and affordable by "combining proven investment strategies with technology that drives down costs."
The 11 finalists were each selected on the basis of their level of business maturity, potential to thrive in the FinTech Hive's ecosystem, and the degree of their compatibility in partnering with participating financial institutions. The accelerator programme received more than 100 applications from 30 countries around the world.
“We received an overwhelming number of applications for the programme - a testament to the demand for such an initiative - and the quality of proposals was very impressive. The sector is one that will only pick up pace and create more opportunities in the future,” Al Mazrouei said.
The accelerator programme consists of a 12-week curriculum consisting of three phases. In the first phase, the 11 startups will meet with executives from the accelerator’s financial institution partners to identify industry challenges and possible solutions to address them.
In the second phase, the companies will receive direct mentoring from financial institutions and other partners giving advice on matters pertaining to technology, legal and regulatory affairs and Islamic finance.
The third phase will involve the companies preparing to pitch their ideas at an investor day in mid-November, when they will present their products a group of private investors, bankers and government officials.