The 12 finalists in the Innovation Jam 2016 fought nerves, technology glitches and gremlins to demonstrate their fintech solutions at TCF Barcelona, hoping to clinch new investment and new deals
The anticipation mounted as they waited until the last day. So they mixed, networked, rehearsed, refined and ate to fill the 48 hours before their big moment – a seven-minute pitch on a rock-star stage complete with lights, music and plenty of action.
The first ever Innovation Jam final, held on the closing day of the Temenos Community Forum 2016 in Barcelona, was the culmination of a selection process that had started some 12 months before and assessed more than 100 original fintech ideas as part of a fastidious process that included four regional heats.
For many of the 1,200 attendees, it was the highlight of the event. "It's what I've been waiting for," one was overheard to say as the lights went down. And he wasn't disappointed.
The audience, invited to Barcelona for Temenos's annual examination of the state of digital banking, had had a taster of what was to come at TCF Istanbul 2015, when the idea of the Innovation Jam was born. But this year saw a step-change in the quality and quantity of ideas. The event was also live streamed worldwide over Temenos.com.
The competition is now an annual event, inviting submissions from fintech start-ups and established players from around the globe to compete for a place in front of an audience of qualified leads and the chance of investment and collaborative development.
The 12 finalists had already received the approval of their target markets at the regional heats in Miami, Singapore, Dubai and London, where bankers, analysts, commentators and strategists had voted for them. Now they just had to ensure a smooth live demo – easier said than done – and give it their best shot.
Cashless transactions, robo advisers, wearables, biometrics, blockchain and digital wallets all featured. More of a surprise was the first pitch. A brilliantly presented end-of-life planning service was offered as a way for banks to collect data on customers that would help with cross- and up-selling as well as creating a revenue sharing service.
Joel Brown of DocuVital rocked on to the stage with Purple Rain blaring out from the speakers and the late, great Prince projected on to the 30ft-high backdrop to highlight the angst and heartache families suffer when someone dies intestate. Not only was Brown clear and confident, he was a full seven seconds under time.
Things carried on well for the next few pitches, each Jammer confidently presenting impressive solutions within their allotted time. FacePhi demoed a selfie solution to face recognition called Selphi, which included a hilarious TV campaign from one of its clients where some 50 apparently random men were invited with their families to a restaurant to receive a prize. When the winning name Carlos Garcia was read out, all 50 stood up. It was a powerful way to illustrate that digital banking allows a bank to know you as more than just a name.
The first to suffer the ignominy of running out of time and having the sound and visuals cut was Qumram, a London regional winner whose solution records and replays user and bank behaviour over all touch points. They were in good company as NDC's presentation of Phantom Cash suffered log-in problems and CapGemini also overran.
You could feel the tension rising as the countdown clock clicked towards zero, the audience willing each Jammer on – and it was almost a disappointment when a number of Jammers finished with at least a minute to spare, robbing the crowd of its coliseum moment.
But pitches are serious business. Each Jammer had just seven minutes to demonstrate the value of their idea not only for customers but for banks. How they would enrich the customer experience, offer new revenue streams, cut costs, improve efficiency, open up cross-selling and upselling opportunities and – in Bibitel's case – bank the unbanked of India, Africa and Latin America.
The audience was armed with a voting app and once all 12 Jammers had had their chance, voting was opened for 60 seconds and the results immediately beamed up on to the stage. The clear winner was Kerv, securing 25.4 per cent of the votes.
A confident pitch from the London heat winner – brought up to date with the latest contactless payment ceiling rates worldwide – Phil Campbell used a high-energy video to illustrate the benefits of the Kerv finger ring over cash, mobile phones or cards for making payments. But he didn't just demonstrate Kerv; he sold it. He included demographics, gave market context and pointed out the advantages for banks to show the product's viability and make the business case. It clearly worked.
Second came Selphi from FacePhi, which has been listed on the Spanish MAB market since 1 July 2015.
But even though Kerv and Selphi were the two that garnered the most votes, all the Jammers were winners. Said Mathias Wegmüller of Qumram, which already features on the Temenos MarketPlace: "It's been great and the audience has been very receptive. TCF is a great shop window."
For David Arnott, Temenos CEO, the Innovation Jam epitomises the spirit of TCF – a community eager for change. "The timed pitch creates a sense of urgency and passion for change that's been evident throughout the whole event," he said. "What's truly exciting though is that together the Jammers, the audience and we at Temenos are creating a broader ecosystem of digital banking innovation that will drive the industry forward, creating value and improving the lives of existing and potential customers all over the world."
That's what innovation is all about.