Safello, the Stockholm, Sweden-based bitcoin exchange, has moved a step closer to becoming a dominant European bitcoin exchange by winning a finalist spot in the BBVA Open Talent 2015 competition. The contest, now in its seventh year, awards innovative financial technology (“fintech”) projects that contribute to the financial service industry’s evolution.
BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A., a multinational Spanish banking group), launched its Open Talent contest to seek ideas that will disrupt the financial service industry in e-commerce, security, mobile payments, data and others.
A Playground For Bank Innovation
“We have built a platform that helps banks use Safello as a playground for innovation where they can both experiment with the block chain technology as well as tap into a customer segment they have a hard time reaching: millennials,” Frank Schuil, CEO and founder of Safello, told CCN. “Our proof-of-concept with Barclays was the first step in this direction, and now we are seeing interest grow from other financial institutions like BBVA.”
Earlier this summer, Safello signed a proof of concept (PoC) with Barclays, the London, U.K.-based multinational bank, to explore how the financial services sector can harness block chain technologies. The agreement marked one of the highlights of the Barclays Accelerator Demo Day in London. It also marks the first PoC that a U.K. high street bank announced with a bitcoin company.
Schuil did not wish to reveal details about the PoC signed with Barclays. “What I can is that we are looking at how the safe use of bitcoins can solve problems for existing financial systems of large corporations. Essentially, we are aiming to bridge bitcoin and the traditional financial world. Beyond this proof of concept, we see possibilities to position Safello as the go-to partner for financial institutions to get into the crypto currency market.”
BBVA Open Talent: A Step Forward
“The BBVA Open Talent 2015 has a wider selection of startups (than the Barclay Accelerator Demo Day), but is a pure competition with prize money and no equity stakes,” Schuil said. “The goal is quite similar to that of the Accelerator, to find synergies with the innovative companies that should lead to cooperations to help BBVA innovate.”
“We are delighted to see mainstream banks embrace bitcoin and look forward to get a chance to work with BBVA to explore how our platform can benefit them,” Schuil added. “Our selection for Open Talent 2015 shows that his innovative technology is on everyone’s radar and here to stay for the long haul.”
There will be six winners, two in each of the three regions: Europe, Latin America, USA & Rest of the World. Each winner will receive 30,000 euros to develop a project in collaboration with BBVA. In total, more than 180,000 euros will be distributed among the six winners.
The European finalists will compete Sept. 21 and 22 in Barcelona, Spain. A panel of judges will decide on the winners that will win the prize money and partake in the immersion program.
“Interacting with innovation ecosystems has always been a priority for BBVA, but on this occasion we want BBVA Open Talent to focus on companies and products that can really be applied to the financial services business or those that are related to pioneering products in the development of the group’s new digital services,” said Gustavo Vinacua, director of innovation centers and open innovation at BBVA.
Safello Partners With Payment Providers
Safelllo partners with various payment provders such as Bankgirot, a proprietary clearing system owned by Swedish banks that enables payments to be sent directly into bank accounts.
“For some payment methods we work directly with the providers while for others we work through payment services providers,” Schuil said. “Ideally, we do like to have a direct contract, although it is still challenging to cooperate with some of the providers.”