On December 8th, the Fintech for Society Conference took place at EPFL, an event organized by the Enterprise for Society (E4S) Center with the support of Tech4Impact, Innovation Time and Swiss Finance + Technology Association.
When talking about finance, most likely one of the first words that come to mind will not be sustainability. This conference, moderated by Julia Bory, Innovation Program Director at E4S Center, allowed us to demystify this prejudice. It showed that finance and sustainability share the same goal: both seek to anticipate and understand the future consequences of a decision in the present.
In this conference, 14 sustainable fintechs, a fancy name to designate startups who use innovative financial services technologies in the service of protecting the planet, presented their ideas and the added value derived from them.
Before starting the presentations, the members of the auditorium were invited to share 3 words that most represented the challenges of the financial sector now and in the near future, thus creating a word cloud in which sustainability, inequality and privacy stood out. These words would later match the activities of the startups present. This was the launch pad for the presentations.
The presentations took place as follows: the first 7 startups presented their pitch one at a time in just three minutes. Afterwards, the audience was invited to evaluate through a QR code which company they would most like to work for, and which company they expect to be the most successful. The two winning startups were then invited back on stage to talk a little more about their projects and give a little more detail about their activities. Finally, the remaining 7 startups were subjected to the same procedure as the previous ones.
This interaction was greatly appreciated by all, as it removed the one-sided nature of traditional conferences and allowed the feedback from the audience to the presentations.
The first round of startups, representing the role fintechs play in addressing environmental challenges, included:
Speaker: Elena Polunkin, VP Business Development
The topic of this presentation was the tokenization of art pieces. Bloomio was founded in 2017 as a fundraising platform with tokenization tool. They address the needs of art galleries that suffer a lot in a world where online sales are going up, especially during the pandemic, but exclude the fine art pieces that still go through the traditional sale procedure. The idea of the startup is to boost the online sales of these pieces by tokenization.
Speaker: Christian Splinder, CEO
Sustainaccount’s goal is to power the sustainability transition. They identified a huge gap in the market that is the lack of sustainability transparency in the private markets. This transparency is really needed by all: the private equity market, the corporate banking market, the financing market, and the corporations. Even the smallest companies need to report sustainability now! The service offered by Sustainaccount is sourcing ESG data from private companies.
Sustainaccount could boost sales because sustainability is a competitive difference maker in the market now.
They provide this service thanks to automation and data acquisition.
Speaker: Antoine Mach, Managing Partner
Covalence was founded in 2001 in order to help investors to incorporate ESG components into their investment decisions. They developed a scoring system that compares corporate disclosures to news sentiment. Their specialty is to connect and gather news-based data on ESG topics using media monitoring and artificial intelligence tools. They calculate a reputation score on 13’000 companies. Company disclosures that are often positively biased are challenged by this scoring system.
Speaker: Robin Slomian, CEO
Datacie’s goal is to democratize data on three main pillars: flexibility (people access data and only pay what they use), accessibility (any researcher or business can access data on a web platform) and the reusability of this data for whatever purpose we want.
Speaker: Patrick Schirmann, CEO
Norsia is a startup that targets wealth management companies. Since the people who detain wealth are younger, they are more focused on the sustainability aspect of their portfolios, which raises new challenges for financial advisors. The issue here is that sustainability is a personal thing and what is sustainable or not can largely depend on each individual. Norsia helps financial advisors to transform these challenges into opportunities by calculating compatibility between companies and each investor.
Speaker: Maxim Interbrick, COO
Pollution data usually cannot be properly provided due to different reasons, which makes acting quite difficult. The startup Sparrow conceived a platform that incites citizens to participate in gathering information and act responsibly to provide solutions for pollution. On this platform, citizens are awarded with tokens they can spend in local businesses.
Speaker: Robert Zaremba, R&D
In these times when climate crisis threatens our society, ecological health has never been more important. Regen Network built the DeFi 3.0 powered by nature. They enable land stewards or anyone who can commoditize ecological value to get paid and collaborate with enterprises all around the world.
Time to vote: In this first round, the company most voted by the audience for the interest in working for it was Norsia, and the company most voted for the greatest expectation of success was Regen Network.
The second round of start-ups, representing the role fintechs play in addressing social and accessibility challenges, included:
Speaker: David Giron, CEO
In developed countries, a large part of the population is financially illiterate. In a world where money is taboo, schools do not teach money and finance. Investing became easier and advice on social media abounds, but all of that could be misleading. That’s why MNYMSTRS created an online academy that is also supported by games in order to help people develop their financial knowledge.
Speaker: Gilles Rosset, CEO
This presentation’s topic was risk management. We can do risk analysis, but every time a change occurs, we must restart everything from the beginning and redo the risk analysis. The startup CogniTechs addresses this challenging issue for companies.
Speaker: Patrik Schaer, CEO
Young people do not put their money into work in Switzerland, where we have a considerable number of banks and asset managers. Selma developed a digital financial advisor that helps people do right things with their money.
Speaker: Martina Bühler, CMO
Municipalities and governments have a huge role to play when it comes to sustainability. Loanboox aims to help these entities to get financed in a fast, efficient and sustainable way with their platform that matches borrowers with lenders.
Speaker: Francesco Biviano, CEO
STOverse helps innovative small and medium enterprises to raise funds through its blockchain-based platform.
They tackle problems faced by these companies and investors during the process of raising capital. STOverse changes traditional fund-raising through security tokens that are digital representations of assets and through decentralized finance.
Speaker: Bassil Eid, CEO
In Switzerland, there are different ways to do payrolls. You can do it yourself, but it requires experience, or you can hire an accountant, but it’s expensive. Earny addresses this issue by providing automated payroll for startups and SMEs.
Speaker: Severiyos Aydin, CEO
A lot of money is donated from private and institutional donors to humanitarian organizations and in theory, that should be helping a substantial amount of people around the world living under the poverty line, but this does not seem to be true knowing that these numbers keep increasing. The startup Aidonic developed a blockchain-based solution to guarantee that donations are reaching the target groups.
Time to vote: In the second and final round, the company most voted by the audience for the interest in working for it was Aidonic, and the companies most voted for the greatest expectation of success were Loanboox and STOverse.
After the conference, the attendees had the opportunity to discuss with the entrepreneurs and present themselves. Many opportunities were available, such as internships, Master projects, transformative projects and the possibility to collaborate as student assistants.
We thank the Enterprise for Society Center for this very informative conference, organized in a very dynamic way, and are looking forward to participating to further events they will be organizing!
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