Start-up of the week: Cogni

18 Apr 2016

Cogni CEO and co-founder Archie Ravishankar

Our start-up of the week is Cogni, a disruptive young fintech player based in Dublin that aims to act as a smartphone bank for businesses.

Cogni (previously known as Bizbaze) is a new innovative digital banking platform that aims to bank pan-European SME and micro-enterprises.

The company was one of six young start-ups to take part in the recent showcase of ones to watch in terms of the future of Irish fintech at the Accenture FinTech Innovation Lab in Dublin’s NDRC in March.

Founder and CEO Archie Ravishankar said that Cogni provides businesses with multi-currency business accounts with AI-driven financial tools.

‘Cogni is competing for real estate where there are established banking players’

“Cogni is a smart business bank for businesses. Cogni will provide pan-European businesses with quick business accounts with multiple currencies linked to AI-driven business and financial tools. It will be cheaper, simpler and more personalised than traditional banking,” according to Ravishankar.

The market

Ravishankar said the company is targeting sole traders and small businesses, such as freelancers, start-up entrepreneurs and micro-businesses.

“99pc of European businesses are micro and small businesses and they are growing 15pc each year. Cogni aims to address the market needs of this segment.”

The founder

Ravishankar is an Australian native who decided to establish Cogni in Ireland, together with his European co-founders, to take advantage of the single European Union market for banking services.

“Cogni’s core team is diverse and has more than 90 years of combined experience in banking architecture, product development, compliance and regulations, data analytics and payments.”

The technology

As Ravishankar explains it, Cogni is a business bank built for the smartphone era.

“We have simplified our onboarding process of a business customer in addition to providing value-added services, such as multi-currency accounts with transparent pricing and real-time control to manage business finances most easily.

“Cogni sits on top of an alternate banking partner. We are a technology company rather than a bank.”

He said Cogni’s ultimate and only goal is to effectively provide banking services to small businesses.

“And we would like to do it really well. And, with PSD2 regulations coming into effect by 2018, Cogni will function more like a pan-European utility company.”

Dublin: the perfect European fintech launchpad

Ravishankar said Cogni has been making critical headway in recent months, finding Dublin the perfect launchpad for targeting European businesses.

“We were one of the six recent graduates from the Accenture Fintech Innovation Lab in Dublin.

“Cogni was also accepted into Europe’s largest Accelerator in Denmark and some of our core team have relocated there.

“Being in a pan-European business space, it is imperative for us to understand other markets in the EU and this provides us with a perfect opportunity.

“We will be making some announcements in the coming months and we are very excited about it.”

The rise of the neobank

One of the interesting dimensions of fintech is how new players like Cogni are challenging the established financial ecosystem.

“Cogni is competing for real estate where there are established banking players and our primary challenge, like many other challenger banks, or neobanks (banks that provides banking services without the traditional bricks-and-mortar building), is to establish a brand, and we are consistently building it from day one.”

Ravishankar described the Irish start-up ecosystem as exciting and promising.

“Enterprise Ireland has backed many good startups and, in addition, there is a great ecosystem of established tech companies who offer start-up support, which is very valuable at early stages.”

His advice for other start-up entrepreneurs is to prepare.

“First and foremost identifying if your product is a ‘vitamin’ or a ‘pill’, and then planning your execution strategy accordingly.”

6 fintech start-ups reveal their disruption plans at Accenture FinTech Innovation Lab

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years