NadiFin’s Pascal Bouvier: ‘We’re focused on finding the best start-ups’

10 Apr 2019

Pascal Bouvier. Image: NadiFin/MiddleGame Ventures

Dublin and Luxembourg will be key locations for a new global fintech accelerator that will reward €100,000 to the winning start-up.

The closing date is fast approaching this Friday (12 April) for post-seed and pre-series A and B fintechs to take part in the NadiFin fintech accelerator programme.

The accelerator will be powered by MiddleGame Ventures and Farvest in partnership with the Luxembourg House of Financial Technology (the LHoFT), Enterprise Ireland and the Fintech & Payments Association of Ireland.

‘We’ve spent a good amount of time in Ireland over the past year, and see an ecosystem that mirrors many of our key investment themes, particularly across B2B verticals in capital markets, regtech and digital identities’

12 of the most promising fintech companies from around the world will convene at NadiFin over three four-day workshops in Luxembourg and Dublin.

The programme focuses exclusively on cutting-edge fintechs that are using artificial intelligence, machine learning, big-data analytics, blockchain and other deep-tech tools to create seamless solutions and businesses for the European financial services market.

The NadiFin fintech accelerator programme integrates mentors, speakers, investors and peers to drive learnings within and outside the classroom across key strategic vectors such as value proposition, teams, business model mapping, fundraising and more.

The cohort will compete in a trademarked peer-voting start-up accelerator curriculum powered by Village Capital, leading to a €100,000 investment from MiddleGame Ventures.

“A programme of this kind in the Irish market only serves to highlight the already growing fintech sector in Ireland, and Enterprise Ireland look forward to supporting the NadiFin programme,” said Enda McDonnell, head of fintech at Enterprise Ireland.

Beyond the crypto hype

We spoke to Pascal Bouvier, managing partner at MiddleGame Ventures and co-founder at NadiFin, about the programme.

Why run an accelerator programme as a venture capital company?

Along with my partners, Michael Meyer and Patrick Pinschmidt, we’re focused at MiddleGame Ventures on finding the best early-stage start-ups in Europe and North America. We believe that we bring a differentiated mix of operational, regulatory and technology experience to the financial services sector. We are lead investors and take an active role in helping our portfolio companies grow and scale their operations. We’ve spent a good amount of time in Ireland over the past year, and see an ecosystem that mirrors many of our key investment themes, particularly across B2B verticals in capital markets, regtech and digital identities.

What is your take on what is happening right now in fintech, with blockchain and cryptocurrency investments down but a greater velocity of PSD2-inspired innovations by traditional banks?

As far as blockchain and crypto are concerned, the hype is slowly abating and many projects will not survive. For us this is actually a positive signal, as it usually means solid start-ups working on solid use cases, far removed from empty rhetoric, will emerge. So, we are prudently optimistic.

As far as PSD2-inspired innovation, we are very bullish on all things APIs [application program interfaces]. API platforms for any and all bank business lines is a very promising area, both from an investment point of view and from an incumbent point of view. Interoperability is the keyword for the industry going forward.

How do companies engineer the step change from seed to A and B investment rounds?

That transition you allude to is as much a culture change as it is quantities-led. One has to realise one needs a certain level of maturity in order to interact with customers or users, and accordingly hire and structure itself to convey a different level of maturity. This means moving from a tech idea and natural fluidity around tech development to a tech structure where you can effectively interact with large incumbents (if you are a B2B company) or large partners that will help with traction (if you are a B2C company).

Technology is but one aspect. The same applies to sales (sales process, sales and marketing documents, contracts) and business development. Start acting your age and start bringing talent that will help you act your age.

What are your views on the future of fintech, and what do you think will be the next big thing as society goes cashless?

We have yet to solve the digital identity conundrum. By that I mean a digital identities framework whereby the user or customer is in control of his identity; where the identity is recognised by main actors; where it is safe and protects from a privacy standpoint; where it helps with the onboarding and creating of new accounts with various providers; where it helps with the authorisation and authentication of a variety of transactions – all with as little friction as possible. This is definitely a major opportunity for the industry.

BankID in Scandinavia countries and the e-residency identity scheme in Estonia are a few examples of what a solid identity scheme can do for financial services and fintech. Additionally, there are two themes we pay attention to: interoperability between actors and technology stacks, which leads to the crucial importance of API platforms in fintech; and how assets will be issued going forward (with the help of blockchain, smart contracts, tokenisation).

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