Since 2017, Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) has demonstrated that finding the best fintech located within its home markets of Central and Eastern Europe requires a multi-pronged strategy and the support of an entire bank.
Using their dedicated Elevator Lab programme, the bank issues a wide-net invitation via local Elevator Lab challenges in eight of their thirteen markets. This October, the incubator’s efforts pulled in 407 applications from 54 countries. Maximilian Schausberger, Head of Fintech Partnerships at RBI, describes the procedure from within.
“It is a difficult task to choose the best startups amongst the many great ideas and potential. We follow a structured selection process that consists of three steps: after the applications have been submitted to our online platform, our Elevator Lab mentors first screen the applications. The next step of the selection process consists of a video session and a public presentation at our Finalist week in Vienna. This gives us the opportunity to physically present startups to our full mentorship network, which includes 150 mentors positioned across RBI Group.”
“Finally, the best applicants pitch their solution to RBI’s Innovation Board, chaired by our CEO, Johann Strobl, who makes the final decision on which participants will be offered an Elevator Lab partnership programme.”
This year’s finalists were: CityFALCON from the UK and SESAMm from France for Advanced Analytics; FINABRO from Austria and Limitless from the Netherlands for Investing & Trading Tech; CopSonic from France, PayKey from Israel, and Pisano from the UK for New Branch Experience; and Cambrist from Ireland for Open Banking.
The Advanced Analytics and New Branch Experience categories were of particular interest for the bank, according to Maximilian. “Advanced Analytics is closely connected to our initiatives around data science or artificial intelligence. As a bank we have a lot of data, but we need to analyse it more effectively to transform our data into predictions and recommendations useful for all areas of the bank.”
“Regarding the New Branch Experience category, we are looking for the branch of the future. It is about extraordinary design, superior user experience and convenience. Our customers are strongly motivated to save time and effort, so we’d like our business models and branch design to centre around these.”
All eight startups were given the chance to product develop through engagement with various experts from RBI’s banking group and, according to published testimonies, the 4-month programme was a positive experience.
May Michelson, Head of Business Development at PayKey, communicated generous proactive mentorship: “the Elevator Lab team didn’t just support us, they joined forces with PayKey and worked with us as one team, connecting PayKey with business leaders and decision makers in banks all over Europe, becoming a real door opener for us and helping us come up with the best use-case for each bank.” Similarly, Sara Koslinska, co-founder and CEO of Limitless, revealed a co-piloting of their app with Centrobank and Tatra Banka. “It has been a great collaboration that allowed us to prove that Limitless would be successful in the CEE market.”
Their pilot progress was unveiled last week to a supportive crowd at the RBI Demo Day. Also in attendance was RBI CEO Johann Strobl, who commented: “My jury colleagues and I are truly impressed by the progress of the pilot projects.”
In the wake of its success, a third round of the Elevator Lab Challenge has been scheduled for April 2019, and the bank has confirmed plans to launch Elevator Lab Bootcamps for early-stage startups in the near future.