JERUSALEM WAS one of four cities chosen to host.
(photo credit: NIV ELIS)
A group of 21 financial start-ups from Russia, Poland, Switzerland, the United States and Israel flocked to Jerusalem on Sunday to compete in the Citi Mobile Challenge.
Jerusalem was one of four cities chosen to host the Europe, Middle East and Africa leg of the global competition, alongside London, Warsaw and Nairobi.
Twelve of the start-ups were Israeli, selected through a partnership with Bank Hapoalim. Once the two-week tour, which kicked off in Kenya and will move on to Poland and the UK, ends, the top-rated start-ups will receive prizes of up to $100,000 and access to Citi’s facilities. Two of the companies that won the Latin America portion of the competition, which preceded the US portion and the current EMEA portion, are currently in Beta testing with the company.
Jorge Ruiz, the global digital acceleration head of Citi, said having Israel as a stop on the tour was inevitable given its status as a hi-tech powerhouse. He advised the company’s top executives to read Start-up Nation before their tour.
“Banks are not necessarily the best tech innovators, so we thought, ‘How can we accelerate what we do, not just in one country or another, but in a way that we can get at all the innovation out there,’” Ruiz said.
HopOn was among the Israeli startups at the competition. Its technology lets large groups of people onboard a bus, train or other form of public transportation utilizing the smartphone’s microphone and an inexpensive beacon that gives off ultrasonic sound waves. The technology, already utilized by some Tel Aviv buses, can solve the problem of individuals boarding buses one at a time, which can take several minutes, according to cofounder David Mezuman.
Another local start-up called Sling provided a solution for micro-merchants – people such as plumbers or babysitters or street sellers – who were heretofore confined to cash. The company provides a unique image that payers can scan with their smartphones to provide easy payments.
A third start-up, rewire, was testing a solution for foreign workers in Israel to provide remittance payments with higher convenience and lower cost than current companies, such as Western Union.
For Ruiz, delving into start-ups in the global market is a step toward the future of banking.
“I see banks as more of an operating system where the solutions plug in and plug out, and clients choose whatever adds value to their lifestyle,” he said.
Given Sunday’s demonstrations and pitches, Israel’s fin-tech start-ups will surely be among them.