The first cohort of YES FINTECH, the business accelerator program led by YES Bank, India’s fifth-largest private bank by assets, was officially launched on March 17, 2017, in Mumbai. A total of 12 startups were selected from more than 750 that applied, to participate as part of the first cohort.
These 12 startups will engage in a 15-week acceleration program, where three weeks will be on-site (across Mumbai and Hyderabad) and the rest will be off-site where the startups will continue to collaborate from their home location. Startups will work very closely with YES Bank – its leaders from business and technology teams as well as their partners – to collaborate and solve mutual problems that have been identified.
Collectively, the selected cohort represents many ‘Fin’ sectors that are strategic to YES Bank – both for bringing value to its customers, as well as fostering innovation that is (re-)shaping financial services industry in the 21st century. These include sectors like payments, lending, wealth management, capital markets and governance risk & compliance (GRC), etc.
The selected startups are (in no order of priority):
- Anytime Loan (alternate lending platform)
- Authme (using AI to replace passwords with unique pattern technology and bring UX and security together)
- Click & Pay (cashless, secure and flexible payments)
- FRS Labs (cyber security, fraud detection and identity verification using biometrics and AI)
- Morph.ai (white labeled bots for enterprises)
- Numberz (integrating business workflows with banking services)
- Paykey (easy payments through an integrated in-app keyboard)
- r1m0 (foreign exchange marketplace that uses blockchain technology)
- Redcarpet (alternative social and digital scoring for instant credit)
- Rupeeseed (robo-advisory and capital markets platform)
- Signzy (Digital KYC, biometric-enabled digital contracts, etc.)
- SoCash (network of small merchants to make cash accessible beyond ATMs)
Presenting the keynote address at the launch event, Aditya Khurjekar, Co-founder and CEO of LTP, echoed the tone of the program – true collaborative partnership. Aditya spoke about how the term ‘disruption’ is a bit of a misnomer as it relates to FinTech, and that true FinTech is an ecosystem play. This means harnessing the ‘power of partnerships’ between forward-looking financial institutions that already possess customer scale, regulatory legitimacy and market credibility, and that of nimble startups that are innovating at scale without legacy overheads.
We’ve written about YES FINTECH and heralded the collaborative spirit of the program as quite unique – this section of the article illustrates the depth thereof.
The YES FINTECH program’s first cohort launch is a culmination of efforts over the past 15+ weeks of thorough preparation that involved program strategy/planning, budgeting, partner onboarding, marketing, logistics, and other work streams.
The core team deliberated that true collaboration involves enabling the right framework of partnership that aligns well with the speed of startup execution. Each startup has been assigned a senior mentor as well as an advisor internal to YES Bank. While the advisor will play a hands-on role to work closely with the selected startups on a near daily basis, the senior mentor will help with strategic insights and help navigate the startup across the bank and its broader ecosystem.
In addition, every startup has also been assigned an external mentor, who is either a proven entrepreneur, industry expert and/or technologist (as the startup stage may require), to assist with areas beyond collaboration within the bank, but which are critical for the startup nevertheless.
The cohort is designed such that there is maximum value and attention provided to startups while not debilitating them with any overhead that will curtail their speed of execution and/or solution creativity – in fact, they can be only be shaped better with the right interventions.
During the ensuing 15 weeks, startups and their advisors/mentors will use a workflow and program management tool that will allow them to communicate and collaborate with each other seamlessly. A program management team is assigned to help organize and facilitate various interventions for each team.
A critical component of any acceleration program is to assess and refine Product <> Market Fit (PMF) and assist startups to iterate on the plan effectively. Our other partners who are powering the cohort, T-Hub and Anthill, have enabled a proprietary speed-scaling model that enables the startup to identify gaps in its PMF. The model further uses lean product development principles that iterate using a ‘build-measure-learn’ approach to addressing gaps identified in the PMF, all the while working closely with the bank and its broader ecosystem.
Week 1 (beginning Mar 20, 2017) will also see eminent speakers from various parts of the ecosystem come together and share their experiences. This includes global FinTech influencers, banking industry stalwarts, FinTech entrepreneurs, Regulators and VCs/angels.
As founding Knowledge Partner of YES FINTECH, LTP was uniquely placed to augment the design, strategy and implementation of YES FINTECH’s first cohort, along with T-Hub and Anthill Ventures. The LTP team brought an outside-in view based on several incubator and accelerator experiences that we’ve been privileged to be part of globally.
YES FINTECH team worked with all group business units (BU) and technology teams internal to the bank over many weeks, to identify their most pressing pain points. This was in order to develop a baseline view of which FinTech spaces would be best able to work with each BU and arrive at win-win solutions. The idea was to provide a platform for the incoming cohort to integrate their ‘tech’ and solve ‘fin’ problems holistically – with this, the startups stand a chance to provide their solution to 2M+ retail customers, 5K+ corporates and 20k+ SME customers of YES Bank.
Thanks to multi-media marketing efforts, roadshows across multiple Indian Metro and Tier 1 cities, along with the general virality of the program in startup circles, a total of 753 startup applications were received from more than 40 countries.
Following this, a total of three screening rounds took place over a period of two weeks. While the first round was a remote exercise, the second screening round witnessed multiple stakeholders across the Bank and industry experts come together in Hyderabad, and debate out their selection thesis. This boiled down the total number of startups to about 35 which got selected to pitch live to the selection committee comprising group business unit and technology leaders on February 28 and March 1, 2017, in Mumbai. These full two days of deliberation allowed YES FINTECH to select the final set that would comprise the first cohort.
Some analytics on the cohort data indicate the following inferences:
- The cohort is diverse and spread out over most major ‘Fin’ <> ‘Tech’ areas that are strategic to the bank. Core technology areas of the cohort are APIs, data analytics, SaaS, biometrics, blockchain and AI (in that order).
- Most of the selected startups have been founded over the last two years, have between 6–10 employees, and at the very least had a working prototype of their product.
- Majority of selected startups are generating revenue, with two already being profitable.
- The cohort is almost evenly split between startups that have raised money (a couple that are near or have recently raised Series A funding round) and those that are bootstrapped (founder funded only).
- One in three startups selected have been part of another incubation or acceleration program previously.
In conclusion, as part of the LTP team, it has been an insightful and enriching experience, working with the entire ecosystem of YES FINTECH. We are honored to have played a part in what we think is now the new precedence for how bank/FI-run accelerators should be designed and implemented. We fundamentally think FinTechs can help drive and sustain meaningful value with such partnerships, and the YES FINTECH story is just beginning!
We look forward to the rest of the cohort along with YES Bank and our partners, T-Hub and Anthill Ventures.