Israel and startups have been synonymous for many a year now, with the country even being coined ‘Startup Nation’. Successful technology global companies that began in Israel include Check Point Software, ICQ, Amdocs, NICE Systems, and most recently Waze. The country’s firms are heavily involved in all areas of technology from enterprise solutions, to mobile, to semiconductor research, to medicine. Less known is Israel’s contributions to the financial sector, where Traiana and SuperDerivatives have become leaders in their respective industries.
Looking to continue the quiet evolution of Israeli fintech firms, while also helping to increase the pace of development, Citi has announced the launch of the first financial accelerator program in the country. Based in Citi’s recently established Citi Innovation Lab TLV, a technological research and development arm to assist its global initiatives, the accelerator will provide startups the opportunity to learn and grow their business within the program. The first class is set to start towards the end of this year, with Citi opening its application process for acceptance until August 21st.
A unique feature of the four month program is that Citi will not be investing in accepted firms, as it aims to offer firms independence while they participate in the accelerator. In addition to working in Citi’s Atidim office, accepted firms will receive mentorship from Citi mentors related to the startup’s industry, gain exposure to senior executives from the company, as well as learn the process of working with a Tier 1 bank. In addition, firms will gain insights and assistance with their product development for the financial industry.
Speaking on the program, Lyron Wahrmann, Head of Citi Innovation Lab TLV stated “While Israel is at the forefront of technology and has great experience in creating successful startups, this move is intended to grow and enhance the country’s involvement and participation in the development of financial technology around the world. The Lab has been meeting with local startups since its creation two years ago.”
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The program will be headed by Ornit Shinar, who comes with a long track record of working within and consulting startups. To learn more, Forex Magnates spoke with Shinar about the program. Shinar explained that Citi has two main goals as it aims to further develop the local fintech industry, as well as find firms whose technology they can integrate into their own offerings. She added that the mentoring will include both members from Citi’s team as well as people from the outside including specialists in technology, serial entrepreneurs, and lawyers.
In terms of the forex industry Shinar acknowledged that the sector is an important one in Israel that Citi will be evaluating, as she said “we have seen a lot of startups in the area that offer platforms for retail traders as well as products for institutional firms. We can’t name names yet.”
Shinar also offered insight on the selection process. She explained that Citi’s internal business units will take part in the selection, with members of those groups evaluating the technology and products of the startups and offer their insights as she stated “business units are part of the selection process and have a say – whether its retail, mortgages, etc. They can say things like ‘it’s a great idea’, ‘they are a dime a dozen’, or ‘we don’t believe in this direction’. We will also get multiple opinions from each business unit.” She added that companies don’t necessarily have to have a working product yet, as they are “open to anything in (fintech), a great team with all sorts of concepts is legit, as well as companies with a pilot, and everything in between.”
In a general question of where innovation in fintech is currently taking place, Shinar answered that she was seeing a lot occurring in the payments space, securities clearing, and algorithmic trading.
Startup companies interested in applying should send presentations explaining their idea, market, competitive landscape and what the Citi Accelerator could do for them (without disclosing IP information) to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 21st.