Empowering Tech Start-ups to Innovative Solutions

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The Stanbic IBTC Innovation Challenge, which produced a winner last week from among 200 entries, will boost tech start-ups innovative skills, local content development and economic growth, writes Emma Okonji

In line with the federal government initiative to put a stop to foreign software patronage, especially when there is alternative software solution in the local market, coupled with the zeal to promote local content development in the financial sector, Stanbic IBTC bank, introduced the Stanbic IBTC Innovation Challenge, which seeks to co-create local financial solutions with tech start-ups that will address the financial transaction needs of the bank customers. The idea was also to search for skilled and innovative software developers that could develop financial transaction software that will help ease financial transactions among the bank customers.

In search of solutions that will meet the bank’s needs and address its customs challenges, IBTC, in September, introduced the Innovation Challenge competition , where it invited Nigeria’s technology entrepreneurs and financial technology experts from across the country to a one-day ideation session tagged ‘Ideas Open Day’.

Startups were requested to submit applications, technologies, tools, services or any other kind of digital innovation, in line with the identified challenge areas the organisation aimed at providing solutions to key focus areas, which include Digitisation, Customer centricity and Universal Financial Services Organisation. The startups were told to come up with local solutions that will address the focus areas of the bank, and over 200 entries were received. Shortlisting was done and the number was reduced to three, based on the set out criteria that addresses the focus areas.

Last week the developers of the selected three solutions, which include Yochaa, Barter, and Venture Garden, were invited for the final pitch, where Yochaa was selected as the winner by the panel of judges, with a prize of $12,500.

Although all three solutions were good and met the criteria for the banks’ focus areas, the bank had to select the best and announced its intention to further work with the solution developers to incubate and further groom their solutions.

Yochaa financial software

The Yochaa financial software, which won the Stanbic IBTC Innovation Challenge with a prize of $12,500., was developed by a team of young tech start-ups, called RME Ideas.

During the presentation at the grand finale pitch competition in Lagos, the Founder of RME Ideas, Mr. Osagie Zogie-Odigie, said the whole idea about Yochaa financial transaction solution was to address financial transaction challenges in Nigeria. “The challenges with financial transaction in Nigeria has to do with poor network connectivity and the issue of high cost of data and the high rate of data depletion when customers are online browsing with their limited data. So we came up with a solution that compresses the data and makes it light for the user to go online and do financial transactions, without consuming so much data.”

The solution is a mobile app that could be downloaded on the mobile phone. So the solution encrypts data and save on the phone such that even when the customer do not have network, the customer can still have access to online transactions. The idea is to develop simple solution that will boost user’s experience, Zogie-Odigie said, adding that the solution was simplified to enable customers do stock trade online, view trade online from a single platform and also buy shares online.

Yochaa solution has been in existence in the last four years, but in the last two years, we expanded its reach to operating systems like Android to attract more customer usage. At a time before we submitted entry for the Stanbic IBTC Innovation Challenge, we had over 2000 registered users on the Yochaa solution but more than 2000 people are actually using the solution, some for trial, but like I said, only 2,000 have registered and created accounts with us, the founder said.

Speaking on the right to ownership of the solution, having emerged winner, Zogie-Odigie said; “At this point of winning, we do not know how the bank wants it, whether to own the solution or not, but all I know is that the goal was to develop a solution that can integrate with the Satnbic IBTC system so that their customers can have access and do online banking transactions from their mobile devices and laptop and with other computer systems.”
In the area of challenges faced while developing the solution,

In developing the solutions, Zogie-Odigie said: “We faced some teething challenges when developing the solution, but I did not see them as challenges because the solution was personal and I initially developed it for personal use, and not to make money, before I realised that people can use it and that I can actually make money from it, and that was when my team decided to expand the solution.”

Giving clarification about the winning prize, Zogie-Odigie said: “The $12,500 winning prize is not free money. It is prize money offered to further develop the solution to the level where it can be integrated with Stanbic IBTC system. Although it’s a lot of money, but it will be used to integrate the solution with the bank’s existing platform.

Barter Software solution

Barter financial solution, which came second in the final pitch exercise, is a software that was developed by a team of young start-ups, whose company name is Fluterwave. The Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr. Olugbenga Agboola, who represented the company during the grand finale for the pitch exercise, said; “The solution is card based, which provides value to the card users and the bank itself. The solution is an app built and embedded into a plastic card that supports VISA and Mastercard.
According to him, users can generate a virtual card from the computer system and use the virtual card for a particular financial transaction and later destroy the virtual card or reuse it for other transactions, as the customer desires. The essence is to eliminate cloning of cards by hackers and used fraudulently to defraud the card owner.
“Customers can have multiple virtual cards for different transactions and destroys them after each transaction, instead of being exposed to the risk of carrying physical debit cards about that third party could have access to.

Venture Garden software

The Venture Garden software, which came third in the final pitch exercise, was developed by Venture Garden Group. It’s General Manager who represented the company at the grand finale, said the solution analysed generated data and make the data analysis available to account managers for better policy decision making that will enhance organisational growth. The solution according to him, come in three different categories: The Portfolio Management, which enables heads of organisations to make better decision; Single Identity and Millennial Target, which helps the customers to understand their networks better.
When data is generated from the system, or from other sources, the app makes use of the data for analytics, by using Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to mime data.

Stanbic IBTC strategic focus

Speaking on the bank’s strategic focus, shortly after the winner emerged, the Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, Dr. Demola Sogunle, said; “One of our strategic focus areas at Stanbic IBTC is digitisation and we are talking about digitisation not only at the front-end, but also at the back-end and major offices. To meet effectively meet the digitisation drive of the bank, we decided to outsource our innovation drive to local technology startups, by telling them what our focus is and how we want achieve it. So in the process, we stated our needs, on how we want to improve our bank customers’ experience, using innovative solution and we called for entries from startups who can develop home-grown solution with local content that will address customers’ needs.”
Sogunle said the bank received over 200 entries and shortlisted to get the best three that were invited to pitch in the grand finale that produced the winner. The three best have different solutions to fit into our areas of interest, but what we did was to take technology innovation in the financial system to another level by bringing innovators to co-create with them in order to get the best financial solution for our customers.
The winner has emerged, with a prize offering of $12,500, but we will work with the three of them that made it to the final, and offer them the opportunity to be in an incubation hub for weeks, where they will meet mentors that will further groom them on their innovative solutions to the level of commercialising them, Sogunle added.

Key solution areas

The branch network of the bank aims to revamp the card issuance system, to ensure that every customer is able to claim their debit cards, and wants technology solution that can improve the process of customer card deliveries to be more seamless and cost-efficient.
Stanbic IBTC Asset Management Limited houses vast amounts of data that can be utilized to serve its customers better, the bank also wanted to create an efficient data analytics system that collects and collates relevant customer data, and transforms them into insights used to improve service delivery.
Again with the changing consumer behaviour, Stanbic IBTC Stockbrokers Limited needs to constantly adapt its online trading platform to users’ preferences, and the bank wants technology solution that will improve the customer trading experience through creating a simplified trading platform that is easy to understand.

The motive

About the movie that propelled Stanbic IBTC into the Innovation Challenge, Sogunle said the bank had gone beyond the era of buying foreign software to drive its financial transactions. “Technology is evolving and our needs varies from country to country, so what we did was to get Nigerians who are technology solution providers in the financial space and who understand our peculiar Nigerian challenges, to come up with solutions that will address specific challenges. The motive is to encourage local talent and to get the right solution that will address the bank customers’ peculiar needs.
So the motive is to co-create solution with the developers that will address specific challenges at a relative cheaper cost than foreign software.
In the area of ownership of the willing solution, the bank’s chief executive said: “We invited software developers and we did the shortlisting, so we are expected to own the solutions through partnership because they are companies of their own, even though they are small at the moment. The important thing is that the bank has succeeded in co-creating solution and we may decide to co-own the solution, depending on the agreement we will arrive at.”

Impact

Implementing partners to Stanbic IBTC on the project, CcHub, represented by the Director of Incubation, Damilola Teidi, lauded Stanbic IBTC for exploring digital technology, innovation and expertise outside of the traditional financial services provider’s confines to improve its efficiencies and capture new opportunities that add value to its customers through collaborations with entrepreneurs in the digital technology and innovations space.
“Through the challenge, we hope to assist Stanbic IBTC find hidden innovators across the length and breadth of Nigeria, supporting them to develop their solutions and to scale leveraging digital technology through CcHUB’s reach and networks,” Teidi added.
The winning solution received total funding valued at $15,000; $12,500 in cash, and workspace in the Stanbic IBTC Blue Lab, valued at $2500.