Fintech Master is the first incubation program in Ukraine for fintech startups created based on available open data of financial institutions.
In 2017, the landscape of financial technology (fintech) in Ukraine was nascent, gaining attention from startups, banks, and regulatory bodies like the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU). The strategic collaboration between the 1991 Open Data Incubator, MasterCard, and the NBU led to the inception of Fintech Master. At this time, the potential of fintech in Ukraine was accentuated by the opening of data by financial institutions through APIs. While this practice was established globally, Ukrainian banks were in the early stages of embracing this technological shift. The NBU, having opened its data in 2016, set the precedent for other financial institutions.
A survey conducted by Mastercard in the banking sector revealed a significant interest in opening non-confidential data to developers, with 45% of financial industry representatives supporting this initiative. However, a substantial portion (68%) acknowledged a lack of experience collaborating with startups. Recognizing the need for legislative adaptations to propel the fintech market forward, the organizers, with support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, aimed to explore and align Ukrainian legislation with Western practices. The realization dawned that legal adjustments were imperative for fintech solutions, especially those fostering small and medium-sized businesses. The organizers understood that the financial institution's initiative depended on access to bank APIs for fintech startups.
Fintech Master emerged as an incubation program designed to nurture technological startups with innovative fintech solutions, leveraging open data from financial institutions, including the NBU and MasterCard technology. The program sought applications from startups at various stages, whether they were fully developed projects or merely compelling ideas led by robust teams. Fintech Master remained inclusive, encompassing diverse business areas, including payments, money transfers, lending, crowdfunding, big data, capital management, and trading.
The selection process involved identifying the most promising projects and inviting them to a hackathon where they pitched their ideas. The jury, comprising representatives from investors, banks, industry experts, and the banking sector, selected the top 10 startups for a three-month incubation program. The chosen startups spanned a range of fintech domains, including loyalty platforms, P2P lending to SMEs, payment gateways, cloud cash registers, electric car charging platforms, scoring models, fraud protection, insurtech, and API integration improvement.
The incubation program consisted of intensive lectures, workshops, and collaboration with fintech professionals, addressing crucial aspects of running a business, solution positioning, PR, and marketing. Fintech mentors, well-versed in banking, startup development, and fintech applications, guided the teams. The program was structured to unveil new aspects and tools, allowing teams to discover untapped potential for their ideas. The culmination of the three-month incubation was refined Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), ready for presentation to potential investors.
After the three-month Fintech Master program, the participating startups transformed their ideas into polished MVPs. These projects were poised for presentations to potential investors, representing a crucial step toward attracting funding and bringing their fintech solutions to the market. The program's success was evident in the diverse array of fintech domains covered by the startups, showcasing the program's ability to foster innovation across the financial technology spectrum. The collaboration between the incubator, MasterCard, and the NBU had not only accelerated the development of these fintech solutions but also contributed to the evolution of the fintech ecosystem in Ukraine.