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Israeli startups shine at Visa’s Everywhere Initiative competition

Israel excels in the Visa Everywhere Initiative with strong representation across all stages, eventually producing two of the three winners

Shahar Friedman from Visa and the Israeli team. (Anthony Upton)
Shahar Friedman from Visa and the Israeli team. (Anthony Upton)

With the booths and billboards from the Money 20/20 Europe conference in Copenhagen packed up and all the participants back at home, it is common knowledge that banks, credit firms and other financial companies are wooing startups in an effort to get their hands on the most advanced technologies.

Visa is at the heart of these developments. Like most areas of industry, the field of payments is rapidly becoming digitized, and this was palpably felt in every auditorium and booth of the Money 20/20 Europe conference.

Open banking has created new opportunities to provide good services to customers and create new business models. Advances in the fields of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and big data (the ability to analyze enormous amounts of data) are making the payments, financial services, and retail service sectors speed up their product-development processes, disrupting current technologies, and posing new challenges to the regulators. In this new reality, collaborations between fintech firms and financial services companies are the desired outcome, and startup entrepreneurs are the ones providing new and revolutionary use-cases.

Visa’s Everywhere Initiative contest, which was expanded this year to include 19 European countries, encourages startups to present the solutions that they have developed as a response to three challenges: the Local Community Challenge, Regional Intercity Challenge and International Travel Challenge. The Money 20/20 conference saw the finals.

Israel shone, with a significant number of startups from the country progressing to the finals.

Tal Ekroni, CEO of FlyMoney, one of the winners of the Visa Everywhere Initiative Contest at the Money 20/20 Conference in Copenhagen. (Anthony Upton)

Israel was also well-represented on the judging panel – with Erez Aharoni from ICC, and Ohad Maimon from Leumi Card joining judges such as Birte Quitt from Erste Group, Davide Rigamonti from CornerCard, and Visa’s Shiv Singh, Mayank Somayia, Hemlata Narasimhan, and Marek Kosinski.

Eventually, two of the three winners were Israeli companies: FlyMoney, which developed an innovative platform that travelers can use to convert foreign currency when they go abroad, and BiteMojo — the winner of the Local Community challenge — which is developing an application that allows tourists to arrange their own culinary tours. Together, they joined the overall winner of the competition: UK startup Kompas – an app that personalizes content based on individual preferences and interests.

Tal Ekroni, FlyMoney’s founder and CEO, says that his company provides a solution that has been missing in the tourism industry. Unlike flights, hotels, and car rentals, the foreign currency field is not digitized at all, and no service existed to centralize the supply.

“We developed an interface and integrated it with the databases of currency providers all over the world,” says Ekroni.

Currency being exchanged (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Currency being exchanged (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“We work to offer customers foreign currency in exchange for frequent-flier miles and loyalty points from hotels and other tourism businesses. These loyalty-point plans contain enormous sums of money that are a burden to these companies’ balances. This way, the customer has cash available to use, and the companies’ balances will benefit too,” he says.

Michael Weiss, co-founder of BiteMojo, an application that enables tourists to arrange their own food tours, says that, “So far, we have launched culinary tours via the application in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Berlin, Barcelona and Rome. Soon, we will be launching in other European cities. Our expansion model uses partnerships with companies that organize local culinary tours in each destination. In this way, we benefit from local partnerships, an understanding of the product, and, of course, significant cost savings.

Michael Weiss, cofounder of BiteMojo, one of the winners of the Visa Everywhere Initiative Contest at the Money 20/20 Conference in Copenhagen. (Anthony Upton)

“BiteMojo’s partnership with Visa is quite natural because it allows for a user experience that sounds like something straight out of the imagination — the ability to buy more samples to taste during the culinary experience itself. In other words, visitors can enjoy additional benefits inside the business where they are touring, and even use the application to tip. These are the features that users and business owners asked us for,” Weiss says.

The other Israeli finalists were Save A Train, hereO, HopOn, and PCENTRA, which competed in the Regional Intercity Challenge category, as well as Visual Travel, and Combine which competed in the International Travel challenge category.

“Israel is a wonderful source of technological innovations and developments that help to make our lives better,” says Oded Salomy, General Manager for Israel operations at Visa.

“We at Visa have the ability to introduce this innovation to the relevant worlds. The companies that reached the finals, as well as the ones that won the awards, arrived at their achievements through hard work over a long period of time. I am sure that with their far-reaching innovation, they will accomplish things that change our lives, and we wish them success as they continue their work,” he says.

“Through Visa Innovation’s work in Israel, we are deepening our presence in the developer industry, and we hope to encounter more and more companies and ideas that will leave their mark on the industry and on our lives.”

Click here to contact Visa Israel’s Innovation and Strategic Partnerships Team, which sponsored this article.

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