A million bucks is a lot of money – but Daniel Peled, CEO of GetGems, turned down a chance to win it.
“It’s true that we won a prestigious contest in the US, which could have netted us a million dollar prize,” Peled told The Times of Israel. “But we would have had to give 5% of the company’s equity, and I think our company’s 5% is worth more than that.” The contest concluded with GetGems winning a $250,000 prize, but the company turned that down, too.
Instead, the Israeli start-up will continue innovating at home and building its skill set, making the company an even bigger and better example of Israeli financial technology at work.
GetGems was a winner in recent weeks of the 43North competition that took place in Buffalo, in which as one of 11 finalists (chosen out of 11,000 that applied), the company has a shot at prizes worth between $250,000 and $1 million. It was also a top finisher in the second annual Global Tech Expo taking place at Citi TLV Innovation Lab in Kiryat Atidim on November 16. As a member of the Citi Lab, GetGems, along with over a dozen other companies, got access to mentors, investment opportunities, and resources to develop their financial technology products.
Citi, which boasts the largest presence of any foreign financial institution in Israel, opened the program last year after realizing that Israeli innovation and entrepreneurship were having a huge impact on the financial technology industry, among them technologies that help save on international transfer fees, applications that provide users access to virtual currencies, and systems that will hurtle trading desks into the future. Those innovations, among others, are essential in maintaining Citi’s dominant position as a global leader in the ever evolving and changing financial markets and provide it with leverage in a modern and technology oriented environment, the company said.
GetGems is a good example of what Citi is talking about, said Peled. Established last year, GetGems specializes in bitcoin payments via text message, with a payment in digital, secure bitcoin form attached to a text message.
But bitcoin was just the beginning for GetGems, said Peled.
“In Buffalo we showed off our new technology, called PayKey. It’s a patented system that enables payments to be made within social networks’ chats including Facebook’s Messenger, WhatsApp, SnapChat, Twitter etc., with users transferring either bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies, as well as dollars and other currencies via a secure backend system.”
The secret sauce that enabled this breakthrough, said Peled, was a new feature in iOS that allows users to add keyboards that work with any app. Once limited to just emojis, there are now available a wide variety of alternative keyboards that allow users to type in different languages, attach images, and more.
“PayKey is a keyboard that can be used with any app, that looks exactly like a standard Latin letter keyboard, except that it includes a dollar sign pay key,” said Peled. “In any chat app, you just press the key and choose a contact, add the amount and press send. The money is then transferred to their account, and a link for a receipt is displayed. The chat app doesn’t do anything with the money other than send the link for the receipt; the payment is made via a secure banking or credit card app with the user installs, depending on the financial institution they are working with.
“PayKey is designed to act as a white-label payment solution to allow banks to take advantage of the increasing popularity and power of social apps. Chat apps that have dedicated payment options (in which payments are sent securely through the app) are very popular among young people,” said Peled, pointing out that China’s WeChat, which handles payments, did $1.4 trillion in business last year.
That’s the kind of innovation Citi hoped to find when it opened its accelerator – and it has found it in GetGems and the other start-ups, said Lyron Wahrmann, head of Citi TLV Innovation Lab. “We opened the door to the world’s largest banking corporations for Israeli entrepreneurs, and technologies developed by the Lab’s team in Kiryat Atidim will soon be installed in the systems of global Citi in a number pilot programs. The Lab provides direct access to the world’s leading experts in the various fields of fintech, and bank’s executives are interested in many of the technologies developed in Israel.”