Digital-only banks, currency exchange made easy: the Fintech revolution

If you like travelling like me, you know that it’s painful being abroad and using your card with a lot of non-sense commissions to pay when you want to use your bank card. And you have to pay those bank commissions, simply because you’re using your card abroad, in shops or because you need to withdraw local currency.
Is it fair?

You’re giving your money to banks for free, without earning any interest (you’re lucky if you’ve not to pay to get some additional services). And, if you need that money while you’re on holiday abroad, you have to pay for it. Maybe 30-40 years ago not everyone was interested in using the card abroad, as only a few of us could go abroad on holiday, but now it’s what everyone is doing. Meaning that those banks are earning a lot of money just because of new people’s behaviours and none is really thinking different, segmenting the audience and understanding their needs.
That’s how a big bunch of startups is offering new services in an industry commonly known as Fintech, disrupting the traditional way banks are operating and getting a lot of interest and funds: in the UK more than $5.5 billion (£3.8bn) of investments were made in the fintech industry between July 2015 and January 2016.

In the brand new world of fintech startups working to satisfy specific needs, providing effective and efficient services for a niche of people a few of them are very very interesting. And I’m glad to share the ones I think are implementing a very good service.
I’ve already talked about Transferwise, allowing people to transfer money between different countries paying just a little fee compared to what you pay to banks (I talked about it in my last year’s startup roundup). The technology is based on a peer-to-peer system, so if someone wants to convert their pounds to euros, TransferWise’s technology finds someone who wants to transfer money in the opposite direction (euros into pounds)

A brand new part of fintech startups is represented by digital-only banks, which are going to start operating this year, such as Mondo, Tandem, Starling and Atom. But what does digital-only banks mean?
If high street banks have been using digital technologies to help transform various areas of their business, those new banks have decided to go all digital instead, in order to offer a fully integrated mobile experience in which customers use their smartphones or tablets to do everything from opening a new account and making payments to resolving credit-card billing disputes, all without ever setting foot in a physical branch. Without losing time, having to fill out lots of papers or having to pay hidden fees.
Do you think it’s just a cool idea and high street banks will never disappear? Well, according to this McKinsey report, “in the United Kingdom and Western Europe, there is a potential for 40% or more of new deposits to come from digital sales by 2018
And in terms of digital evolution, we’re ready, as you can see from the graph here below.
And you should read this report by the Deutsche Bank, if you’re keen to understand whether we’re ready or not.

The digital revolution in the financial sector - fintech startups

But let’s come back to startups providing specific services in a cheaper and more efficient way.
I personally love Revolut allowing you to use your money abroad without incurring in fees.
I love travelling and I don’t really like paying fees just because I’m using my card to withdraw money abroad or because I’m using it to pay in shops. Revolut, working like a digital wallet, allows you to transfer money from your account to your Revolut account through the app and then use it thanks to a physical MasterCard. Once abroad, you can use the card to make your purchases or withdraw money without incurring in any fees. Isn’t it amazing?
The next one I want to try is Nutmeg an online wealth manager helping you to invest money without having to go to a physical bank. When you register you tell the platform how much you want to invest and the risk you want to take before being presented with a portfolio, chosen by the Nutmeg team. No algorithm. Same concept as the Italian MoneyFarm, I should definitely try both.

Then, there are fintech startups helping SMEs to get money with less hassle, faster and cheaper, but they’re a lot. Better if for today I stop there.
Enjoy your August peeeeps!

Ho provato UBEReats e no, il taxi non c’entra con la consegna

UBER non è solo ferma al suo servizio super cheap di taxi-on-demand. Dopo gli Stati Uniti ed il Canda, UberEATS arriva a Londra. Ed io ho deciso di provarlo, intanto perchè sono curiosa e poi perchè volevo raccontarvi come fosse l’esperienza. 

Ma analizziamo prima il servizio. Lo scopo, per UBER, è ovviamente quello di allargare la propria offerta, non solo con un cross-selling, ma con una nuova app ed un nuovo servizio, con la possibilità di aumentare notevolmente la propria user-base, che tuttavia non si sposta dal concetto di servizio-on-demand del brand, ma entrando a far parte di un mercato super competitivo, popolato da Deliveroo, Pronto, Take it Easy, JustEAT e molti altri. Una vera e propria estensione di marca, quindi. 


Così come Amazon che con il servizio FRESH sta entrando nel mercato dei supermercati online, anche UBER sta facendo leverage sulla propria tecnologia per entrare in tutti i settori, non solo quello dei taxi quindi, sviluppando quello che potrebbe essere un ‘UBER for everything‘. 

La coerenza di marca, quindi, è rispettata.
Sarà di successo come quello dei taxi on-demand? Difficile da dire, soprattutto al momento del lancio. 

Sicuramente c’è un beneficio di brand, ma, rispetto ai taxi-on-demand, non si tratta in questo di un first-mover. Anche se a volte i first mover, non sempre portano al successo, vedi ad esempio Myspace. 


Ma vediamo come funziona, l’ho provato con un amico la settimana scorsa:

– Ho scaricato l’app UberEATS, che, no, non è compresa nella versione orginale. 

– Al momento ci sono 150 ristoranti, sia appartenenti a catene che indipendenti. 

– Funziona solo se abitate in Central London, le aree comprese sono da Hammersmith a Whitechapel, Camden e Southwark. 

– A differenza dei competitor, non ci sono spese di consegna e non c’è un ordine minimo

– La consegna avviene in 30 minuti. Se il vostro ordine costa £20 o meno e impiega più di trenta minuti ad arrivare, UBER ti restituisce £20 come credito da utilizzare per il prossimo ordine. 

– Così come per il servizio di auto, anche con UberEATS si possono valutare i corrieri e il menu dei ristoranti


Devo dire, che, per il momento ha soddisfatto le mie aspettative. 

Ed in Italia, cosa succederà con Foodora, e Deliveroo?

Artificial intelligence: London is the most important hub in the world

Imagine if you could predict people’s behaviour. Even if just for simple tasks like texting (and adding emojis, a brand new only-beta feature) to your chat. Well, now come back to reality as Swiftkey is already doing it. SwiftKey learns from previous SMS messages and output predictions based on currently input text and what it has learned giving you word suggestions following your writing style.
Swiftkey has been funded in 2008 and bought by Microsoft earlier this year. It’s not the first British AI startup bought by a US Tech giant: Google bought Deepmind a couple of years ago, not only with the need of putting his hands on Deepmind’s technology but also to have access to an incredible pool of talents.

Ed Rex from Jukedeck @ London.AI Meetup

If you’re following the startup scene in London, you know that good developers are on the hunt. If your project is around AI, you know that finding good people with that expertise is even more difficult. That’s why there are meetups like London.AI, aiming to create a network of investors, companies, developers, academics. And that’s where I’ve been yesterday evening, attending a panel around creativity and AI.
The panel was super interesting, telling the experience of the co-founder of, a open source machine learning tool aiming to help developers building more intelligent products, such as recommendation or prediction engines (without having to reinvent the wheel) now acquired by Salesforce. If was great hearing from Jonathan from Union Square, a VC investing in creative AI projects (and a lot of other stuff) especially regarding the fact that ideas and networks are still important. And the last one, by Ed Rex, founder of Jukedeck was brilliant (and scary): AI is not just learning to predict our search and our behaviour but is also learning to be creative, using the same process we have in mind when we develop new ideas and produce a final result. Isn’t it scary? Ed is very much convinced about the positive effect this is leading to: much more people open to new stuff and more personalised products. Will be true? I’m sure we’ll continue the conversation.

therapist-computer-robot-worried-about-AISuper fascinating projects, but only a few of all the AI projects in London. And it’s funny, ’cause London (and not the Silicon Valley this time) is becoming the main global hub, not only for London’s startup ecosystem but also thanks to Imperial and UCL offering a trove of talent and ideas.
According to the Guardian this is a growing network of academic excellence which has already attracted some of the world’s brightest minds, all keen to be part of an environment reminiscent of San Francisco’s web startup hub. – This is a scene where everyone knows each other. You can’t help being caught up in the excitement of it,- says Shanahan professor of cognitive robotics at Imperial.

Which are the other AI projects we should give a closer look at in 2016? Here what I liked the most.

  • Magic Pony technology: using AI to expand and create pictures, discovering the finest details and larger patterns. If you don’t see where the application can be, imagine a game or CG movie where textures like that can be generated dynamically, different for every playthrough or character. Chances are that humans would still have to ground-truth these images to fine-tune the algorithms, but it’s a powerful way to implement a feature artists and engineers have been pursuing with varying success for years.
  • Babylon:  an artificially intelligent ‘doctor’ that aims to prevent illnesses before they occur. To do this, the program tracks your daily habits, diagnosis illness based on symptoms and integrating data about heart rate, diet and medical records.
    Babylon is currently in a trial partnership with the National Health Service to test feasibility in making its service available to all UK citizens.
  • Onfido: helping companies to carry out remote background checks using artificial intelligence and machine learning to build the sophistication of its fraud detection over time
  • Seldon: predicts the future actions of consumers of media and e-commerce services across web, mobile and tablet combining behavioural, social, contextual, and first/third party data to increase the relevance of content and product recommendations and ultimately boost engagement and conversion.
  • Rainbird: an artificial intelligence platform that uses existing human and business knowledge to automate knowledge work and deliver smart systems that can transform organisations. The technology is also capable of learning through interaction and from every decision that is made, getting smarter over time with the aim of improving large scale decision-making processes.
  • Telectic: interpreting the Web’s content at scale by creating an automated semantic layer to the Web. The initial objective is to map and discover insights about the professional world by reorganising the Web’s information about people, networks and organisations.

Anything else you would add? Let’s chat


3 startups I love – August 2015

I remember my grandma and a lot of friends stating: “August is holiday time“. Well, since when I moved to London I really appreciate the fact I can take holiday whenever I want, so, August has been turning into the busiest month ever.
A lot of work, projects, amazing people I met and incredible things I learnt. I stab the accelerator, just a little bit and BUM! I didn’t even realise how my life has been full of everything, in just a few weeks.
But yeah, sorry, this is the post where I’m talking about the best projects I came across in August. 😛

amazing-sunset-greece-Kos-april-2015So, let’s talk about your holiday. ‘Cause I guess the majority of you is still thinking of incredible sunsets and beach parties.
If you’re a girl looking for exclusive trips and events, you need to check out Pinktrotters an exclusive female community for travels, lifestyle and events. They’re just about launching in the UK, so if you’re interested in joining unique travelling experiences & events around the world, have a look.
If you’re a boy, keep reading.

boat-sailing-rent-a-boat-summer0sharing-economyI came across a few sharing economy projects that could be really cool in terms of experiencing something new but also saving YOU a bit of money.
Do you know you can rent a boat, skippers/captains included and travel around highlands without worrying about anything? Yeah, I’m not joking, you can enjoy an amazing on-board-holiday just in a few finger taps.  Check out the Italian Antlos and join the incredible suggestions all around the Mediterranean.
Join the several sea skippers and be ready for your next adventure.
If you don’t like Italians (buuuhhh!) you can also check the Greek version, Incrediblue.

I don’t know if I already tell you, maybe not, but I DO love sharing economy, especially the fact you’re renting, maximising the utility of a car/boat/house/tool without an intermediary. It’s very sad to say but you already know that the intermediaries as we know will die? And millennials much prefer renting than buying? If you still love buying, it’s because you’re not a millenieal, don’t worry. 😛

Rentecarlo-Car-Hire-London-sharing-economy-startupsThat’s why the last project I’m in love is also a sharing economy one, called Rentecarlo, an online marketplace to rent cars from people nearby. Say you have a car and this weekend you’re thinking of staying at home planting seeds and relax. Why not earning money renting out your car? And if you’re planning a weekend away, why not renting a car directly from owners, saving time and money?
I think it’s brilliant. Just in the UK for the moment, but soon all around Europe.
Ah, just wantin’ to tell you. I was so in love with Rentecarlo that I joined the team! Wish me luck!! I did tell you it’s been a busy month, didn’t I?
Share my love for the sharing economy startups and join this Sharing Economy FB group to be up to date with all the latest news!