BOSTON — More than 280 companies entered the Innotribe Startup Challenge, one of the more notable fintech startup competitions in the world. but just two emerged triumphant: the virtual currency money movement service Epiphyte and the growth-stage company Matchmove, which offers virtual credit cards.
Innotribe’s startup challenge began in London in mid-April, and continued in Singapore in May and June in New York. The grand finale took place here on Wednesday. Innotribe is a community of startups and their supporters funded by SWIFT, the global payments cooperative.
San Francisco-based Epiphyte took the laurels for startups (and $50,000 prize money) with its bitcoin-based international transfer technology designed for banks. Epiphyte’s solution avoids traditional money movement avenues and instead converts currency to bitcoins, moves the coins, then cashes them out on the other end in the local tender. The bitcoins are moved for a fraction of the cost of traditional money transfers using exchanges like Coinbase and Bitpay, which take on the currency risk. The value proposition of the company is to bring international remittances back to the banks from the startups nibbling away at the market and provide lower-cost services.
Epiphyte should come to market at the end of the first quarter of 2015, according to CEO Edan Yago.
Matchmove, a Singapore-based company, offers a virtual prepaid American Express card for cardless customers to use to transact online. In Asia, 25% of adults have mobile phones, but only 3% have credit cards. This mismatch was an opportunity for Matchmove CEO Shailesh Naik, who launched his company out of beta in February 2014. Matchmove customers load cash or credits onto a virtual card that can be used like any other 16-digit card number for online purchases. Premium services include a physical AmeEx card and P2P functionality. The company is focused on Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, but is expanding throughout Asia, with strong presences in southeast Asia, India and China.
Congratulations to the two winners, and to all the companies that took part in the Innotribe Startup Challenge 2014.
Read about all 15 Innotribe finalists here.