On September 22nd, the winners of the European division of the BBVA Open Talent Competition were announced in Barcelona, Spain. This year, three of the 15 finalists come from the Bitcoin and blockchain sector: Everledger, Safello and Vaultoro.
The purpose of the competition is to discover and support up-and-coming innovators in financial technology who are poised to “disrupt [the banking] industry in e-commerce, security, mobile payments, data and others.”
The two winners are selected from each of three territories: Europe, Latin America and the United States and the rest of the world. Those six companies not only take home $30,000 each, but also benefit from extensive mentoring and networking support from BBVA in the form of a two-week intensive course.
This year, Everledger was named one of the two European winners.
Based in the U.K., Everledger is a permanent ledger for diamond certification and related transaction history. Using blockchain technology, it acts as a fraud-detection system, overlaying big data from closed sources such as insurers and law enforcement.
“BBVA Open Talent provides an inflection point in the growth curve of Everledger and validates our role in the financial services ecosystem,” Everledger’s CEO Leanne Kemp told Bitcoin Magazine.
“Everledger is a business that will make a difference: At our very core we focus on the ongoing presence of blood diamonds, combatting fraud, theft and counterfeit luxury goods — a problem for consumers, law enforcement and insurers that tops £50 billion a year,” she said. “Blockchain provides a distributed global solution to a fragmented, scattered and complex global problem. With the support from the Barclays Accelerator, and now as a finalist in the BBVA Open Talent Competition, we are having conversations to create new financial and insurance products for diamonds.”
Joshua Scigala, co-founder of Vaultoro, was enthusiastic about the BBVA’s inclusion of his U.K.-based bitcoin and gold exchange.
“We are really proud to be a finalist in the BBVA awards,” Scigala told Bitcoin Magazine. “The developing world skipped the landline and went direct to mobile phones. They are now doing the same with traditional branch banking because it’s just too uneconomical to set up. Vaultoro enables anyone to easily enter the global economy securely by utilizing the native Internet currency, bitcoin, and removing the extreme volatility by combining the security of assigned gold bullion. This will go very far towards ending poverty by including a potential 5 billion people who have no real access to banking.”
Vaultoro is a real-time Bitcoin gold exchange that allows its users to convert their bitcoin instantly to gold and back, alleviating volatility risk for bitcoin users. Its “bank-independent trading” allows users to trade gold in amounts as small as 0.001 gram.
The third bitcoin finalist, Safello, is a Swedish-based exchange that works with a wide network of European banks providing direct payment options, allowing customers to buy and sell bitcoin instantly, thereby avoiding exposure to market volatility.
“What’s most noticeable about this Open Challenge is the sheer amount Bitcoin selected,” Frank Schuil, CEO of Safello, told Bitcoin Magazine. “It shows the dedication from BBVA to embrace blockchain technology. With regards to our selection, of course our recent announcement with Barclays is sparking interest from other financial institutions. The fact that we are essentially building a new type of bank on top of blockchain technology is sparking interest.”
Everledger joins BitNexo, winner of the Latin American regional competition, as the second Bitcoin-based company to take home a BBVA award this year.
“In BitNexo’s mission to bring simplicity, speed and savings to cross border payments for SMBs through the use of blockchain technology, we had the honor of sharing the stage with 13 other amazing FinTech Startups from all around Latin America,” said Darren Camas, CEO and co-founder of BitNexo in a blog post. “To say I was impressed with the level of competition is an understatement.”
Information about all 15 finalists can be found on the BBVA Open Talent competition website.