The fourth season of the Visa Innovation Program is steadily moving ahead and all participants are vigorously working on their solutions even during the summer months! We also continue to meet the founders and present their startups in more detail.
Today, we introduce two promising fintechs from Greece. The first one is AFI – a microfinance not-for-profit company providing access to financing though microcredits to those who have a business idea or project but are not able to find access to the necessary funds. The second startup is ComeTogether, which introduces a new form of digital ticket based on blockchain to unlock new revenues from secondary markets & NFTs, while improving attendee experience.
AFI’s team believes that every person, regardless of their origin, income, social situation, gender or education, has an undeniable right to economic initiative that allows them to take their destiny in their own hands. However, the most vulnerable are always the most excluded from accessibility to the tools to exercise this right. AFI aims to support the creation and growth of businesses by under-represented groups (e.g. women, youth, migrants and seniors) and the unemployed by providing access to finance to the unbankable, aimed at the creation or growth of their own business, as a means to self-employment.
AFI provides access to funding in the form of a microloan of up to 12,500 euros. The funding is aimed at those who have a business idea or an existing business but cannot find the necessary funds either through traditional banking or any other way. The microloan has a (working capital or investment) maturity of 6-48 months and a grace period of up to 6 months. At the same time, AFI supports these companies with free training and guidance before, during and after the establishment of their business, in order to ensure their viability and development.
Why is this important?
AFI’s mission is to make a real impact in the fight against financial and social exclusion in Greece by helping unemployed people and people on welfare create their own jobs and existing businesses further grow through access to funding. It helps low-income households to stabilize their business and consequently their income flows, and save for future needs. In good times, microfinance helps excluded and unbankable families and small businesses to prosper, while at times of crisis, it can help them cope and rebuild. This has a multiplier effect on the whole economy and society as a whole.
In order to learn even more intriguing insights, our team met with AFI’s founders for a quick “founder blitz”.
1. What inspired you to start AFI?
The creation of AFI was the consequence of two like-minded organizations meeting and we can say that it is the very definition of synergy. On the one hand, ActionAid Hellas was looking for ways to support vulnerable people in Greece, and on the other hand ADIE (French microfinance organization with 30+ years of experience) was looking for partners to collaborate with, in order to introduce microfinance in Greece.
3. What is the biggest challenge you have come against since you established AFI?
Being the pioneers in our field in Greece has been no walk in the park. Like all firstcomers, we have had to deal with all the problems that come with it, be it the lack of trust from public authorities or the general public, establishing strong relationships with the banks, and at many times, just surviving. However, the biggest challenge has been getting the word about microfinance out there, reaching the ones most in need.
2. What is your next big milestone?
In light of the recently voted microfinance law, AFI envisions becoming the pioneering non-banking microfinance institution in Greece covering 90% of the country’s mainland population.
We dream of the day when AFI will be, in every Greek’s perception, synonymous to “solution to the problem of access to finance for business creation for the underserved”.
4. What does success look like for AFI?
Success for AFI is being:
- The first and leading microfinance institution in Greece to service 90% of the population of the country between 25 and 64 years old with innovative and market-driven microfinance and business development services;
- The point of reference of 890,000 unemployed people, not serviced by mainstream banking, to create their own businesses and job positions;
- The country’s core channel for job creation for vulnerable segments of the population, of equal opportunity to employment and of better economic and social outreach of financial and non-financial products and services.
Live events of all types suffer from fraudulent ticketing activities – NFT ticketing introduces a new form of ticket preventing fraud and scalping.
Artists, Sports Clubs, and live event organizers, are looking for ways to increase fan engagement, reward loyal fans, and monetize their fan base – NFTs can solve these challenges.
ComeTogether introduces a new form of digital ticket based on blockchain, through their innovative ticket delivery via a dynamic QR code that changes every 30 seconds. This leads to fraud and scalping prevention, unlocking of new secondary market revenue for organizers, and better audience insights.
ComeTogether provides NFTs with utilities, both physical and digital. NFTs enable event organizers to develop new revenue streams, increase fan engagement, expand geographic markets for events beyond their initial location, reward loyal fans, and create an ongoing royalty revenue stream long after the event has taken place.
Why is this important?
When you think of NFTs, usually the first thought is that this is purely a digital concept. ComeTogether is promoting the combination of both physical and digital NFT utilities. The combination of these ideas allow the provider of the NFTs to reach a wider target audience and engage with them on multiple levels.
Meet ComeTogether’s founders and learn more about their vision and the next milestones for the company in our “founder blitz”.
1. What inspired you to start ComeTogether?
All of us are (music and sports) event enthusiasts and have had disappointing experiences due to ticket scalping and high prices. We take this problem personally. What’s more, we have a strong network in the music events industry. This has allowed us to reach potential customers and get feedback early on as we developed our ideas to understand how they want to interact with their customer base.
3. What does success look like for ComeTogether?
Additional expansion through partner networks to increase customers (type, geography and size) and allow for a full development of our portfolio. These are only short-term goals. In the long term, we hope to become a market leader with our innovative solutions for live events of all kinds.
2. What is your next big milestone?
Expansion of our music industry customer base outside of Greece and our first live sporting event customers.
4. What is the biggest challenge you have come against since you established ComeTogether?
The pandemic caused a 100% shut down for our current and potential client base. Although we already had some early success in the music industry, everything stopped. A lot of organizations in our market ceased to exist during this time. We did a short term pivot to meet the needs of our event customers during this time related to Covid certificates and took the time to develop our NFT solution – UniqTogether to be ready to launch a new and improved overall offering – NFT ticketing (ComeTogether) and NFT collectibles/memberships (UniqTogether) when the markets reopened.