Dubai, UAE: 21 August 2017 – FinTech Hive at DIFC, the first-of-its-kind accelerator in the region, announces the commencement of its inaugural accelerator programme today. The programme features 11 finalists and brings together an emerging generation of technology leaders and entrepreneurs to address the evolving needs of the region’s financial services industry by providing a platform in which they can collaborate with leading regional and international financial institutions.

“Today marks a pivotal moment for FinTech Hive at DIFC. Not only are we kicking off the first cycle of the accelerator programme but we are also excited to announce our first batch of finalists. These 11 start-ups demonstrate a delicate balance of remarkable vision, practical application and commercial potential in the FinTech space”, said Raja Al Mazrouei, Acting Executive Vice President of FinTech Hive at DIFC.

The accelerator programme, launched in partnership with Accenture, is a key component of FinTech Hive at DIFC. It consists of a 12-week curriculum in which a group of selected finalists work closely with financial institutions and other stakeholders to create real solutions that aim to address the evolving needs of the region’s financial services industry. Several criteria were used to evaluate finalists, including the level of business maturity, the potential to thrive in the FinTech Hive at DIFC ecosystem and degree of fit with the partnering financial institutions.

“We received an overwhelming number of applications for the programme – a testament to the demand for such an initiative – and the quality of proposals was very impressive. I would like to thank all candidates for their efforts and strongly encourage them to continue to work hard towards progressing their FinTech ideas. I have no doubt the sector is one that will only pick up pace and create more opportunity in the future,” added Al Mazrouei.

Sushil Saluja, Senior Managing Director of Financial Services in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Latin America at Accenture said, “The exceptional quality of the proposals we received holds great promise for the future of FinTech in the UAE and the region. As FinTech continues to be a gamechanger for the financial services industry, nurturing innovative talent is a fundamental priority because of the immense benefits it brings to the economy and society. We are proud to play our part, by bringing our expertise in building and running FinTech Innovation Labs around the world, to support DIFC in creating an internationally renowned FinTech ecosystem that can cater to the unique challenges and opportunities of the region.”

The programme will run for 12 weeks. In the first phase, each finalist will meet with executives from the accelerator’s financial institution partners - including Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Citi, Dubai Islamic Bank, Emirates Islamic, Emirates NBD, HSBC, Mashreq, Network International, RAKBANK, Standard Chartered and Visa - in which they will discuss industry challenges and possible solutions to address them. Participants will also meet with representatives from strategic partners, Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) and UAE Exchange. During these meetings, the executives will hear more about the technology, provide preliminary feedback and discuss potential mentorship opportunities.

The second phase will revolve around engagement with partners and mentorship by the financial institutions, as well as other select partners who will cover technology, legal, Islamic Finance and regulatory themes to name a few. DIEDC will connect the finalists with fellow entrepreneurs in Islamic FinTech at a dedicated start-up event, while leading international law firms Clyde & Co, Simmons & Simmons and Support Legal will offer advice on how to navigate the region’s legal landscape.

In addition, Envestnet | Yodlee, Facebook and IBM have been brought on board as technology partners. Careem will provide discounts on transportation services for the duration of the programme and Rove Hotels will offer special rates on accommodation for participants. Digital Transformation partner, Etisalat, will enable WiFi connectivity in the workspace and provide mobile SIM cards to the programme finalists. Furthermore, Erevena will leverage its global network of tech professionals to connect participating FinTech firms with a diverse talent pool, supporting the growth of their teams and business.

Senior executives from DIFC Authority, Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) and Accenture will also be available throughout the programme to provide clarity around business procedures and the regulatory framework in the Centre.

The third and final phase will be pitch preparation for the Investor Day in mid-November. On this day, each start-up will promote its product to a host of investors, bankers, government officials and members of the media.

Participating companies will benefit from the recently introduced Innovation Testing Licence (ITL), which allows qualifying FinTech firms to develop and test their concepts from within the DIFC, without being subject to the regulatory requirements that normally apply to regulated firms.