Social distancing, self isolation, remote working – this is the new reality we face today, but this is not the new normal. The new normal is more active collaboration, giving back mindset, care and accelerated innovation in all spheres of the world we live in. This is extremely relevant to finance and how we move funds around the globe, ensuring our families, fellows, communities and businesses remain safe and included in the financial mainstream. Now, more than ever, initiatives such as the Visa Innovation Program are appreciated and acknowledged by the industry, because they propel innovation and contribute to economic development globally.

The Visa Innovation Program Season 2

Friday, the 3rd of April was a long-awaited day, marking the culmination of the first part of the Visa Innovation Program Season 2 – the selection of the companies to participate in the  program throughout 2020. The main goal of the Visa Innovation Program is to provide a collaborative platform for innovation – faster and at scale – bringing together highly innovative fintech startups, financial institutions and industry insiders.

The focal point of the Program remains  successful PoCs and pilots with financial institutions and Visa: it opens doors around the globe, accelerates startups’ scaling up and brings many fellow entrepreneurs and experts to innovate together, leveraging the design thinking methodology. This year the initiative also features potential investment from Eleven in the form of EUR 100K convertible note.

Key achievements 2019

Before jumping into the main topic, we would like to share some key figures from last year. The 2019 edition of the Visa Innovation Program resulted in more than:

  • EUR 5m collectively raised funds by the Program startups
  • 150 mentors hours with Visa and Eleven’s teams
  • 25 pitching sessions with investors and clients
  • 8 design sprints and
  • 4 successful PoCs and pilots at the end.

Not bad, right?

Finalists in Season 2

This year over 50 local and international fintechs  applied in February and March to address some of the Program Challenges – Accelerating Banking Transformation, Build Future of Retail & Enhancing Customer Experience. During this time, Eleven’s team met with numerous excellent teams, not only in Sofia, but also visiting the vibrant ecosystems in Vienna, Nicosia, Bucharest and Belgrade. We were thrilled to discover many great companies and to make so many new friends in the region.

Finally, 9 companies were shortlisted to pitch in front of the  during the Online Selection Day among which 2 companies from Serbia and 1 – from Romania. The companies in alphabetical order were BlinkingBolerone-CollectGoBillyHotspoterIris SolutionsiRoboInvest, NewPay and PayByFace.

The Selection Day was organized as a full day Virtual Event bringing together the shortlisted companies, banks, Visa and Eleven’s team. Around 50-60 people stayed throughout the day.

We had a very active and committed audience from Bulgaria, Turkey, Romania, Serbia, Israel, Austria and Switzerland, participating in:

  • 30 mentoring session with fintech experts, banks and Visa’s team
  • 9 pitching sessions
  • 8 hours event, full of fun and positive vibes

In the first half of the day, the startups met with the innovation teams from 6 Bulgarian Banks and Visa. Special thanks to our partners from DSK, Postbank, UBB, Unicredit, Raiffeisenbank and Access Finance for participating in the one-to-one meetings, and providing valuable feedback to the  startups.

The actual pitching occurred in the second half of the day – in front of the distinguished Jury from Visa, Eleven and banks  – Sevdalina Vassileva, General manager Visa SEE, Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus, Ozan Ozturk, Head of strategy and market planning, Visa SEE, Shahar Friedman, Head of Visa Innovation Studio Tel Aviv, Vladimir Mahnev, Chief Innovation Officer, Raiffeisenbank Bulgaria, Daniel Tomov and Ivaylo Simov, Founding Partners at Eleven Ventures.

Their task was not easy, though – evaluating the shortlisted applicants and selecting the five companies to join the Program in 2020.

And… the final participants to enter the Second Season of the Visa Innovation Program are…


Boleron – mobile-first digital insurance platform with outstanding UX, simple process and transparent conditions, covering the full range of insurances offered – travel, property, health, auto etc.

e-Collect – a fully automated receivables management platform, that processes billing, dunning, pre-legal and legal collection, as well as all related customer communication throughout borders.

Iris Solutions –  the newcomer in the open banking field, a licensed payment institution by the Bulgarian National Bank. The company was founded in 2019 and launched official operations in 2020. They offer secure electronic payments covered with SCA process, PSD2 compliant payments, based on a QR technology and multibank e-wallets.

New Pay – buy now pay later model or the local equivalent of Klarna. The solution provides alternative payment methods for online shoppers and merchants, including instant financing.

PayByFace – PayByFace is a biometric payment processing platform that gives customers the opportunity to pay at the registered merchants with their faces (utilizing biometric face recognition).

We are really grateful to have this diverse cohort of companies and looking forward to commencing another great season of the Visa Innovation Program in Bulgaria,

Next steps: 

The official Kickoff of the Program is planned for the 15th of April. After that, the companies will engage with their mentors and the banks in a series of design sessions to identify potential fit and start exploring PoC and pilot opportunities, incorporating Visa’s technology and latest APIs. Stay tuned for further updates.

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