A unique financial technology startup hub housed at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange aims to put Israel on the global map in the hot field of fintech.
Officially opening at the end of July following a launch party on June 29, The Floor will host 25 fintech companies at a time, developing technologies for digital banking and payments, capital markets, big-data analytics, blockchain (the technology behind cryptocurrency), banking IoT, compliance and anti-fraud.
Among The Floor’s founders are some of the world’s largest banks: RBS, Banco Santander, HSBC and Intesa Sanpaolo. Accenture, Intel and KPMG are strategic partners. The Chinese-Israeli Pando Group plans to invest up to $250 million in Israeli startups in The Floor, beginning with a preliminary $2 million seed investment.
“We have an international focus,” says The Floor CEO Avi Cohen, formerly a scout for fintech and retail-tech for the British government.
“When we were looking to set up the hub, we noticed that the Israeli ecosystem doesn’t have the advantage of a local presence of multiple international banks, so we are trying to bring those banks to Israel as our partners.”
The IVC Research Center identifies 477 fintech companies in Israel, accounting for 7 percent of all active Israeli companies.
“Israel is in a fairly good stage as a fintech hotspot aside from the US and UK and some parts of Asia, but the challenge is that we’re not London and can’t go across the street to meet with banks and multiple financial institutions. Yet fintech startups must think global from day one, and we must look toward Asia,” says Cohen.
Also housed in the 800-square-meter space will be a fintech innovation lab established by the Intel Ingenuity Partner Program as an extension of its IoT lab network.
“Having a focused and funded effort that can help the local innovative financial-sector startups is a big win for Israel, for the startups and most importantly for the financial world that needs new and innovative technology to address a smart and connected world,” said Guy Bar-Ner, Intel’s southern Europe direct channel sales director.
Intel is one of the world’s biggest investors in fintech aside from banks, as its technologies are embedded in virtually everything related to banking.
“The synergy of Intel new technologies, major banks and startups has the potential to generate a huge impact on the fintech industry,” adds Roy Ramon, managing director for Intel’s Ingenuity Partner Program. “Intel is planning to showcase some of the new technologies at The Floor.”
Cohen says Intel will provide The Floor startups another point of access, mentorship, and the opportunity to engage with Intel senior engineers in and out of Israel.
Cohen cofounded The Floor’s parent company, Fintech Next, in 2015 with serial entrepreneur and lawyer Gil Devora and financial-services veteran Moises Cohen. Their goal was to boost Israel as the next global fintech capital. The Floor is its flagship initiative.
“We don’t have a Wall Street in Tel Aviv,” Cohen points out. “The stock exchange caters to that need and is strategically located next to Rothschild Boulevard, otherwise known as Silicon Boulevard.”
And, he adds, “Being a fintech hub, this is an ideal location for us, as the stock exchange has always been the center of the Israeli financial industry. Being located at the heart of the stock exchange building will provide added value for The Floor’s partners and entrepreneurs and will strengthen the positioning of the hub as one of the main access points to fintech entrepreneurship in Israel.”
The lease is for five years with an option to extend for three additional years.
“The Israeli stock exchange welcomes The Floor to its new building,” said Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Deputy CEO Gal Landau-Yaari. “We believe that the stock exchange is a natural home for the intersection of the financial industry and the Israeli tech and innovation market, and we hope that The Floor’s startup companies will be able to grow and develop, and eventually join the stock exchange as traded companies.”
Eventually, says Cohen, The Floor may be expanded to an Asian country, probably China.
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