“Partnership” announcement not signed off by FIS
On the one side of table FIS: the world’s largest provider of financial technology solutions, with revenues of $2 trillion-plus per quarter. On the other side of the table, plucky blockchain startup Billon. If a press release circulated by the latter’s PR agency Tuesday was any guide, the two were “joining forces” on a blockchain project.
The press release came hot on the heels of a partnership between FX settlement specialists CLS and IBM, which are co-testing a proof of concept blockchain-based app store for the financial services sector, alongside Barclays and Citi Bank.
The trial comes amid growing industry interest in the potential for blockchain to boost efficiency across often tortuous financial services compliance and reconciliation processes, as well as other mid- and back-office functions.
Going off Half-Cocked?
What were FIS and Billon planning to do?
“Underscoring its commitment to solving trusted information flow challenges, Billon has joined forces with FIS, the world’s largest provider of financial technology solutions, to explore joint product development and sales opportunities for its portfolio of corporate blockchain solutions”, the release said.
Billon claimed that having signed a letter of intent with FIS, the two will also explore the potential for collaboration on corporate and SME payments, and micropayments for digital and smartphone devices – a market estimated to be worth $3.3 trillion by 2023.
“The partnership extends Billon’s global footprint which now includes similar agreements with Mitsui Knowledge Industry (MKI) in Japan and SE Asia, and with BIK covering the CEE market,” the startup said.
A call to FIS’s press room to confirm the story told a slightly different story: “As a part of our FinTech accelerator program we make investments in a number of our cohort participants and explore how we might incorporate their innovation into our solution sets. It’s understandable for a small startup to leverage a big name like FIS in their PR, but, Billon was a little premature as we are at the exploration stage with the 2018 cohort – who had their demo day in mid-July,” FIS told Computer Business Review.
FIS Fintech Accelerator
Billon was selected as one of ten startups under FIS’s annual fintech accelerator programme, which is now in its third year. Those selected for the 12-week programme secure mentoring and training from FIS and The Venture Center as well as $75,000.
Participants of past VC FinTech Accelerator programs have raised a combined approximately $39 million in capital and several have entered into formal agreements with FIS, so the “partnership” is likely in the works, if at a nascent stage.
Billon, which has received European Union funding under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, has developed a lightweight stack powered by its own blockchain protocol and sees market opportunities in micropayments and remittances. The other nine startups selected for funding by FIS this year were:
- Arcanum Technology – Athens, Ga., which has developed a unique passcode authentication technology.
- Bucket – Santa Ana, Calif./Bentonville, Ark., which provides a “digital piggybank” that allows users to park change in a savings account
- Finvoice – San Francisco/New York City, which has developed a streamlined lending platform for SMEs
- Gas POS – Birmingham, Ala., a point-of-sale system for the fuel industry
- LexAlign PBC – Austin, Texas, which has developed an app-based compliance tool for businesses
- Pay Your Tuition, PYT Funds – Washington, D.C., a social enterprise startup focussed on rethinking student finance
- SONECT AG – Zurich, which offers a platform to convert any shop into a virtual ATM of a bank, reducing ATM fees
- Upper Room Technology – Green Bay, Wis., which develops technology to modernise the often archaic world of bond trading.
- Verikai – San Francisco, which runs machine learning algorithms on big data to assess risk for a range of industry verticals