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Smart Start Awards 2018

Winners and insights from the 2018 KPMG Smart Start Awards

Experiences of Frankfurt from an emerging technology businesss perspective

The KPMG Smart Start Award 2018 – FinTech and InsurTech recently took place in Hannover, Germany. As an initiative of KPMG Germany, in collaboration with the NORD/LB, the VHV Group and Dieter von Holtzbrinck Ventures, the challenge aims to identify and empower emerging start-ups from around the world. We chatted to organisers Felix Haarstick and Marilena Meinecke from KPMG Innovate, about the winners, the event and the benefits for all involved.

About the Awards

Felix explains that the Smart Start Awards are now in their third year, and 2018 marked the second time that the focus was specifically on fintech and insurtech. “We have a pretty good ecosystem here in Hannover, with a lot of banks and insurers, but we are still developing our start-up ecosystem,” he says. “Our approach is therefore about empowering start-ups, bringing them into the ecosystem and bringing together local industry.”

This year was the first time that the Matchi platform was used to source the award entrants, and Felix says there were between 40 and 50 applicants – mostly German, but also from Singapore, Japan, the USA, Great Britain and other countries. “It was a great success,” Felix says. “Matchi streamlined the whole process and opened it up to a more international base, from the sourcing to rating and finding winners.”

Marilena adds that the level of applications has improved year on year, and that Matchi’s involvement resulted in a wider range of applicants.

Once applications had closed, they were scored by about 30 members from the Smart Start Awards partner firms, from the insurance, banking and venture capital industries, and a shortlist of 10 start-ups was announced. These start-ups were invited to attend the awards ceremony on 15 November.

Nine companies attended (one had to drop out before the awards) and had the opportunity to present their solutions to the jury, which comprised the following individuals: Fabian von Trotha, Managing Director, Dieter von Holtzbrinck Ventures; Stephan Tillack, CIO, NORD/LB; Heiner Höfer, Partner Financial Services, KPMG; Bernd Scharrer, CDO, VHV Holding AG; Klaas Koeneke, Business Transformation Office, VW Financial Services AG; and Marc Junker Business Angel Investor.

“The finalists had three minutes each to present their pitches and then afterwards, another three minutes of Q&A time,” Marilena says. “The jury used Matchi to score the pitches live. We were able to use the live voting to streamline the process of announcing the winners.”

2018 winners

Following the judging process, the winners were announced. They are:

  • First place: Circula. This company offers an app-based solution that allows travellers to submit scans of receipts, e-invoices and allowances (per diems and mileages) on the go. The app integrates third-party data from business apps and credit cards with manual data entries to provide a convenient way to handle business expenses. Once submitted, expenses may be approved and controlled in Circula’s web app. The product is optimised for the German market, with all allowances based on the latest BMD reports, a GoBD-compliance audit for paperless handling and interfaces to accounting software providers such as DATEV and Addison.

    Prizes: 50k media package from DvH Ventures; wild card for a pitch in front of the joint investment board of the Nord/LB and DvH Ventures; 10k voucher for KPMG advisory services; a meetup with the CDO of Volkswagen Financial Services.
  • Second place: LABESTonline GmbH. LABEST is an innovative credit risk monitoring SaaS provider for the asset-based lending industry in Europe. By matching, analysing and monitoring real-time data from ERP systems, financial data, and digital marketplaces, LABEST provides real-time credit risk monitoring and collateral validation at the same time, with the benefit of developing new lending opportunities for banks and insurance companies.

    Prizes: 2 Apple iPad Pros (sponsored by VHV); a KPMG Innovate workshop.
  • Third place: Picsure GmbH. Picsure provides a global platform with tailored AI solutions for the insurance industry, enabling insurers to automate their image-driven processes, such as claim management. Picsure provides automated solutions for fraud detection, object recognition and value estimation, damage detection for small damages. Insurance partners on the platform can also use the training platform to create individual AI solutions with their own training material.

    Prizes: 1 Apple iPad Pro (sponsored by VHV)

Event benefits

The benefits of taking part in the awards were substantial for the finalists, who had the opportunity to network with potential investors, as well as enjoying exposure and publicity through the media coverage the event generated.

For the sponsors, the event is an opportunity to access start-up technologies and investment opportunities that have been through the shortlisting process. “The sponsors are also interested in this region specifically, so it’s an opportunity for them to connect with likeminded people who are also looking to develop this ecosystem,” Marilena says.

Felix adds that the event provides an accelerated entry into new partnerships, with people being able to connect directly rather than dealing with gatekeepers in the companies in which they’re interested.

It’s also a way for local companies to build their reputation for pursuing innovation.

“For KPMG, we are looking to up our game when it comes to collaboration and digitisation,” says Felix. “KPMG Innovate is a centre of excellence in the financial services sector here in Germany, so we’re working to further digital transformation in our sector. We’re looking to get in touch with start-ups, to get in touch with corporates, and to connect them to each other.”

Marilena adds that KPMG is well positioned to help start-ups to scale and to service them as they grow.

Wider Programme

KPMG Innovate runs a wider programme for start-ups, also called Smart Start. Felix explains that the Smart Start Team is comprised of advisors who assist start-ups through each stage of their business life cycle, from establishing operations and raising capital to international expansion and complying with regulatory requirements.


Advice for start-ups taking part in awards

Having been involved with the Smart Start Awards for three years now, KPMG Innovate has seen what mistakes start-ups tend to make when presenting, and what they can do better to help their chances of winning. Felix and Marilena share the following advice:

  • Your motivation and passion needs to come through in your pitch (along with a bit of personality.
  • Keep your audience in mind – don’t get too technical and risk losing people. But ensure you are able to answer technical questions if you get asked. Work on explaining your solution simply and clearly.
  • Work on your presenting skills – things like interacting with your audience seem small, but make a big difference in the way you (and thus your solution) are perceived.
  • Make your solution relatable – use examples and context that will resonate with the people you’re talking to. Felix notes that Circula did this so well that the KPMG Innovate team was fielding emails the day after the presentation from people wanting to implement their solution within KPMG!



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