Algebra LAB: Cookie Monsters Team Wins Money Motion Student Fintech Hackathon

Lauren Simmonds

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A sustainable fourth pension pillar through the use of the first Croatian green currency, payment by fingerprint, Tinder for investors, a biometric bracelet as insurance against deepfake – and other disruptive ideas could be heard by visitors of the Money Motion Student Hackathon, a unique event held at the Spark Event Spaces premises , at the Algebra campus in Zagreb, organized by the Algebra LAB.

The student hacking competition was held as part of Money Motion, the largest fintech conference in Croatia, which gathered as many as 700 participants. The decision on the best project was made by an expert jury consisting of entrepreneurs, members of the scientific community and professionals from the financial and insurance industries, whose members are: Hrvoje Josip Balen, member of the Algebra Board; Gordan Kožulj, director of the business consulting department, Deloitte Croatia; Ivana Vukov, special adviser to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia; Zvonimir Oreč, CFO and member of the Management Board, Amodo; Robert Penezić, General Manager, Monri; Prof. Ph.D.Sc. Mislav Ante Omazić, EFZG; Renata Brkić, Managing Partner, Feelsgood Capital; Goran Kralj, member of the Management Board of PBZCroatia Osiguranje; Marijana Bačić, member of the Management Board and chief operating officer for business customers, Hrvatski Telekom; Ivan Šimić, Senior Manager, PwC SEE Consulting; Relja Marković, Managing Director, Digital Transformation, Addiko Bank and Ph.D. Mirko Talajić, Director of Analytical Systems Support Directorate and CDO, Hrvatska poštanska banka.

“With competitions like this one, we try to strengthen the relationship between education and the labor market and show our students how to develop an entrepreneurial mindset already during their studies. In today’s time of rapid changes, it is young people who are the source of information and new knowledge about digital technologies, and at the same time their biggest consumers. In this way we encourage them to use this knowledge in an applicable way. It was an honor to be part of the jury and participate in deciding on all the inspiring ideas that we had the opportunity to hear today, and I am sure that many of them will very quickly develop into successful entrepreneurial stories,” – said Hrvoje Josip Balen, a member of the Algebra Management Board.

The teams were mentored by Algebra’s experts: “I am extremely pleased to see the enthusiasm of the students who approached the demanding challenges in front of them with utmost courage and professionalism. We tried to support them on this path and guide them towards the development of the idea in the direction of innovation, but also market sustainability, as a component that should not be ignored in business processes. Algebra LAB was conceived precisely as a bridge between science and entrepreneurship, a collaborative ecosystem where many successful business ideas and start-ups have matured, and with competitions like today’s hackathon, we maintain the dynamism of cooperation between students and entrepreneurs”, said Ph.D. Maja Brkljačić, manager of Algebra LAB.

The winner was the Cookie Monsters team, whose members Martin Majerić, Dino Pećarina and Margareta Zeko designed biometric technology applicable to devices worn on the wrist such as watches or smart bracelets, which serve as an identification factor when entering mobile banking applications and other financial digital channels which require additional user authentication, and which can serve as the first line of defense against deepfake technology.

The members of the winning team won a prize of 3,000 euros: “We decided to join the competition because it seemed like a great opportunity to learn something new and develop a good idea that might be implemented one day. We decided to take on this particular challenge because it is the area where we can bring the most innovation to the table, and we think we made the right choice. People are still not aware of the extent of the deepfake problem, every year the demand and consumption of deepfakes in the world grows by 400%, and this technology is growing especially fast in the financial industry” – emphasized Cookie Monsters team member Margareta Zeko.

The winners of today’s competition can be considered all those who entered, because almost all teams achieved a certain number of points, which means that the experts liked them very much, concluded Ph.D. Mislav Ante Omazić from EFZG, who as the initiator of the hackathon and reflected on the importance of student competitions in innovation: “Communication between different professions is extremely important, and another thing is teamwork. The problems of the modern world are extremely complex and cannot be solved by the individual, especially from the perspective of competences. So it’s good when they are different. Many young people will already work in teams at the beginning of their careers, however, group and team are not synonymous and it is necessary to learn a lot and work on developing collaborative skills. This type of competition pushes people out of their comfort zone, in which learning and progress is limited, from which it is important to get out and go through the zone of fear, and events like our competition make this possible.”

“There is nothing more useful than encouraging young people to think in the context of entrepreneurial ideas, perhaps they are not exposed to this in schools and that is why universities that encourage this, like Algebra, are actually the right way to direct them to their further professional development. I personally got involved as a member of the jury in this project because I want to be part of successful entrepreneurial stories in Croatia, and Algebra certainly is,” – said Gordan Kožulj, director of the business consulting department at Deloitte.

“Today we heard a lot of interesting ideas, and as a member of the jury, I tried to see that the idea was not only relevant, but also ambitious, because you should always reward looking outside the usual angle of things. The students are great and I believe they will achieve success in the labor market as well. Young people should be told that they should always believe in themselves and should not be afraid of innovation, everything can be improved, and success is guaranteed for those who are persistent” – said Ivana Vukov, special adviser to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia.

“The students showed enviable knowledge, they showed good preparation, the amount of topics and innovations was great and I want to congratulate everyone once again for their courage in participating. Amodo as a company is present in the field of fintech and it is an integral part of our DNA” – said Zvonimir Oreč, CFO and member of the Management Board, Amodo.

“It was an honor to participate in this kind of competition, I’m glad to see young people with creative ideas, and I hope that we will organize more similar events in the future” – concluded Robert Perezić, General Manager, Monri.

The competition was intended for all students interested in learning how digital technologies are revolutionizing the financial industry and who are ready to demonstrate their knowledge in the field of application of new information technologies, fintech, artificial intelligence, IoT, blockchain and other innovations in existing financial systems.

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