As Jutarnji/Novac/Bernard Ivezic writes, new startups have already started emerging from the rather remarkable company Infobip. A good example is the Colombian-Croatian startup Minka, a fintech company which has just raised a huge 24 million US dollars in investments from two major investors, Tiger Global Management and Kaszek. In total, Minka has received 27.5 million dollars in investments so far.
Tiger Global Management is otherwise one of the largest and most active investors in startups. The assets of this American investment company are estimated at over 95 billion dollars, and its founder is New York billionaire Chase Coleman III. Kaszek, on the other hand, is the largest investment company in all of Latin America.
The Colombian-Croatian startup Mika is developing software to modernise the banking system. Its product is a cloud platform which bears the same name (Minka), and which functions like Lego bricks and enables the fast development of applications such as mobile wallets, loyalty programmes, clearing house settlement systems, and various types of infrastructure for central banks and digital banks themselves.
The Colombian-Croatian startup Minka allows both citizens and companies to exchange money between their bank accounts instantly, which, even here in Croatia, isn’t yet a widespread standard.
Infobip as a starting point
In the background of Minka lies the much talked about blockchain technology, so its investment is also the largest in a blockchain startup from Croatian founders. Minka’s partners are respectable, giant companies such as Google and Mastercard, and the latter is also its investor. Minka was jointly launched by Croatian Domagoj Rozic and Colombian Paola Sanchez. Rozic is the executive director, and Sanchez, who has extensive experience in finance, is the chief operative.
Domagoj Rozic was Infobip’s main man for Latin America for almost three years, more precisely from 2013 to 2016. He ran a very important Infobip office in Colombia. He completed his education at MIOC, ie XV. Gymnasium in Zagreb, and then went on to study and graduate in computer science at FER. He started his career as an IT manager in the Control Bureau, then he was a training manager in the IT Centre Zagreb, a project manager in Adacta, and just before leaving for Colombia, he became a partner in Cognita.
He initially left Croatia back in 2011 when he took over the leading position of the British branch of the risk assessment company Drum Cussaca in Bogota. Two and a half years later, he moved to the local branch of Infobip, which us the first Croatian unicorn startup today. He started at Minka at the end of 2016, and the company formally introduces itself as a startup from Bogota, but is legally registered as a company in Delaware, USA.
The entire development of technology, as well as products for the Colombian-Croatian startup Minka, takes place right here in Croatia. Formally, back in February this year, Rozic even registered the company Minka IT in Zavrtnica in the centre of the City of Zagreb, as a subsidiary of its American parent company. There is a support and sales team in Bogota, Colombia. The startup has a total of 30 employees.
Google has nothing but praise for this company
Google Cloud states that the Colombian-Croatian startup Minka is a platform that allows financial institutions to quickly move to so-called open banking, claiming that through Minka, digital financial services can be developed in mere days, not years. Google Cloud itself states that the whole solution can be upgraded within 10 minutes and then live testing can begin within a single day. These are very bold statements from Google, because the development of financial applications is usually measured in months and years, which only goes to show the level that Minka has reached.
The Colombian-Croatian startup Minka, on the other hand, says they want to become an open banking standard for cash-based economies.
”In most such economies, payment and infrastructure is mostly focused on credit card processing, and most transactions take place through clearing houses and cash agents that use what are now rather outdated concepts. The development of new interfaces takes months and years and forces fintechs to spend most of their resources on overcoming this obstacle. In addition, the payment system in such economies is largely fragmented. Minka simplifies everything,” they explained from the Colombian-Croatian startup.
The largest open banking project in all of Latin America
As an example of what this form of modernisation looks like, Domagoj Rozic pointed out the Colombian clearing house ACH Columbia, with which they realised the Transifiya project in partnership. The largest banks in Colombia are connected to it, and this new settlement system, which uses Minika’s technology in the background, now allows access to up to 80 percent of Colombia’s bank accounts. This means that thanks to Minka, almost all Colombians can send money from account to account in real time, without waiting for the clearing house, for example, to transfer funds between banks twice a day on weekdays.
”This is the largest open banking project in Latin America,” Rozic said.
Here in the Republic of Croatia, the counterpart of ACH Columbia would be the Financial Agency (Fina). Across the EU, a similar initiative, but through regulations, is being pushed by the European Commission (EC). The EC has adopted the PSD2 standard, which forces European Union-based financial institutions to evolve towards open banking. This opened the space for an explosion of different Croatian fintechs, as well as for the entry of some great foreign players.
In Europe, most work is being done on standardisation in this area within associations such as Open Banking UK and the Berlin Group, and in Croatia, recently more and more startups like Minka are exploring the opportunities they have gained and offering some brand new services – not only financial ones but also, for example, identity and digital signing services.
Finance as the first association
For Croatian startups, Colombia is a pretty decent place. Although the country itself has a reputation for a completely different industry and for being a politically very turbulent region, for Croatian startups, this South American country is best known for its financial industry. Infobip has built a strong presence over in Latin America thanks in large part to its Bogota branch. However, it should be remembered that the second Croatian unicorn, the Rimac Group, found its first investor in Colombia, at a time when no one in Croatia wanted to invest in Mate Rimac’s business and barely even gave him a second glance.
Bogota’s business angel, Franck Christian Kanayet Yepes, despite the entry of major investors into Rimac’s business over the past few years, has remained active within the group and is today chairman of its supervisory board.
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