Sofitto and Sugi teams have brought together various talents and minds from all over Europe, however, it all began in Belgium, the fintech center of the EU.
Soffito’s Co-Founder and CEO, Alexander Vasylchenko, studied and obtained his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at KULeuven, the 5th most innovative university in the world.
All along his studies, Alexander had been involved with R&D of high-end industrial projects, which brought him invaluable experience for his CTO role in blockchain startups Mycelium and Grid Singularity.
As a broader environment encouraging development and technology, Belgium has proved to be a perfect hub for a fintech company like Sofitto.
Brussels - the center of fintech and EU
Brussels is the institutional and financial center of the European Union. The city’s central location makes it easily reachable from most other European financial hubs, and thus an ideal location for gathering fintech innovators and financial institutions.
According to B-Hive, a collaborative platform of fintech, startups, and government services, Belgium has been ranked the 5th most powerful European fintech hub based on the number of fintech deals in 2017.
Alongside the growing adoption of the Internet and mobile apps for financial purposes, the Belgian fintech community is experiencing and leading an ever higher implementation of blockchain technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and data analytics. These attractive new technologies are inviting new projects and young companies working hard on merging the digital with traditional financial mechanisms to this part of Europe. Precisely for that reason, Sugi’s Sofitto saw Belgium’s openness as a great potential for bringing its mission to fruition.
Hard work and research at Belgium institutions and universities is augmented with frequent fintech events both in Brussels and in other Belgian cities, such as Belgium Digital Week and FinTech Belgium Summit, aimed at supporting cross-industry collaboration and merging of new technologies with fintech. Both user-oriented approach and attractive technologies have turned fintech into an engaging field for young companies and visionary minds.
Brussels and Belgium at large are known for becoming an excellent platform for fintech companies. Their high R&D funding and large potential to reach other European hubs have attracted many foreign companies to establish their facilities on Belgian ground. Deciding on a place for the headquarters was a no-brainer also for Sofitto, since it is imperative to be found among the greatest European fintech players.
Leuven, the Flemish technology hub
Flanders region is providing an optimal environment for fintech innovations with the proximity of international legislative institutions, payment infrastructure providers, and highly engaging business ecosystem. Research centers, incubators, accelerators, and science parks are complimenting over 100 tech companies and contributing to the Flanders visionary fintech ecosystem.
The city of Leuven is known as a vital technological center led by the local tech giant IMEC, an independent research hub for global electronics and digital community. Their strong focus on nanoelectronics and digital technologies is employing 4,000 people working on and improving the latest cutting-edge tech and digital hardware.
IMEC’s infrastructure, such as cleanroom capacities, living labs, and training facilities, provide an invaluable environment for product fine-tuning, while their financial and management support, particularly in collaboration with iMinds, the Flemish digital research center, help new digital and tech startups successfully launch their products.
The Sugi NFC Wallet Card is special for its NFC (near field communication) chip, a crucial piece of its hardware, so it was only natural that Sofitto chose the most experienced and reliable nanoelectronics specialists, the IMEC, to provide the NFC chips. Needless to say, they met our expectations, and we’re proud to have a result of their decades-long expertise and knowledge integrated into the Sugi Card, and to provide its users with the highest assets protection and ease-of-use.
How else does Belgium support the growth of European fintech?
Once the products are developed, Belgium helps and supports companies enter the market and meet the regulative standards. Several major organizations are working on the European and international level of financial activities, among others:
- EPSM — European Association of Payment Service Providers,
- EAST — European Association for Secure Transactions,
- Federation FinTech Belgium — connecting fintech companies in Flanders and Belgium as a whole,
- Agoria Financial Services Technology Club — IT companies providing software and hardware solutions to the financial industry market.
Fintech startups and growth-stage companies can also leverage a thorough funding support by the Belgian government, supported by insurance companies, banks, and investors gathered within the government super-fund for tech projects.
A strong network of Scale-ups supports collaboration between entrepreneurs, governments, scientists, and businesses, while expanded tax shelter and fiscal incentives for investments in development support the growth of companies and projects. Young startups and SMEs trying to prosper in the highly competitive fintech market can, therefore, rely on a number of supportive mechanisms.
The impact of fintech in Belgium
Financial industry and technology are one of the major drivers of the Belgian economy. Combined with its influential position in the middle of EU, Belgium fintech influence is spreading well across its borders.
The European Payments Council (EPC) in Brussels, the cornerstone fintech institution, is providing guidance for electronic payment methods in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), with the objective to enable a uniform and synchronized payment experience to citizens and businesses across the SEPA. The Council’s directives affect the methods of payment for citizens of over 34 European countries every day, almost 40 billion transactions yearly. EPC’s standardization provides the norm for payment cards, influencing the interoperability of mobile payments at the European level and improving their convenience, safety, reliability, and cost-effectiveness.
Any fintech company, no matter its underlying technology, inevitably needs to acknowledge and implement the standards set by EPC, in order to reach as broad a user base as possible. Fintech or card producer should be in close touch with the institutions providing systemic guidelines, and Sofitto could definitely experience that first-hand.
Other financial institutions of strategic importance for fintech companies in Belgium are:
- European Payment Institutions Federation — international non-profit association for bigger diversity and competition among the payment service providers at the European level,
- Euro Banking Association — a platform for the payments industry to implement regulations and support the development of market practices for a pan-European vision for payments,
- European Association of Co-operative Banks — a group of 28 financial institutions and member banks,
- European Banking Federation — institution developing legislative, regulatory and supervisory guidelines for a full integration of a Single European Market for banking.
- Electronic Money Association — UK-based institution gathering Europe’s innovative payment service providers and representing issuers of electronic money and other innovative payment methods.
From Belgium to Europe and beyond
Sofitto is established in Belgium, the European fintech hub with 80 % of European purchasing power within 500 miles reach, which is undoubtedly a significant strategic advantage.
Even though it was set up somehow organically, our headquarters location has been a great starting point for all our future destinations. We are seeing and experiencing a high potential of the region, while at the same time, we actively participate in the evolution of the broader European fintech market and target international communities.