AUC Venture Lab’s Fintech Accelerator: An Innovation That Inspires


Out of more than 1,700 business schools, the AUC Venture Lab’s Fintech Accelerator has been selected among only 25 highlighted innovations in AACSB’s Innovations That Inspire Challenge as a catalyst for innovation.


AACSB International, the world’s largest business education network, has recognized the AUC Venture Lab’s (V-Lab) Fintech Accelerator as a highlight in its Innovations That Inspire Challenge as a catalyst for innovation for exemplifying forward-looking approaches and mindsets through leading efforts to elevate entrepreneurial thinking and new business creation and for devising initiatives that are wide-ranging and emphasize research, experiential learning, cross-disciplinary efforts, and community engagement, among others.


"We are honored to feature the AUC School of Business and the V-Lab Fintech Accelerator for their valuable role in elevating entrepreneurship through research, teaching, and community engagement. The demand for innovation that engages experts across disciplines and addresses the needs of both local and global communities has never been more apparent than in these unprecedented times,” said Thomas R. Robinson, president, and CEO of AACSB.


The AACSB Innovations That Inspire Challenge is an annual initiative that recognizes institutions around the world that serve as champions of change in the business education landscape. The theme for the 2020 challenge is Catalysts for Innovation, in line with AACSB’s Collective Vision for Business Education, which identifies five forward-looking opportunities for business schools to serve as key drivers of change.


“We are thrilled to have the AUC V-Lab Fintech Accelerator selected as part of the AACSB 2020 Innovations That Inspire. At the AUC School of Business, we strongly believe that our impact should extend beyond the classroom both on and off-campus. Our AUC V-Lab Fintech Accelerator is a testimony to our continuous strive to serve our community with all the changes and transformations taking place,” expressed Dean Sherif Kamel, adding: “This invaluable recognition highlights our commitment to excellence, holistic approach to learning, and support for the entrepreneurial ecosystem enriched with ambitious, passionate, young, and tech-savvy entrepreneurs, innovators and business professionals in Egypt and the MENA region to create a sustainable, tangible and scalable impact on our society.”


The AUC V-Lab FinTech Accelerator supports Egypt’s commitment to financial inclusion and the recent focus on digital finance through a customized 16-week program that accelerates high-growth, innovation-driven startups through intensive training, specialized coaching, industry mentorship, networking, investment opportunities, access to facilities, and seed funding. To date, more than 30 startups have graduated from the program across fields including insurtech, payments, lending, personal financing, and money transfer. A third of these startups continue to operate in the market today, providing services that have proven even more essential with the spread of the global pandemic.


“Fintech has the potential to disrupt the way businesses and consumers operate by simplifying payments, expanding access to finance, introducing efficiencies to supply chains, and reducing informality. By doing so, we’re expanding financial inclusion and also enabling business innovations that are not possible otherwise,” asserted Ayman Ismail, founding director of the AUC Venture Lab. “Our Fintech Accelerator is a catalyst for these innovative startups, building an ecosystem of partners in government, industry, and academia.”


With that in mind, the Fintech Accelerator continues to lead through COVID-19, moving all of its program support to the virtual world and conducting sessions for the entrepreneurs on skills they need to survive, along with mentorship meetings with prominent banking, technology, and financial professionals. In addition, to further foster the development of ideas that can serve and facilitate the population’s financial needs, the Fintech Accelerator launched Egypt’s first fully online Digital Payments Ideathon, Eureka, where nine teams received design thinking and fintech training while competing to come up with the most innovative, relevant, and applicable ideas of fintech solutions for a real-life Digital Payments challenge.


Observing the impact of innovations in the fintech space and their ability to rapidly change the landscape in the banking and finance industry, the Accelerator works hand-in-hand with market leaders including the Commercial International Bank (CIB), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to expand on financial innovation, create cutting-edge market-ready solutions.


The Accelerator also collaborates with regulators at the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) as they craft new regulations to open up the fintech space and allow for the introduction of up-to-date products and services to the Egyptian market.


The V-Lab’s financial technology acceleration program came to life in 2015 to fill in a dire market need and development gap, based on the World Bank’s estimation in 2018 that only around 10-15% of the Egyptian population was banked while 67% continued to rely on cash with 7 million unbanked adults sending or receiving domestic remittances using cash or over-the-counter services. With a growing population of over 100 million people, Egypt required technological solutions to facilitate financial inclusion.


Today, by joining the program, entrepreneurs learn the practice of evidence-based entrepreneurship, grow their businesses by employing lean startup methods, understand the ins and outs of working within the regulations of the CBE and gain valuable insights from the smartest minds in the startup and Fintech worlds, to eventually acquire the wealth of responding to fintech disruption and take on a prominent role within the ecosystem.

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