Innovation That Matters

Interview with Marisol Menendez

Wise Words

Marisol Menendez, manager of BBVA Open Innovation, talks about what they are looking for in startups for this year's Open Talent event.

This year’s BBVA’s Open Talent is exploring and seeking innovative technological projects related to finance technology, as well as projects affecting the industry that could influence its evolution in the transformation process — Big Data, security, APIs. We interview Marisol Menendez, the manager of Open Innovation at BBVA, who has more than 15 years of experience in IT and fintech, to find out more.

1. Tell us a bit about BBVA Open Talent.

This is the 8th edition of our worldwide startup competition, where we’re searching for the best startups transforming the fintech industry. We’re seeking disruption in business topics such as payments, lending, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, wealth management, risk management…and any other kind of startup related to fintech. We also have a huge interest in fintech­ related initiatives and any startup that can work with BBVA, on business topics as big data, security, anti­fraud and AML, Internet of Things, marketing and analytics tools, etc…

2. What is the main goal of the competition?

The main goal is to identify the best disrupting and innovative startups in the fintech ecosystem, who could potentially collaborate with BBVA, and to engage in a continuous relationship with them. As the old saying states “If you want to go fast, walk alone, but if you want to go far, walk together”. At BBVA we are committed to innovation. We have been learning alongside entrepreneurs for over seven years now, and we love to discover and promote talent, we want to share all our knowledge. We are sure that we can also learn a lot; we know what customers are looking for, ­or at least we hope we do,­ and we know what we seek. So what are we suggesting? Let’s go hand in hand. Show us your innovative proposal, your project to change the industry (e­-commerce, security, mobile payments, data, etc.), and we will try to provide you with the support you need to increase your chances of succeeding. We only win if you succeed.

3. How does BBVA Open Talent actually work?

Startups have to register at, and complete and submit the form. From there, they will pass a control to see if they have all the legal requirements. After that, they have several evaluations by different BBVA executives and also some external experts who will evaluate the quality of the projects. There will be 20 finalists selected per region, which means 60 finalists in total. They will have the opportunity to attend each final, which will be in London for the Europe region, Mexico City for the Latin American region, and for RoW in New York for the US region. In every final, there will be 2 winners, who will get the EUR 30,000 plus the Immersion and Interaction program.

4. What type of startups are BBVA interested in?

All startups based on an innovative­ technology in the fintech or fintech-related industry are welcome to participate.

5. What is the most exciting/interesting startup you have seen from previous Open Talent competitions?

Actually, we have such a great variety of startups, and so many different topics that it would be impossible to decide. Last year’s winners, for example, blockchain, lending, remittances etc. They are so different… For example Everledger, one of the winners of Open Talent 2015, uses blockchain technology to track diamonds and luxury goods, and to understand their provenance. Bitnexo also uses blockchain technology to send money from Latin America to China, reducing time and costs.

6. What are the benefits to startups taking part?

The really important matter of the competition is, that all startups are going to be evaluated by BBVA executives and experts worldwide. This, combined with the search of the different areas and departments for collaboration with these startups, means that they have the opportunity to find a partner in BBVA. All startups also enter our database, so that every time a department of the Bank asks for a certain topic, they will get the information and contact of the startup.

For the finalists, there is also a higher prize. By attending the finals, they will have the chance to meet different executives from many departments from the Bank in person, to tell them about their project and get feedback from these experts.

The winners will win EUR 30,000 each to develop their project. But even better than this is the Immersion and Interaction program, where they will have two non-consecutive weeks (one in Madrid and one in Mexico) meeting BBVA executives, to look for ways they could collaborate.

7. Are there any specific requirements startups have to meet in order to be eligible to participate in BBVA Open Talent?

They need to be operational projects or at least have a demo or prototype to facilitate the evaluations. It is also mandatory that they haven’t raised more than 2.5M euro in funding and that they haven’t had more than 1.5M revenue in the last year. The participants are not allowed to have been legally incorporated before January 2012.

8. How and when should startups apply?

They should apply right now! Even if the deadline is on June 27th, startups that have submitted their application before May 2nd will have the chance of being selected to participate at Wired Money 2016, a landmark event in the financial world which will take place in London, on June 23th. The winner of the Wired Money Special Award will win a ticket for the Immersion and Interaction program.

9. What are the next steps after application?

BBVA Open Talent is not only a competition, it is a program. We like to have continuity with the participants and keep them updated on the latest news about fintech and the Bank. Once the startups finish their application, they enter our database. From this point on, we can match their projects with what the different BBVA teams are searching for in their departments, and contact them, so that they can look for ways of collaborating. That’s actually the main point of BBVA Open Talent program, to look for great fintech startups in order to try to help them grow side-by-side with the Bank. We also organise and sponsor lots of events, so we try to invite all the startups on our database who might be interested in the topics presented.

Find out more about BBVA Open Talent 2016 here.