Qazi Haq, EY-Parthenon
Intro: [00:00:08] Broadcasting live from the Georgia World Congress Center for Fintech South 2022. it’s time for Atlanta Business Radio. Brought to you by Atlanta Blockchain Center. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:27] Lee Kantor here, broadcasting live for Fintech South 2022 in the Georgia World Congress Center. I’m excited to be talking to Qazi Haq with EY-Parthenon. He is the co-chair of the Innovation Challenge here at Fintech South. Welcome, Qazi.
Qazi Haq: [00:00:41] Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:43] Well, before we get too far into things, let’s talk about this Innovation Challenge. What’s the vision there and what are you trying to accomplish with it?
Qazi Haq: [00:00:50] Yes, absolutely. Just at a high level, every year during Fintech South, we have the Innovation Challenge. It’s an accelerator for early-stage Fintech companies based in Georgia. And we have certain criteria.
Qazi Haq: [00:00:59] For example, they have to be based in Georgia. Have to be in the Fintech realm broadly. Maybe they’re not a Fintech, but they serve Fintechs. As well to have a cap of $1,000,000 in funding. And what happens in this challenge is before Fintech South, four to six weeks prior, we recruit the companies, we have them go through an accelerator program. So, we give mentors as well as speakers, train them on the pitch. And before a Fintech South, right before or a week before we select the top three.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:25] Right.
Qazi Haq: [00:01:25] So, those top three companies will be on the main stage today to pitch for a $25,000 prize.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:30] And then just for being part of it, do they get anything other than the mentorship and, kind of, the connections?
Qazi Haq: [00:01:36] Yes, so, PR is a huge, huge component of that. We make sure that they have spotlights during the conference, part of the conference. In addition, they get free access to Fintech South for them and their teams. And that can be a very major lift for an early-stage company.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:49] So, now when you say it’s Fintech or Fintech adjacent, they have to be touching Fintech in some way?
Qazi Haq: [00:01:55] In some form or fashion. For example, we have a company in this year that’s more of an EdTech platform, but they serve Fintechs. So, that has that tie to it.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:04] So, it doesn’t have to be a super direct tie?
Qazi Haq: [00:02:07] No.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:07] It just can be really adjacent?.
Qazi Haq: [00:02:09] Exactly, their customers can be Fintechs, for example, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:02:12] Right.
Qazi Haq: [00:02:12] They can have some component of Fintech tied to it. For example, a payments platform within their broader system.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:18] So, now walk me through. I’m a startup. I meet all that criteria. What happens on day one? I get accepted. I’m one of the — I guess, top ten people that are in there. So, what happens now?
Qazi Haq: [00:02:29] So, day one, we’re going to give you a mentor, a group of mentors. These individuals are usually leaders or experts in the Fintech space based in here in Georgia.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:38] And then you’re — trying to match me up with somebody that’s at least —
Qazi Haq: [00:02:41] Correct.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:41] — in the neighborhood —
Qazi Haq: [00:02:41] Exactly.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:41] — of what I do, right?
Qazi Haq: [00:02:42] Exactly, that’s the goal. Because they have been there, the journey they’re going through, so they can guide you better.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:47] And they can also make — help me make connections?
Qazi Haq: [00:02:51] 100%. And in addition, during the conference itself, we make sure the companies are meeting the right VCs, their partners, et cetera.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:58] And is there a fee to me as the startup founder?
Qazi Haq: [00:03:01] There is no fee, whatsoever. It’s a completely fee-free program. The only fee is filling out the application. So, your time commitment there.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:08] It’s time.
Qazi Haq: [00:03:09] Yes.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:09] But not money?
Qazi Haq: [00:03:09] Not money.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:10] And then so, this is definitely a journey worth taking?
Qazi Haq: [00:03:14] 100%. I highly recommend it. If I was a fintech founder and this opportunity came up —
Lee Kantor: [00:03:17] It’s not too late for you.
Qazi Haq: [00:03:18] Oh, I don’t know. If I can — be doing that yet, but maybe. We’ll see.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:21] So, now they come on the stage. You get to the top three. Now, who are the judges? Who are the people that are deciding the whittled it down to three?
Qazi Haq: [00:03:29] Yes, This is the most exciting part. So, during the conference, everyone judges. So, whoever is in the audience —
Lee Kantor: [00:03:35] Oh, the audience —
Qazi Haq: [00:03:35] — gets to pick the winner.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:36] — as one of the voters?
Qazi Haq: [00:03:36] Yes.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:36] And then it’s all voting online.
Qazi Haq: [00:03:40] It’s all on voting online.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:40] On the app, probably.
Qazi Haq: [00:03:41] Yes, very easy.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:43] And then, so you vote and then somebody is going to win. And then the other two, sorry. Thanks for playing?
Qazi Haq: [00:03:48] Sorry, but —
Lee Kantor: [00:03:48] So, winner take all?
Qazi Haq: [00:03:48] Hey, they got the PR, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:03:50] They get the PR.
Qazi Haq: [00:03:50] So, in the past, actually, we’ve seen the runners-up, “Get funding afterward”.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:56] Right.
Qazi Haq: [00:03:56] So, that presentation, the pitch on stage really —
Lee Kantor: [00:03:59] Because you’re still getting in front of lot and lots of people.
Qazi Haq: [00:04:00] Exactly, exactly.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:02] And then have you been involved in this challenge before in the previous Fintechs?
Qazi Haq: [00:04:06] Yes, so for the past two years I was supporting the co-chairs. And this year, the co-chairs got tired of doing it, so they passed it on to me.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:13] So, you had the short straw?
Qazi Haq: [00:04:15] Yes. No, but it’s been a great experience.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:16] Now, of the previous winners, any kind of success stories for them?
Qazi Haq: [00:04:20] So, Trust Stamp. So, Trust Stamp was one of the winners for the TAG report yesterday.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:26] Wow.
Qazi Haq: [00:04:26] So, they started for the Innovation Challenge. Won that, raised money grew, and now they won the advance award as a mature company.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:34] Wow.
Qazi Haq: [00:04:34] A great success story.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:35] So, that’s a great success story. And then your vision for this in the future.
Qazi Haq: [00:04:38] In the future, we want to go bigger. We want more companies to participate and apply. This year, we only had seven. In the future, we would love to see 15 because this is a free resource that these companies can benefit from. And as I mentioned, Trust Stamp is an example, went through the program, raised money because of Fintech South. Now, they’re putting all the awards.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:57] And then this is something — are you partnering with like ATDC and then some of the universities around the State.
Qazi Haq: [00:05:04] Absolutely.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:04] Because it’s so easy to be Atlanta-centric and forget about the rest of Georgia.
Qazi Haq: [00:05:09] Yes.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:09] So, how are you getting —
Qazi Haq: [00:05:10] We are — definitely broader Georgia. So, we partnered with the Georgia Fintech Academy, ATDC, ATV, Valor Panoramic. Any venture fund you can think of.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:19] Good stuff. So, if somebody wants to learn more about this challenge, what’s the way to do it?
Qazi Haq: [00:05:22] Easiest way, go on the website, Fintech South. There’s an Innovation Challenge portion of it, so look through that. And over time, TAG will send out more materials and information on their LinkedIn page or website on when you can apply next year.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:33] And then when typically is the application?
Qazi Haq: [00:05:36] Yes, so depending on when Fintech South takes place. Let’s assume it’s the same time period in June.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:41] Right.
Qazi Haq: [00:05:41] Applications generally open, end of March, early April.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:43] So, it’s like three —
Qazi Haq: [00:05:45] Correct.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:45] — 90 days prior?
Qazi Haq: [00:05:45] Correct.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:46] Good stuff. Well, thank you so much for doing the work you do.
Qazi Haq: [00:05:49] Absolutely.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:49] It’s important and we appreciate you.
Qazi Haq: [00:05:51] My pleasure. Thanks for having me on.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:52] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll be back in a few at Fintech South 2022.
Outro: [00:06:04] This episode has been brought to you by Atlanta Blockchain Center, the catalyst for Atlanta’s emergence as the Premier Blockchain Innovation Hub globally, through cultivating entrepreneurship, inclusivity, and education. To learn more, go to atlblockchaincenter.com.
Fintech South 2022 is a world-class summit with its nexus in Atlanta live and in-person, a global financial technology hub that is home to more than 200 fintech companies. The top 15 public fintech companies in Georgia alone generate more than $100 billion in revenues.