I recently paid a visit to Finolab, an innovative initiative in Tokyo designed to help support fintech initiatives. Officially dubbed The FinTech Center of Tokyo Finolab, the facility is an incubation office that opened in the Tokyo Bankers Association Building in February 2016. Sponsored by multiple firms (*1), the center is designed to support the launch and growth of start-ups as a hub to facilitate the matching of potential business ventures with companies and prospective investors.
For me, the facility conjured images of Level39 (*2) in London—and I don’t believe that I was the only person who felt that way. The Tokyo location overlooks Wadakura Fountain Park with its fountain and monuments and offers a sprawling view of the two-story picturesque Sakurada Tatsumi Yagura Keep and Imperial palace gardens and greenery. Stretching beyond that is the Kasumigaseki—the administrative heart of Japan. A good view can be essential when it comes to innovation. For fintech start-ups, a good physical location and community can be as essential to getting off the ground as having a good virtual presence.
“Finolab was established with the intention of creating fertile soil for and an environment conducive to fostering world-class financial innovation. It is backed by an enthusiastic cohort of promising fintech start-ups and stakeholders who are committed to spawning innovation and linking it to the existing ecosystem—that is Finolab,” explained Chie Ito, a founder of Finovators and manager of ISID, which is involved in the operation of Finolab. The birth of Finolab in the financial district of Otemachi area seems to aptly symbolize the current state of fintech in Japan today.
On the day, Akira Tsuruoka of the company Liquid, which has already taken up residence at Finolab and using it as its registered address, told me a bit about the company’s vision. Liquid is working to offer its Liquid payment service, which harnesses next-generation biometric authentication search engine technology, to obviate the need to carry credit cards or point cards. The Liquid reader (fingerprint reader) can be connected via a USB port to a POS cash register to make possible payment by fingerprint.
Conventionally, the hurdle for fingerprint authentication technology applications has been the time required for fingerprint matching confirmation, however, Liquid has succeeded in overcoming this by accelerating the verification process. Japan’s biometric technology has advanced from being able to confirm the identity of a person to being able to specify a user’s identity. The next area for which there are high expectations is using image processing and the ability to process reams of data across a broader range of biometric identifiers. Learning about Liquid’s technology and cloud-based service offering, I was struck by the possibilities that it has for boldly yet elegantly contributing to solutions for and potentially helping to redefine the very primitive applications of individual biometric authentication in the financial services industry.
(*1) Finolab is an endeavor jointly undertaken and backed by Mitsubishi Estate, Dentsu, and Information Services International-Dentsu (ISID). Finolab will be operated with the cooperation of Finovators, a corporation of professionals dedicated to promoting financial innovation. The Finolab will offer services through the finolab.jp website, with Dentsu and ISID responsible for service operations. http://finovators.org/ http://finolab.jp/
(*2) Located in the Canary Wharf financial district of London, Level39 is a fintech accelerator. Celent profiled it after it launched in 2013 in a blog entry. http://www.level39.co/ http://bit.ly/1oLjby7