What does banking group BBVA offer start-ups?

Offering an open competition to source and integrate new start-up talent

25 European Corporate Startup Stars reveals which large companies are doing the most to support new firms. These case studies highlight some specific examples of active and successful collaboration between corporates and startups.

A good example of…

Coherent leadership

European Headquarters: Madrid, Spain

Geographical reach: Worldwide

Sector/s of interest: Fintech

Works with startups through:

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  • BBVA Open Talent, a competition with cash prizes and mentoring from senior management
  • Sharing resources, such as office space and tools
  • Propel Venture Partners, a $250m venture capital fund for worldwide investments
  • Acquisitions of digital products and services
  • The open platform BBVA API Market

Why does BBVA work with start-ups?

BBVA works with start-ups and new digital players to explore new business opportunities and technologies, share knowledge, acquire and invest in innovative business models, and support the wider financial services ecosystem.

How does BBVA work with start-ups?

BBVA works with start-ups in five key areas:

  1. Strategic partnerships with Fintech players, with BBVA currently analysing possibilities in lending, payments and authentication.
  2. Digital M&A and direct investments – for example, in 2015 BBVA invested £45m for a 29.5% stake in Atom, the UK’s first purely mobile bank.
  3. The Propel Venture Partners Fintech fund, which BBVA has invested $250m in, as a limited partner.
  4. BBVA’s Open Platform strategy, which makes core banking services available to Fintech players, through open application program interfaces (APIs) that enable them to construct products.
  5. The BBVA Open Talent competition, which has allowed BBVA to build relationships with 4,500 Fintech start-ups over the past eight years, supporting their ideas and helping bring them to market.

What has BBVA done to facilitate collaboration with start-ups?

The main way BBVA scouts for start-ups is through the BBVA Open Talent competition. The involvement of more than 170 BBVA in-house managers (including C-level executives) and experts in the competition enables BBVA to build strong relationships with prospective new Fintech suppliers.

Acquisitions and investments also enable BBVA to bring the digital expertise of start-ups into the wider company. These start-ups play an important part in assisting with the bank’s digital transformation. For example, in 2016, BBVA acquired Holvi, the Helsinki-based online banking service, in order to expand its portfolio of digital businesses.

From BBVA’s chairman to its management teams, the organisation is committed to building relationships with start-ups at all levels – for example, by analysing deals and connecting start-ups with in-house teams.

Success story: Holvi

A particularly exciting acquisition for BBVA is Holvi, the Helinski-based online banking service. Holvi offers a lean and digitalised service that brings a whole new approach to small business banking, with essential services such as invoicing built into its core offer.

BBVA and Holvi both share a vision that new technologies can benefit their customers. Johan Lorenzen, CEO of Holvi, says: “We’ve found the ideal owner in BBVA – a bank with the understanding of the digital world to give us the necessary room to grow, and then the scale and expertise to underpin that growth with sound foundations.”


“BBVA has taken good steps to integrate start-ups into their DNA through mergers and acquisitions. The organisation understands and acts upon the value of start-ups and their disruptive potential.”

Dolf Wittkamper, Corporate Startup Stars judge


What can other corporates learn from BBVA about working with start-ups?

  • Commitment from management across an organisation enables start-ups to be effectively integrated into a business
  • Strategic, focussed investments in start-ups can help feed into wider business goals (for example, expending a portfolio of work in a specific area, such as digital)
  • Involvement at all stages of the ecosystem and demonstration of support from experts and senior management is key


What is BBVA looking for from the start-ups it works with? 

BBVA is looking for start-ups – large or small – that work across the financial services industries, have great ideas and share BBVA's passion for better products and services through technology, for the benefit of customers.

How can start-ups get involved with BBVA?

Entries are currently closed for the BBVA Open Talent competition, but it will open again in 2017. If you would like to get in touch in the meantime, please email:


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Image courtesy of SVC2UK CEO Summit 2015.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 644104.


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