Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

Calgary startup Fillip wins inaugural $250K DCBank fintech prize

Alice Reimer, CEO of Calgary-based startup Fillip said their big fintech prize winnings will fund growth.

“Growth. Growth, growth, growth, growth, growth,” Reimer told a packed pitch stage at the Digital Commerce Bank Calgary Fintech Awards held at Platform Calgary on Friday evening, when asked what $250,000 would mean to their company.

That was first prize in the DC Bank Fintech award, the largest non-dilutive cash prize of its kind in North America. A total of $310,000 was awarded at the event, with second place ($60,000) going to Canadian fintech startup, Miq.

Fillip is a small business focused digital wallet app that turns a smartphone into a gas card. They target smaller companies with between five and 25 vehicles in their fleet.

“There is an untapped potential,” Reimer told LiveWire Calgary after winning the prize.

“Right now, the market that we’re serving, the small business market, is completely underserved and overlooked by traditional fleet cards and traditional fleet retailers.”

This cash infusion will help fund the infrastructure needed to take on more fleet customers and continue their expansion.

Fillip was one of five companies that made their final pitch on Friday night. They joined Miq, Credit App, PayShepherd, and YRPlans – Smart Benefit and each had two mins to make a final impression on the judging panel.

That group was whittled down from a final 11, who were whittled down from 24. To start, 46 applications survived the initial selection process.

Calgary an emerging fintech star

The award is sponsored by Digital Commerce Bank Calgary. Their co-founder and CEO, Jeffrey Smith talked about his humble beginnings as a Calgary fintech start up 25 years ago.

He said he and his cofounder would bicker over who got the desk chair and who got the side chair in their 7 Avenue office in downtown Calgary.  They stuck with it and went from one ATM to 25,000 in five countries, with 425 employees and $100 million in annual revenue. 

They sold in 2017.

Smith said he saw that there was a need that wasn’t being filled in helping fintech startups in Calgary.

“We think that it’s been a fantastic opportunity to meet startups in the same space we were in,” Smith said.

“25 years or so ago, this wasn’t an opportunity. 25 years ago there probably wasn’t anybody I knew that wasn’t in the oil business.”

Platform Calgary CEO Terry Rock said Calgary is an emerging tech leader. They’ve been recognized as such in recent surveys.

“You are in a place that has a long history and an amazing future,” Rock said.

What does second place offer? Runway, said Miq founder

Jonah Chininga, founder of Miq, a community banking platform, during his two-minute pitch at the DCBank Fintech Awards on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. Chininga’s company placed second, winning $60,000. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Jonah Chininga moved to Calgary two weeks ago. They founded Miq in Prince Edward Island, but he said they wanted to join in the momentum of Calgary’s explosive tech scene.

“We saw the opportunity of tapping into ecosystem and being part of the Calgary community,” Chininga said.

He also joked that it helped that when he was purchasing furniture, that they only had to pay the five per cent GST.

Miq is building a community banking platform, focused on newcomers to Canada that allows them to build credit histories, access credit and funds. Chininga said when many newcomers arrive in Canada they’re “credit invisible” because there’s no credit history from their country of origin.

Many banks see that as high risk, he said.

“We want to be the alternative for (newcomers) to solve that problem and enable them to have financial security,” Chininga said.

And what does the $60,00 second prize mean to their company?

“It’s more runway,” he said.

“It’s more things we can do for customers. And it’s also just great credibility for what we’re doing. I think being a founder is hard and then getting the community behind our back means a lot to us.”