Milan, October 28, 2021
STEP 4 BUSINESS: the first FinTech ecosystem for SMEs raises over 8.5 million euros in the seed round. Expanding soon in Spain and Portugal
A few weeks after the launch of Azimut Marketplace by STEP on the Italian market, STEP 4 Business SpA - the company that designed and developed the project of the first fintech ecosystem for SMEs - announces its international expansion plan which will start in Spain by the end of 2021 and carry on in Portugal and Brazil in early 2022.
STEP 4 Business is the brainchild of three professionals with twenty years of experience in the financial sector: Marco Montagnani, Nuno Couceiro and Alberto Almoguera. Andrea Bertini – Country Manager in Italy - and Pierluigi Giannico - formerly Managing Partner at Accenture – are also involved in the share capital.
To launch on the market, STEP 4 business has closed one of the most significant seed rounds of the European fintech segment, with a total funding of over €8.5 million (oversubscribed). Key investors include: Azimut Group, one of Europe's leading independent asset management groups; CRIF, specialized in credit and business information systems as well as advanced digital solutions for business development and open banking; Gellify, an innovation platform that connects high-tech B2B start-ups with established companies to innovate their processes, products and business models, which directly invested in Azimut Marketplace by STEP. The transaction was structured by the Weigmann law firm in coordination with Azimut General Counsel and lawyer Marita Freddi. STEP 4 Business was also assisted by CMFC (a professional association member of the NEXIA network) and Dr. Graziella Capellini, an expert in the field of compliance and regulatory profiles.
STEP 4 Business built a complex IT infrastructure in four months guaranteeing the highest levels of security. Be Digitech Solutions, a leading software development and IT consultancy company that is part of the Be Shaping The Future Group, a company listed in the STAR segment of the Italian Stock Exchange, with offices in Italy, UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Romania, Poland and Ukraine, and with revenues of 178.8 million euros in 2020. Be Digitech Solutions is coordinating the development activities and the integration, on the STEP platform, of technology partners, including:
- CRIF provides, through the next generation APIs, a smart and fully digital onboarding and user identification solution, a digital advisory tool for Business Financial Management (BFM), Digital CFO and account aggregation, including international accounts (STEP is the first platform in Europe to provide this service free of charge);
- Microsoft Azure, open and flexible cloud computing platform to make the most of data potential, reducing costs and development times;
- Mia-Platform, innovative tech company that brought to the market the first solution worldwide in the world for the creation of cloud native digital platforms, allows multi-cloud development (Kubernetes) and platform scalability, guaranteeing speed and security in all development phases;
- Salesforce, leader in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions, offering the customer a personalized and automated service.
The Italian platform (Azimut Marketplace by STEP) includes services such as Instant lending (October), digital invoice trading (Workinvoice), international payments (Ebury), mobile payments (Satispay), medium / long-term financing operations (Azimut Direct) and subsidized finance (CRIF), value added services for businesses (Amazon). A real fintech ecosystem that provides the best products and services for SMEs and that in the coming months will be further enriched with other partners who will complete the digital value proposition. For the future markets, local partners will be identified in order to respond to the specific territorial needs.
Marco Montagnani, CEO & Founder of STEP 4 Business, declares: "The marketplace model allows to take full advantage of new digital technologies which, combined with open banking as enabling factor, make a customer-centric and completely free platform possible. The STEP platform has been conceived as a fully-fledged and unique selling proposition that makes small and medium-sized enterprises life simpler thanks to the best digital partners on the market and it has been designed and built together with customers and for customers. The first results achieved with Azimut Marketplace by STEP in Italy confirm the project’s worth: in just a few weeks, over 400 companies registered. 100% of companies are already using AIS service and aggregated their current accounts - with an average of 2.7 business accounts per customer - and more than 40 cross-selling opportunities have been generated (12 million euros operations in pipeline). The promising trend of this first phase motivates us to accelerate the project’s internationalization, already planned for the end of the year with the launch of STEP Spain.”
Gabriele Blei, CEO of Azimut Group, declares: “The investment in STEP 4 Business is proof of our attention to the fintech evolution to support our projects aiming at sustaining SMEs and the real economy. This attention has led us to develop revolutionary projects such as Azimut Token, first Security Token in the asset management sector available to invest in alternative credit, or to launch a fund that provides exposure to digital assets. We take advantage of the possibilities offered by fintech platforms for our alternative credit products in performing and non-performing loans and digital lending, which feed into our NeoFinancing project that was strengthened at the beginning of the year with Azimut Direct and thanks to which we have provided 300 million in financing. Following this same innovative spirit, we were the first to believe in the potential of the platform developed by STEP, launching Azimut Marketplace in Italy, and now, through our co-investment in STEP, we will also follow and participate in the foreign expansion process that is currently underway”.
Michele Giordani, Managing Partner and Founder of GELLIFY, commented: "Azimut Marketplace by STEP has immediately stimulated a strong interest for its powerful vision and target positioning in a market which is poorly served by current players with legacy paradigms. It provides SMEs with a 360 degrees solution of its financial management needs by melding best-in-class services and fintech products in a unique experience. This approach allows for extreme flexibility and it is open to constant product innovation with minimum regulatory burden, which is a critical factor in an ever-changing market like fintech. These are the main reasons why we decided to co-invest in, combined with the team competences, the international network vision and scalability of the model”.
Enrico Lodi, CRIF Managing Director, stated: "Technological innovation to create increasingly better value for businesses and consumers with simple, smart digital solutions is central to CRIF’s growth, leading CRIF to be recently ranked in the Top 100 in the IDC FinTech Rankings 2021 for the ninth consecutive year. We are pursuing this development path according to an industrial plan involving total investments of 350 million euros in the three-year period of 2021-2023. These investments are aimed at consolidating our global positioning and enriching and further developing our offering, in particular in open finance, both through the development of our solutions and through collaboration with partners according to an open ecosystem approach. With this in mind, we are pleased to be partnering with STEP 4 Business and to be part of the Azimut Marketplace FinTech ecosystem by providing our advanced digital solutions for SMEs”.