The World Stage is back at the South’s largest financial technology conference starting June 22, building on an inaugural virtual summit last year that served to showcase Atlanta to a broader global audience.
Fintech South’s online shift enabled organizers at the Technology Association of Georgia to think differently about the content it generated. Instead of wooing travelers to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the last in-person edition was held, they sought to create a digital “experience” that transcended location.
Larry Williams, TAG’s president and CEO, credited his team with adapting quickly and intentionally to the new reality of the pandemic.
“When we had to go virtual last year, nobody just sort of sat back and said, ‘Let’s get through the year.’ They actually got creative about what the opportunities are here: We are borderless; we don’t have the walls of a building to constrain us,” Mr. Williams said. “That’s where this idea of a world stage emerged.”
From Israel to Malta and Nigeria to Singapore, the world responded, with fintech “ecosystems” all over taking the opportunity to introduce themselves virtually to Atlanta, known as “Transaction Alley” for its pre-eminence in the electronic payments field in the U.S.
What more than 2,000 people saw upon tuning in was a “global hub for innovation,” where fintech is just one of many cutting-edge sectors with a story to tell, Mr. Williams said. He noted that eight countries were recently represented at TAG’s Georgia Technology Summit.
The World Stage will take over the entire day June 23, the second of the three-day virtual conference featuring more than 300 speakers and 50-plus sponsors and exhibitors.
“Fintech is just the tip of the spear, and we’re super excited,” Mr. Williams said. “I see a component of this moving forward, even as we merge back into the physical world.”
Kristina Morris, the former project manager of Fintech Atlanta who chaired the World Stage, said the sell in 2021 has been easier, as many investment agencies and companies had already caught wind of the conference.
“It doesn’t feel like I’m doing as much of a brand new outreach as I am reminding people I’m here,” said Ms. Morris, now director of innovation at ICBA, who has also been fielding inbound emails from around the world from potential sponsors.
While some organizations like Enterprise Ireland have been hip to Atlanta’s role in the fintech world for years, others have just awakened to the opportunity the premier industry conference provides.
Invest Lituania reached out this year, joining other investment promotion agencies from Hong Kong, Japan, Israel and the United Kingdom. Fintech associations from Hong Kong and Nigeria remain engaged, as does the Singapore Fintech Festival, linking the Southeast U.S. with Southeast Asia yet again. Dubai International Financial Centre’s Fintech Hive is also a partner. Content companies like Brazil’s Talle and the U.K.’s Fintech Finance will help manage the flow of content alongside Atlanta media outlets. The Netherlands Consulate General in Atlanta is backing a roundtable.
Andrew Morris, executive director of the conference and founder of The Fintech Agenda, said the focus in both years has been fostering fast-moving content and an immersive experience, rather than one more thing to watch passively.
“Fintech South is something you do,” Mr. Morris said, pointing to a tagline the conference has adopted.
Woven into 40-plus hours of content over three days, the program once again promises curated live music performances from Georgia artists, a virtual escape room competition and expanded one-on-one networking opportunities through the Brella event platform, which uses AI to match attendees for meetings.
He added that the conference had become part of the international magnetism for global fintech firms like Wayflyer, an Irish provider of growth capital for e-commerce firms that recently raised a $76 million Series A round. The company is said to be eyeing an Atlanta presence, as it will outline in a roundtable discussion with Dutch donation platform Givt that is to be moderated by Global Atlanta.
“It’s a part of the overall effort by Atlanta to open its doors to these companies,” said Mr. Morris of the conference.
It’s not as if international interest had been absent before. After it move to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2017, Fintech South enjoyed multiple years where countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and Israel put booths in an international pavilion carved out on the main exhibition floor.
But even while physically isolating Atlanta, the pandemic has ironically has made the city more digitally accessible, bringing to the lineup a unique mix of global startups and mainline blue-chip payments or fintech companies like Visa, Mastercard, Global Payments, Cardlytics and more.
The nearly 40 keynotes on the World Stage alone include the CEO of India for U.K-based Revolut, the head of ING Labs Asia, and co-founders of Brazil-based Flink, Colombia’s ADDI, Argentina’s Ualá and many more.
“There was already a trend toward a broader reach of people attending from other parts of the world, and the virtual format accelerated that,” Mr. Morris said.
Mr. Williams said the exposure to international innovators is also another way to strengthen the competitiveness of local startups that often begin with the world in mind.
“In Georgia, they really do think global from day one.”
See the full list of speakers on the World and Atlanta Stages here.
See the full list of World Stage partners here or below: