Mastercard opens fintech, a cybersecurity innovation lab in Beer Sheva


Financial services giant Mastercard officially opened a new innovation lab in Beer Sheva this month, with a mission to work with early stage Israeli startups on fintech (financial technology) and cybersecurity solutions for the consumer sectors. payments and energy around the world.

The new center, called FinSec Innovation Lab, is jointly operated by Mastercard and Italian energy multinational Enel X after the two companies won a tender in 2019 issued by the Israel Innovation Authority, the National Directorate of Israel’s cybersecurity and the Ministry of Finance.

The lab focuses on several areas including API (application programming interface) security, vulnerability management, ransomware, digital identity and authentication, virtual payment wallets, and prevention of. fraud, said FinSec Innovation Lab CEO Sidney Gottesman.

“Anything that Mastercard or Enel can use to protect themselves or to provide to their respective customers,” Gottesman told The Times of Israel on Sunday. Gottesman is senior vice president of corporate security at Mastercard and owner of the Employee Identity and Access Management program. He previously held management positions at Bank Leumi USA and Citigroup.

The FinSec Innovation Lab is currently working with five Israeli startups to help them develop and test their solutions in the new Beersheba hub, providing the physical space, services, mentoring and real-world data with which businesses can. perform simulations of complex financial problems. cyberproduct processes and testing, Gottesman said. Startups will also be able to receive funding from the Israel Innovation Authority.

The program lasts six months, after which a second group of companies will be selected.

Gottesman said the lab reviewed more than 100 applicants following its call for applications in January and chose the five startups that will now develop and conduct proof of concept (PoC) demonstrations: Imvision, founded in 2016, specializing in in protecting business applications against API attacks; Rescana, which has developed a risk assessment platform for risk and security managers; Mirovia Security, which offers AI-powered cybersecurity for web application and software as a service (SaaS) users; Connected Insurance (formerly Apfie), which built an API platform for the insurance industry; and Kenbi, a fintech startup founded earlier this year that helps approve card transactions across the country that might otherwise be denied in traditional payment models.

“The world is undergoing a profound digital transformation that requires innovative solutions to make life easier while ensuring information security and data protection for organizations, institutions and private consumers”, Gottesman noted earlier this year when the call for applications went out.

Gottesman said the lab’s initial plan “resonated with some of Mastercard’s strategic themes, namely cyber[security], fintech, innovation and government commitment. Mastercard, he said, has in recent years “made some $ 1 billion in acquisitions and investments in cybersecurity and fintech platforms.”

The payments giant is “very determined” to work with governments on innovation, he said.

Mastercard and Enel X held a groundbreaking ceremony for the lab last week, welcoming officials including Yigal Unna, director general of Israel’s National Cyber ​​Security Directorate, Dror Bin, CEO of the Innovation Authority. , and the mayor of Beersheba Ruvik Danilovich.

Beersheba’s FinSec Innovation Lab joins Mastercard’s startup engagement programs in cities such as Dublin, New York, Vancouver and Sydney. Mastercard maintains its Israeli headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Enel opened an innovation hub in Tel Aviv in 2016 and worked with local startups in areas such as the Internet of Things, cybersecurity, electric mobility and energy storage.

Unna said in a statement that the new lab was a “unique enterprise that brings together startups, multinational companies, financial regulators and government agencies, with the aim of developing solutions to future challenges facing the companies involved, the city ​​of Beersheba and the whole ecosystem. “

Bin said that “cyber defense in the financial arena is of great importance given the challenges we face today” and that “the lab will provide unique infrastructure, knowledge and expertise … to entrepreneurs and startups. to strengthen the financial sector in Israel… and encourage growth and competition in the local sector.

Israel is a major player in the global cybersecurity industry, with local startups attracting record investments this year, while others have made their debut in public markets. According to Israel’s National Directorate of Cyber ​​Security, funds raised by cybersecurity companies in the first half of 2021 accounted for 41% of the total funds raised by cybersecurity companies globally. More than a third of the world’s cybersecurity unicorns (private companies valued at $ 1 billion or more) were Israeli, including 13 in Israel out of 30 to 33 globally, the management said.

At the same time, Israel is also a major target of cyber attacks. A large-scale Google-backed study released last month found Israel to be the country most affected by ransomware since 2020.

A sharp increase in such attacks in the United States last week sparked a new Jerusalem-Washington deal supporting the sharing of financial sector-related information, such as intelligence on cybersecurity threats; staff training and study visits to promote cooperation in the field of cybersecurity; and cross-border cybersecurity exercises related to the financial and investment flows of global financial institutions.

The city of Beersheba is home to a number of cybersecurity research and development centers set up by global multinationals, including, most recently, Japanese computer giant Fujitsu.

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