2016 Innovators to Watch: 36 to 40

36. Pat Grady, General Partner, Sequoia Capital

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.10.10 AMZappos, Xoom, YouTube, DropBox, Tumblr, are just a few of the companies in Sequoia Capital’s portfolio. The list goes on and on, so no wonder this venture capital firm is dubbed Silicon Valley’s “innovation factory.” Pat Grady – now a partner at Sequoia – joined the firm in 2007, and has been focused on the next generation tech leaders. “We hope that in most cases our presence is additive, but sometimes we screw up,” his Linkedin page says. “In all cases, we are entirely focused on trying to achieve something great. Mediocrity makes for a lousy legacy.” Preach!

Fintech startups, take note: the venture capital firm will be focusing specifically on fintech in the next three years, Grady said early June. We have been quiet in the space recently, but we plan to be very very active in fintech too in the next three years,” he said. “I think the risk has been undervalued, while upside has been overestimated.” According to Grady, fintech is not easy money at all, and he gravitates towards companies that identify “real problems” and have already created real solutions. Do that before pitching to Grady.

37. Joey Prather, CEO, Dyme 

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.11.50 AMThe ubiquity of mobile devices means we send messages. A lot of messages. More messages than ever before. Oddly, however, most banking today is not centered on messaging, but on transactions, which might be among the reasons why consumers remain largely dissatisfied by retail banking. It is interesting to note that this is not the case in commercial banking, where messages occupy the very heart of global commercial money transfers.

Why should we care about messages, as opposed to transactions? Because messages implies an instruction that mirrors exactly what you want, rather than being pigeonholed into a particular product that may have been built in the late 1970s. Literally.

There is arguably one person who is working most diligently on financial services messages: Joseph Prather. A congenial transplant from the Heartland to Silicon Valley, Prather is the founder of Dyme, a startup in the portfolio of Bank Innovation INV, this blog’s sister fintech accelerator. (Full disclosure: I personally work with Prather to advance Dyme’s valuation.) In this capacity, Prather is endeavoring to build a retail messaging platform that is not just responsive no matter the channel — it built the first fintech Facebook Messenger chatbot this spring — but offers an enjoyable, even entertaining, experience for consumers. When was the last time anyone attempted to remake text banking into an enjoyable application? Answer: a very long time.

More expansively, Prather is hard at work solving an even grander challenge: responsive-channel agnostic financial services messaging. The Holy Grail has banks communicating in an automated fashion with any customer, through any channel, and that includes voice-based channels like the Amazon Echo or Apple’s Siri. It’s a Holy Grail for a reason: it’s really hard. But Prather is tackling the challenge with his greatest skill: optimism. Which makes Prather’s efforts worth at least a text to a colleague, if not a place on this list of Innovators to Watch.

38. Alon Feit, President, SplitIt

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.13.14 AMInstallment credit at POS is not new, but with Splitit, CEO Alon Feit gives it a fresh, digital spin. Formerly known as PayItSimple, Splitit’s technology allows merchants to set up a payment plans at the point of sale, based on the customer’s existing credit line. Customers are able to choose monthly payment installments on their existing credit cards. Based in Israel, the company raised $10 million of debt financing and $5 million in equity to date. Most recently, the company made its plugin available on Shopify (as if Shopify wasn’t great enough already).

Prior to launching Splitit, Feit spent 25 years developing his unique expertise serving in senior management positions for leading credit card and insurance companies in Israel and Brazil, where installment purchasing is the norm and traditional credit is obscenely expensive. He served as CEO of Supersal Finance, Ltd., a credit card issuer jointly owned by Israel’s largest bank, petrol station chain and supermarket chain. The Splitit system, according to Feit, is already widely used worldwide — and next up the U.S..

39. Madeline Aufseeser, CEO, Tender Armor

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.14.10 AMGot a question on (virtually) anything-payments? Go to Madeline Aufseeser.

It’s hard to pinpoint another payments executive with a similar track record: Aufseeser has over 30 years of experience in payment market, focusing on business strategy, launching new products, and product management. She is considered a thought leader in the space (her many appearances in the media can testify), and is now leading her own venture, Tender Armor. The startup is designed to protect payment card issuers and consumers from losses caused by fraud – very much needed today, as EMV has caused card-not-present (CNP) fraud to take root, growing rapidly and targeting e-commerce sales. The startup’s first product, an online fraud prevention solution dubbed CvvPlus — a dynamic CVV — is in the process of securing a patent.

Prior to launching Tender Armor, she held executive positions at FIS, Aite Group, Wachovia, Mastercard, and First Data, among others.

40. Jon Stein, CEO, Betterment

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.15.16 AMRobo-advising is hot right now with new companies popping up, it seems like, every day. But Betterment is only getting hotter. The investment platform’s CEO Jon Stein is not intimidated by the competition, quite the contrary: the more incumbents know about robo-advisory, the more customers Betterment gets, he said. With $205 million in total funding, from investors like Citi Ventures or Kinnevik, and at a $700 million valuation, Betterment is now aiming to manage more than just customers’ investments: Stein wants his company to be the “central financial relationship” for his customers, he said. “We don’t want to be a backend for another company, not have that branded in another way. We are partnering with institutions that have services that will complement ours in the future, such as loans and insurance.”

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