When you’re in financial services, it sometimes seems like fintech startups are everywhere. They’re on Twitter, LinkedIn, they’re at conferences, they’re in your inbox, they may be waiting outside your office this very minute. But for each one you’ve heard of, there are ten you probably haven’t come across yet, and one of them might have the idea you’ve been looking for. In that optimistic spirit, here are ten such startups for you.
Blackmoon launched earlier this month to deliver marketplace lending as a service. In other words, for those looking to launch a peer-to-peer or marketplace lending service, Blackmoon can help them get up and running quickly and inexpensively. It currently underpins nine lenders across Europe and has now set its sights on the U.S. Its platform is slick and sophisticated, but here it will have to contend with the likes of Orchard, a New York-based platform for marketplace lenders.
Blispay is a hybrid cashback credit card and point-of-sale financing tool that issues a physical Visa card as well as a digital card to use online. Users can finance purchases above $199 at the point of sale and pay nothing for six months. Blispay was founded by Greg Lisiewski, a veteran of BillMeLater, now the PayPal product known as PayPal Credit. The card is issued by Utah-based First Electronic Bank. Blispay is signing up merchants to work out these credit arrangements, and in these scenarios the card functions like a store card, the company says. Can Blispay make merchants love cards again?
Civic is taking on a massive unsolved problem, consumers’ distributed and unprotected digital identities. Lots of people talk about it, but no one seems close to solving it. Civic launched earlier this month to alert users to the use of their social security numbers. In other words, if a loan is taken out using your identity, you’ll get an alert. It may not be in time to stop what is happening, but at least you’ll be aware. The free service also provides up to $1 million in identity theft protection. Civic is the creation of Vinny Lingham, founder of digital gifting company Gyft, now part of First Data. Lingham came from South Africa and was bewildered by the complexity and inefficiency of the U.S. credit and identity systems. He has grand plans for Civic to transform both into fairer, more precise systems for the 21st century.
Copper Street builds software to help the small-dollar investor have fun while making money. The app, meant to be playful, uses gamification, competition with peers, and education to keep investors interested, and allows fractional purchases of shares. Copper Street’s simulator mode allows investors to play with test money first, to find out how the system works before actually committing their hard-earned cash. The platform also allows social sharing, which can be particularly helpful in simulator mode to show your “friends” how much better you are at this.
Epiphyte was into blockchain before blockchain was cool. The San Francisco-based company burst onto the scene in 2014, winning an Innotribe startup challenge for a bitcoin-based remittance system. You may have heard of them, in other words, but they’ve stayed under the radar amid the blockchain craze they helped create. Epiphyte has moved away from cryptocurrency to work instead with distributed ledgers, but is still focused on remittances and moving money across borders more quickly and cheaply. Early this year the company partnered with Visa Europe Collab to gain access to the Visa network for its payments. The ultimate goal in payments, says CEO Edan Yago, is to be invisible. As for the blockchain craze? Yago says of Epiphyte; “We are blockchain skeptics. But we’re excited about this because it’s actually happening and it solves a real problem.”
Neurensic takes arguably the least exciting topic in finance — compliance — and pairs it with arguably the most exciting — artificial intelligence. Essentially, the artificial intelligence in the software looks for compliance problems so your compliance department doesn’t have to. It can learn from training, and the data it is exposed to makes it better at its job. One implementation of the software might be for an investment firm to identify questionable trades. Neurensic analyzes the patterns of trades to identify potential regulatory red flags. It then assigns risk scores to clusters of activity. While the software helps compliance teams work better and faster, it also seeks to provide a compliance management standard of the entire industry.
Nova Credit knows that recent creditworthy immigrants to the U.S. will likely have a hard time securing credit because they lack a credit history and social security number. Nova wants borrowers to be able to bring their credit histories with them. To that end, Nova partners with credit bureaus around the world to help prospective borrowers build the credit profiles needed to gain access to funds. Nova is based in Palo Alto and was built by international students of Stanford who now power Silicon Valley — three out of four tech workers between the ages of 25 and 44 in the Bay Area were born outside the U.S. They need mortgages for homes and cars to get to work.
ThoughtMachine is taking on one of banking’s most persistent (and persistently ignored) problems — the aging cores that power transactions. Many companies make a living building sophisticated middleware to compensate for the weakness of the core, but startup ThoughtMachine joins a select few companies taking on the heart of the matter with its bank operating system, Vault OS. The OS is cloud-based and was built by a team of ex-Googlers. It is expensive to replace cores, ThoughtMachine says, but running these old bank systems (and paying the people who know how to work with 30-year-old code) is expensive too. Vault OS employs a centralized, permissioned cryptographic ledger to verify transactions — in other words, the stuff we talk about when we talk about blockchain. It also uses machine learning, so it’s pretty much got you covered. But can banks be won over?
Tide is bringing innovation to business banking — where it has long been lacking. While neobanks such as Simple, Mondo and Moven sprang up for consumers, business customers were left waiting. Tide has raised $2 million to launch in the U.K., and boasts a 3-minute signup process and no monthly fees. It also includes financial management software (BFM?) and plugs in to accounting software. Backed by some fintech luminaries such as Eileen Burbidge of Passion Capital, Tide is not a bank but its deposits are held at Barclays and are insured. It also features insurance and protections for businesses that go beyond what consumers need. A few years back Bank Innovation asked, “Where is the Simple for businesses?” That question has now been answered.
Zero Financial aims to reinvent the deposit account. The company claims to offer the highest interest on deposits and the best rewards on card purchases. The mobile app creates a virtual card on enrollment to use with Apple Pay, but a titanium card is mailed shortly afterward. (Yes, titanium.) It also offers a sophisticated view on transactions, including rewards and a “cash-flow roboadvisor” that forecasts account balances and spending. And this is all with no fees. The company is dependent on partnerships with participating merchants, who get logo visibility in the app, and perhaps more. Would consumers also trade privacy for rewards? Perhaps if it’s cash back on a card.