By Financial Venture Studio
The Financial Venture Studio is seeking its next cohort of fintech innovators. (Accepting applications here.) Since this is our third cohort, many of you have asked us what kinds of things we’re looking for this time around. Without being too prescriptive — it is, of course, far easier for us to say what kinds of things we’d love to see than to say how these things can be executed — here are some thoughts from our team on things we think are missing from the market:
Products that use technology to make decisions easier for consumers. Financial decisions often require complex planning and calculations, and consumers are typically on their own to figure out the nuances of how various financial products affect them over time. We love products that remove decision tension.
Products that function as an abstraction layer on top of existing poor consumer solutions. Many of today’s existing tools — looking at you, payments and balance-checking services — are archaic and time-consuming. We love tech that makes those interfaces someone else’s problem and delivers a delightful consumer experience instead.
Business solutions that automate complex processes or capital flows in a multi-user context. While small businesses’ needs are often much more complicated than consumers’, most tools for small businesses are simply more expensive versions of tools marketed to individuals. We’re extremely excited about tools that allow business employees to cooperate to solve problems in their financial management — whether that’s process management, payments, HR challenges, or pure financing decisions.
Fresh solutions for education finance. We all know education finance is a disaster. Income Share Agreements (ISAs) are getting some attention, but we’d welcome more creative ways to bring education incentives into alignment with most people’s financial realities.
Solutions that *truly* enable real-time payments. Although the functionality remains limited (e.g., only push payments) and access is restricted, real-time settlement between bank accounts is available in the US. So far as we know, however, no one has built a processor either on the issuing side or the merchant side to support the applications that can be built on the available systems — or those that seem likely to come to market in the foreseeable future. We would love to help build the next great payment business. It’s probably the biggest business opportunity out there in financial services.
Better and more affordable tools to enable compliance. Compliance is only getting more expensive and there are far too few tools available to help regulated entities comply with the litany of rules, regulations and reporting requirements that stretch across our financial system. Without better tools, innovations will remain hard to scale.
Innovative solutions to stop fraud and theft. The prevalence of fraud and financial crimes are only increasing. Because of this, criminals — both the stupid and the sophisticated — are having a field day. We can do better.
New approaches to homeownership. Every creative solution that a founder brings forward in this category seems to get some traction. We would love to see more innovation here.
Compelling new customer acquisition engines. The market is probably ready for the next version of Lending Tree, Credit Karma, Nerd Wallet, etc.
Better retirement and de-cumulation tools. We’ve seen a few solutions here, but figuring out asset management in retirement is going to become absolutely critical for tens of millions of Americans over the next decade. These Americans are increasingly tech savvy, but far too few founders are paying attention to the opportunity. The need for innovative, delightful customer experiences in this area is huge.
Asset creation tools for consumers. Building up an asset base is one of the most crucial first steps in creating individual financial stability, and it requires a lot of financial brain power to get right. There are a few solutions in this space, but we should be seeing more here.
Consumer and small business opportunities are almost too innumerable to mention. We still pay too much in fees, get too little service and have fewer options than we need. Obvious product features — like a checking account that turns to a loan when the balance goes negative, or the ability to easily and cheaply insure against common life events such as job loss, auto breakdowns, and disability — are still rare. On the business side, way too many people are employed to help businesses keep track of money via accounting, tax, finance and legal services. There should be a way to optimize and streamline these administrative staff and service providers.
Like most Americans, we’re ready to see major improvements in financial services. We believe in the power of tech-driven innovation to get us there. Building something interesting? We’d love to help.
Financial Venture Studio is an early-stage venture capital firm that seeks technology companies in the financial services industry who are launching products that have the ability to transform the industry. When making investments, FVS prioritizes firms that demonstrate rapid execution, strong initial product growth and user engagement. To learn more about the Financial Venture Studio’s previous cohorts and our investing and development approach, visit www.finventurestudio.com.