From competitors to power squad: How members of the fintech community are disrupting Twin Cities Startup Week
It’s not every day that employees from competing financial services companies get together and form planning committees, but for this year’s Fintech Track, it’s all about collaboration.
David Ness, vice president of innovation, research and development at US Bank, was looking for a way to give back to local fintech founders last year. Gauging interest with fellow financial companies like Securian and Thrivent, the best method seemed to be sponsoring a Fintech Track: an event involving pitch competitions, networking and educating each other.
“Basically it’s the corporate financial companies coming together to educate ourselves and give back to the local community,” Ness says of the idea behind both last year’s and this year’s event.
Those in the innovation sectors of these companies — think Wells Fargo, Allianz, Bremer Bank — were seeing more of each other on the coasts instead of in their own backyards, says Elizabeth Carrero, director of digital strategy and partnerships at Securian. “There was always this idea of, ‘how do we continue to grow fintech in the Twin Cities?’”
The group unanimously decided Startup Week was the best place for this event, and last year it was held over two days in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. This year, it’ll be a little different.
“[We’re] trying to put more of a spotlight on our local scene and use our collective corporate power to spread that message out to investment partners and peers,” says Ness. Overall, it will be a bit more “tightened up” as well, with the main focus on educational content, a thematic-based pitch competition, and facilitated networking.
The brand new Allianz Field will host on October 11, and the Minnesota Fintech Collective — the fancy new name for the planning committee that also includes Greater MSP and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development — is anticipating about 250 to 300 people. This will hopefully include a mix of founders, investors, government regulators, and the general public.
Last year, Ness estimates there were about 60 companies participating and about 20 additional startups in attendance. This year, they’re anticipating more, including New York City-based DailyPay.
Established in 2015 by the former managing director of the structured equity group at Goldman Sachs, DailyPay is an app that allows employees to access the wages they’ve earned before payday. “We want to give people that first step towards financial security,” says Mariele Marki, talent and brand manager at the startup. “For us, that’s accessing the money you’ve made when you need it.”
The company currently has over 250,000 users, or employees, on the app and 115 partners, or employers. The Kroger grocery chain is amongst the employers DailyPay is piloting with, as well as G4S, a massive security firm and one of the world’s largest private employers.
Growing as fast as they are, the startup is already in the process of establishing a second office primarily focused on payment operations — right here in Minneapolis. Currently at about 20 employees at a coworking space downtown, the startup plans to bring a total of 100 jobs to the city, hiring entirely locally.
During a tour of the Midwest trying to find the best spot, Marki mentioned finding the Twin Cities to have a “great culture and quality of life.”
“It was so welcoming, it was almost strange for us,” Marki says of the usual competition found on the coasts with incoming companies. The timing was also gratuitous, she says: “It’s an exciting time to be an early stage company in Minneapolis.”
Hearing about Startup Week at a dinner with Ness and others involved in planning the Fintech Track, Marki says it “made all the sense in the world” to DailyPay to participate. “[There’s] such excitement and enthusiasm for what Minneapolis has to offer,” she says. “That’s absolutely something we wanted to be a part of.”
At the Fintech Track, the startup will be sharing their experience as an early stage company coming to the Cities. “Being able to share is something that I hope will inspire other companies to grow within Minneapolis as well,” she says.
Carrero agrees. “I am very optimistic that this could be the event we need to spur new growth in the area, and as well as for people to think of the Twin Cities as a place to go for financial services innovation,” she says.
Other exciting components of this year’s event include potential well-known keynote speakers and a heightened focus on diversity. More than 50 percent of those on the planning committee are women, Ness notes. “When you look up on stage, you’re going to see diverse panels,” he continues, “you’re not going to think, oh yep, there’s another white male panel.”
Melissa Carmichael, strategic innovation manager at Bremer Bank, adds that it’s also about diversity of thought. Banks, insurance companies, and all types of financial companies are coming at this together for the future of fintech, she says.
It all just keeps coming back to that collaboration across the board. “People externally are confused by how and why we all work so closely together, but at the end of the day, all of us coming together is really going to benefit the customer,” she says. “It sounds funny, but we’re a squad.”
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