In May, the Internet erupted after millionaire Tim Gurner made the following comment on millennials’ spending habits.
“When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each,” Gurner told “60 Minutes.”
Avocado toast became an Internet rallying cry. But what Gurner failed to understand is that the economy has changed since he bought his first home —77 percent of Americans have smartphones in their hands and millennials are now the largest living generation. They’re influencing, creating and using the products of the future — Fintech included.
The m-word is a buzzword people like Gurner throw around, but the many pitches involving millennials and Gen Z at last week’s Queen City Fintech Demo Day are evidence that they are a big and growing market, and with real problems to solve..
The sixth QCF class was chosen from a pool of 150 applicants from over 30 countries. The 12 startups chosen for the accelerator received $20,000 in capital in return for a 6 percent equity stake in each of their businesses. They were surrounded by resources from Charlotte’s banking and finance community, and plenty of help from seasoned Fintech accelerator leader Dan Roselli.
Meet the companies below:
Amicus wants to digitize the giving industry by offering transparency on charitable spend return. Using proprietary search technology, users search for projects through organizations they care about, as well as portfolios of nonprofits ranked by cause and impact. CEO Cor Hoekstra, of Charlotte, says Amicus has big partners like Microsoft and J.P. Morgan Chase.
How it works:
- Donors set up an account
- They identify their favorite causes and organizations
- A giving plan is created with goals
- Users can login and see the impact and status of the projects they funded
- Charities can also post projects that are eligible for funding to be matched with donors
Amicus collects a 4.5 percent transaction fee for funded projects and plans to white label its services for corporations who can make giving programs available and match contributions.
Founded by U.S. Air Force veteran Justin Witz, Charlotte-based Catapult digitizes and streamlines the RFP (request for proposal) process, which is traditionally labor intensive, unstructured and riddled with security risks. The web-based solution brings together the receiver and the sender to allow collaboration in the cloud — blockchain technology ensures secure sharing of data and documents.
The subscription, tier-based service offers different levels of features and functionality. Catapult acquired its first paying subscriber this month and is looking for $500,000 to continue development and hire more team members.
Commandiv is at the intersection of two major markets: online brokerage and digital wealth management. Its founder John Zettler says robo-financial advisors are not the future. Platforms of the future must be flexible, like Commandiv. The online stock trading platform recommends personalized, diversified portfolios that can be automatically managed or customized and managed by users. Commandiv also differentiates itself with personalized investment advice.
Commandiv’s target market — bankers, doctors, lawyers, etc. under 40 — owns $835 billion in investable assets. That number will continue to grow over the next decade as they inherit $30 trillion from baby boomers, says Zettler.
Commadiv went live in timing with Demo Day, with customers and revenue. The New York-based startup has raised $180,000 and is looking for $50,000 as part of its pre-seed extension.
Lack of personalization in banking is a major reason why one in three people are open to switching banks in the next 90 days, Courier co-founder Byron Sorrells says. Courier constantly analyzes a variety of internal and external data points to send useful information to users like:
- The nearest banks and ATMs if a user moves to a new city
- Money conversion rates if they travel to a foreign country
Named Lemon in its former iteration, Courier is based out of New York City and is in the process of closing two deals that will equal $1.2 million in revenue. Courier is not actively fundraising, but is looking for partners and banks. What’s the background of founder?
For Curu co-founder David Potter, homelessness became a reality while he was in college at the University of Maryland at College Park. While he had a full-ride scholarship from Bill Gates, his credit score was too low to obtain housing. Turns out that one out of two millennials have subprime credit scores, says Potter.
That’s more than 32 million people with $300 billion in credit card debt. Curu wants to be millennials’ credit guru, combining automation and gamification to keep young people engaged. Users can monitor all of their accounts through the app, pay off credit cards and get connected to loans — a lead gen application that Curu’s partner, LendingTree, pays for so it’s free to users. Curu wants to white label its service for banks and credit unions as well.
In partnership with the US Department of Education, Curu is piloting the app at eight schools as the first step toward national expansion. Curu is looking for $400,000 to further development and expand marketing efforts. The formerly Maryland-based team has made plans to stick around a little while longer to grow their business from the Queen City.
One out of two college students drop out of college for financial reasons, Edquity co-founder and Yale graduate David Helene says. That equates to a student defaulting on a loan every 29 seconds. New York startup Edquity wants to set high school and college students up for financial success through an easy-to-use platform.
Edquity helps high school students and parents find the college that is the best fit for them. It also helps connect them with financial options. It aims to raise graduation rates, promote earnings after graduation and lower loan default rates.
How it works:
- ROI evaluation recommends schools per student inputs. Then, it evaluates and compares those schools based on potential outcomes.
- It helps with financial planning by considering students’ projected work hours, financial aid, cost of living and spending.
- Its budgeting features offer real-time support, nudges and alerts so students know their financial health.
Edquity launched in five high schools in March, raised $250,000 and has started raising its $750,000 seed round now.
Overspending is the problem Utah-based Envudu wants to solve. It offers customized financial planning and budgeting, and divides money into virtual envelopes so users can visually see how much they can spend. Users get an Envudu debit card to make purchases, which are automatically deducted from the corresponding envelopes.
During his pitch, co-founder Ryan Ruff pointed to research that shows 75 percent of Americans would have to go into debt to pay for a major car repair. Envudu provides a solid spending plan, awareness and little effort from the user, he says. Financial institutions can also brand the white labeled interface to personalize the customer experience.
Envudu’s beta test showed highly-engaged users who continuously logged in two to three times a day.
Finsophy is a digital marketplace for transparent and mission-oriented banking. It’s not rocket science, but its founder and CEO, Jason Aspiotis, is a rocket scientist. Aspiotis used his undergraduate degree in astrophysics from the Florida Institute of Technology and his Masters in Physics from the University of Central Florida during his time working in the aerospace industry post-grad. But his passion for the future of humanity off of Earth led him to Finsophy, now based in San Francisco.
Finsophy doesn’t want to disrupt banking, but rather align banking with causes people care about like the education, sustainability, the environment and space.
Finsophy collects interest from deposits and through a PaaS (Platform as a service) model that earns $50 – $100 per account. It also collects a processing fee through an investments portal.
The company serves banking consumers, community banks, Top-100 banks, companies, small business and non-profits. Finsophy raised a $120,000 pre-seed round and is raising $400,000 to scale.
The problem: small and medium suppliers have to wait a long time to get paid for invoices. The solution proposed by Quartix: transfer the risk from smaller supplier to larger customer by collecting money from the customer at the original invoice date. Quartix creates liquidity for small businesses to strengthen the relationship between buyers and sellers.
The program is ready to launch on mobile and desktop, says CEO Noam Mani. The Israeli-based startup hopes suppliers will introduce Quartix to other potential customers.
RegSmart identifies risks and helps banks and financial institutions manage them. The SaaS company identifies and manages money laundering and cybercrime. Based out of Dallas, RegSmart aims to make risk assessments more accessible to help C-suites implement more timely and informed business decisions. CEO Mark Stetler equates it to Turbotax for regtech. It uses a proprietary algorithm to analyze risk and supply business decision makers with real-time information and recommendations.
RegSmart is working to close numerous opportunities with major players like an international casino company and an anti-money laundering transaction monitoring company. Stetler’s extensive experience includes serving as senior partner at NIA Consulting, one of the biggest financial fraud auditing firms in the nation. He was a key player in its sale to Interthinx in 2007.
Mobile payment is ever-changing, and Saffe uses facial recognition to collect payments. This German company uses proprietary technology built at Harvard University by its CTO and PhD Giovani Chiachia.
CEO André Coelho says merchants will use a phone as their POS system, and customers will type in a pin number and take a quick picture, similar to taking a selfie. That provides the verification merchants need to process payment.
Customers can pay without having their wallet or smartphone with this setup, and Coelho says Saffe’s facial recognition feature is easy and more secure. The facial recognition mobile app is currently looking for $2.5 million.
This digital lending platform is for small- to mid-size banks. Zikher CPO Nina Krishnan says over 90 percent of lenders still use paper-based processes because only 14 percent of loan applications can be done through digital channels.
The white label API based platform out of San Francisco streamlines the loan process for borrowers and lenders. Users can apply for multiple loans remotely without calling a loan officer and can securely upload documents to the platform. Real-time dashboards show both parties where the loan is in the process to increase efficiency and transparency.
Queen City Fintech holds two classes a year, and is accepting applications for Fall 2017 now.