CHARLOTTE — Six more companies are now alumni of the Queen City Fintech Accelerator program as the ninth cohort concluded after founders pitched t!heir companies to the sold-out crowd at the Southeast Fintech Venture Conference in Charlotte last week.
A University of North Carolina startup won the $10,000 University Hackathon prize.Charlotte again played host for the Conference, held Wednesday at Barings Global Headquarters in uptown Charlotte. It included pitches from 25 fintech startups, an investor panel discussion, a fireside chat, a keynote address from Paul Tyma, the chief technology officer of LendingTree.
The event, organized by Queen City Fintech, is in its second year and also served as the demo day for the ninth class of the Queen City Fintech Accelerator, an 11-week program that incubates emerging fintech startups.
“We are thrilled with the enthusiasm for fintech in the southeast,” said Dan Roselli, managing director and founder of Queen City Fintech and an organizer of the Southeast Fintech Venture Conference. “I think it’s fueled by the growing quality of fintech deal flow.”
According to Roselli, the organization started the conference with the belief that fintech startups will have a lasting impact on the financial services industry, and that Charlotte and the Southeast will play an important role. “Capital is going to follow quality deal flow,” said Roselli.
Demo Day for Class 9
Six more companies are now alumni of the Queen City Fintech Accelerator program as the ninth cohort concluded after founders pitched their companies to the sold-out crowd at the Southeast Fintech Venture Conference on Thursday evening.
The six companies are:
AskMyUncleSam (New York, NY)—Originally accepted into the accelerator pitching a new “digital tax assistant to make life easier for the 243 million U.S. tax filers,” this company now offers a chatbot for accounting professionals.
The product is in beta testing and the company is looking to expand its technical team. The company’s virtual assistant is designed to run in the background on any device that uses natural language processing to accurately answer any question, and they plan to launch their service before April 2019. They’re seeking $750,000 in investment.
Collateral Velocity (Charlotte, NC)—Starting as “a software and service company that enables banks to extract more value from the management of their derivative collateral portfolio in the face of liquidity and regulatory capital constraints,” the company now boasts two pilot projects on their peer-to-peer collateral and liquidity service platform.
The concept allows members to rent balance sheet space in exchange for collateral, assets, or claims and is targeted to derivative-dealer banking institutions. They’re seeking $250,000 in investment.
DivDot (Victoria BC, Canada)—Provides tools to local gig economies, and billed as “the local services marketplace.” The company, which had already raised $93,000, is now seeking an additional $500,000 to bring their product to market.
The company plans to launch in Canada and generates revenue through charging service providers 2.9 percent and an additional 30 cents per transaction.
ImpactCents (Charleston, SC)—An investment app that automatically invests a user’s spare change into socially-responsible ETFs. The company has a wait list of more than 400 people waiting for the beta product to launch and is seeking $825,000 to bring the product to the millennial market. The company will generate revenue by charging users a monthly service fee of 99 cents with potential upcharges for premium service.
iTrust (Atlanta, GA)—Accepted into the accelerator to build “a platform that prevents cyber supply-chain attacks,” iTrust is now a cloud platform for automated real-time cyber risk and compliance ratings on third-party vendors.
The company has more than 20 enterprise customers enrolled in proof-of-concept tests and has signed on two reseller partners. The company generates revenue with annual subscriptions and licensing fees, and services are designed for U.S.-based mid-sized businesses within the financial services sector. The company is raising $3 million.
Mimble (Portland, OR)—The company helps people save for experiences with rewards from brand partners. The company launched its platform at Demo Day and is seeking to raise $200,000. Because 70 percent of millennials have less than $1,000 in savings, the company incentivizes people to save prior to making large experience-based purchases by giving them a better rewards return than a credit card would.
Wads.io wins Carolina Fintech Hub 2018 University Hackathon
Nearly $200 billion is held in cryptocurrency globally, yet only three of the top 500 online retailers currently accept crypto as a payment method for their e-commerce shopping platform. Wads aims to help consumers convert cryptocurrency into virtual credit cards in order to complete financial transactions at online retailers.
The company took the top prize, including $10,000, beating out two other finalists in the Carolina Fintech Hub 2018 University Hackathon. The team, based at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is led by Jonathan Byrne, who pitched the company to a panel of judges and a sold-out audience of more than 250 bankers, entrepreneurs, investors, and fintech community members in the Sky Room at Barings.
There are 40 million owners of cryptocurrency, said Byrne, and with such a small portion of merchants accepting payment in crypto, there’s a huge opportunity. The company believes that it can launch a Chrome extension that quickly facilitates the online conversion of crypto into virtual credit cards for payment to merchants using a smart verification system with the transaction ledger recorded on the blockchain.
“We’ve built and launched our website,” said Byrne, and with the projected January 2019 launch of the Chrome extension and the smart investment of the $10,000 prize, expects to be able to attract 10,000 users in 2019. Byrne told the audience he anticipates as many as 50,000 transactions, generating between two and five percent in revenue for the company from each transaction, or roughly $100,000.
The business relies on a small transaction fee, estimated at one-quarter of one percent, and the ability to also rely on negotiating cash-back offers or other deals with merchants and companies providing virtual credit cards.
The five-person team is advised by Atif Farid Mohammad, a senior data scientist and machine learning expert as well as a member of the Computer Science faculty at UNC-Charlotte and Chris Elmore, an entrepreneur and adjunct professor at UNC-Charlotte and Queens University.
Another UNC-Charlotte team, Data Spartans, was among the finalists. The company aims to reduce the most common pain point for consumers in navigating their relationship with financial institutions: customer service.
By building an application that can accurately categorize and route incoming customer inquiries or support requests sent by text messaging, the company hopes to reduce the wait time for customer support and the lack of documentation many individuals report wishing they had in dealing with financial institutions.
A team from Davidson College, Millenaires, pitched a digital-based social investment club designed using game theory to reduce risk, reward smart investment decisions, and reinforce good investing habits.
“Think Facebook meets Robinhood meets Candy Crush,” said Matthew Days, a senior at Davidson College majoring in English and Computer Science. The company plans to roll out their social investing app at Davidson and then take the model to other college campuses.
While Wads took the top prize, each other company received $2,500 and a prize pack.
The most common mistake entrepreneurs and investors make
In a fireside conversation, Johnson Cook, the co-founder of Atlanta-based Greenlight Financial Technology and the co-founder of the Atlanta Tech Village, shared his perspective on the most common mistakes that both new entrepreneurs and seasoned investors make.
“They’ll assume that their personal experience is the normal experience,” said Cook. Entrepreneurs that participate in accelerator programs learn about customer discovery, and that is a critical step that cannot be skipped, said Cook.
For their company, the two co-founders went to a park with the goal of tracking down 100 parents to ask a simple question: “How do you give your kids money?” The company is built on the lessons learned from these–and many other conversations.
Interestingly, said Cook, investors often fall into this trap as well. “With some of our best investors,” said Cook, “the first meeting did not go well.” But that was a good thing. Rather than falling into the trap of believing what the market would accept and produce, these investors accepted the initial research, yet challenged the founding team on their assumptions, concept, go-to-market strategy, and more. “The softball meetings,” said Cook, are often not the right investors for your business.