By Tyler Hale
The ICBA ThinkTech Accelerator 2.0 for fintech startups wraps up this month at the Venture Center in Little Rock. Billed as the world’s only community bank-focused fintech accelerator, the Venture Center program draws startups from across the nation and even the globe.
The 10 selected startups pulled up stakes and moved to Little Rock in January to participate in the 12-week program, receiving $75,000 in seed investment and access to Independent Community Bankers Association networks as well as local bankers and mentors.
Here’s a look at this year’s cohort.
Finscend, Tel Aviv, Israel
Complex dispute resolution is getting a little simpler thanks to one Israeli fintech. Finscend is aiming to remove the word “complex” from complex dispute resolution with its artificial intelligence-driven dispute management tool – which is able to reduce the dispute processing time from an average of three hours to minutes. With two different modules, Fiscend provides a customer-facing, AI-driven, credit card-dispute onboarding tool, as well as a full-enterprise dispute management package. The impetus for the company was founder Aaron Lazor’s realization that credit cardholders were making card-not-present transactions for services that weren’t being fulfilled by merchants. Finscend stepped in to assist clients who raised credit card disputes, providing the necessary information for banks to verify claims and accept them.
Fintel Connect, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Many banks are increasing their digital presence but can’t always quantify their impact on customers. That’s where Fintel Connect, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, comes in. This Canadian company provides proprietary software that allows banks to see where their marketing dollars are working best. In addition, Fintel Connect provides access to a network of financially focused influencers working on a results basis. Fintel Connect works to support digital growth for community banks and increase education and awareness through affiliate marketing. Founder Nicky Senyard says participating in the ICBA Accelerator will help the company scale more sales efficiently. “The ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator is a really unique opportunity for access to resources that will help to shape Fintel Connect and ultimately help us to scale more efficiently. The experience amounts to five years of business development crammed into 12 weeks,” Senyard says.
Finzly Inc., Charlotte, N.C.
Banks have constantly evolving needs and require adaptability in the digital space. Finzly, a Charlotte-based fintech, enables banks to use its existing platforms while enhancing their customers’ user experiences. “Banks are challenged to move faster, and Finzly helps them do that with a platform that makes things easier, faster and less expensive. Finzly gives freedom to banks by modernizing technology and providing a platform where banks choose the products and services they want to use and implement them easily and quickly,” founder Booshan Rengachari says. In the past year, the company has increased its customer base to 10 banks, and company leaders hope to double that number over the course of the coming year through connections made in the accelerator.
FI Works, Little Rock
FI Works did not have far to go when it was accepted into the ICBA Accelerator. Founded and based in Little Rock, FI Works offers a “complete, all-in-one sales and software solution” for community banks that provides advanced predictive modeling for banks’ data. Taking a financial institution’s data, FI Works is able to transform it into actionable activities that can drive growth for banks. According to founder Keith Henkel, FI Works enables banks to find their ideal customers, retain existing customers through customer service and relationship programs, and deepen their bank-to-customer relationships. The accelerator has allowed FI Works to refine its messaging into an easier, more digestible presentation. “We have such an enterprise type of system that we really needed to be able to explain in digestible terms,” he says.
Fraud.net, New York City
Fraud has become an unfortunate but almost inevitable part of the online experience. That’s what Whitney Anderson and Cathy Ross, the founders of the New York-based fintech Fraud.net, quickly discovered when they launched the e-commerce business. Fraudsters quickly began popping up but when the founders began sharing their fraud data with other companies, the fraud rate dropped – and that’s how Fraud.net was born. Founded in 2016, Fraud.net is a fintech that is focused on tracking digital identities and developing fraud prevention software. By using Fraud.net, companies receive secure, anonymized, real-time fraud data sharing that enables them to grow while reducing fraud. So far, Fraud.net has secured 175 clients in more than 15 countries.
Griffin Technologies, Overland Park, Kan.
Community banking was founded on the principle of personal relationships between bankers and customers. However, technology is disrupting those relationships as banking moves online. According to Griffin Technologies founder Donald Hawkins, community bankers were regarded as“extended members of the family,” growing up in a small town. These bankers knew that relationships were the most important capital they could build, but he says that technology has altered that dynamic. “Relationships are an important aspect in the world of banking even in modern times. The issue many banks are facing is that the relationships have changed. No longer are customers walking into the branch each week. Now, consumer mobile devices have become the primary connector with their bank,” Hawkins says.
Hexanika, New York City
Community banks have faced more regulation in recent years with the cost of compliance increasing significantly. Hexanika, an integrated data platform and solutions company, was founded to allow financial institutions and other industries to leverage data in a way that would reduce costs and increase their profits. The firm has participated in several global accelerators since its 2014 founding and won accolades including being named the top fintech in India in 2019. CEO Yogesh Pandit says the ICBA Accelerator has brought unusually high-quality programming for its cohort. “My experience has been great. The access to regulators, community bankers and associations has been wonderful. It is unbelievable that the accelerator is able to attract the fintech ecosystem to come to Little Rock. The presence of Congressman French Hill who heads a fintech initiative in Congress was icing on the cake,” he says.
Lendsmart, New York City
When looking to buy a house, there are a multitude of steps that a prospective buyer has to take. The process has traditionally included numerous entities, but one New York fintech is working to simplify the process. Lendsmart, a digital lending platform and home buying marketplace, is a company that aims to serve all of the needs of homebuyerss – from mortgage applications to finding insurance to closing the deal. The company provides a platform that helps guide banks through the home buying journey in one digital experience – instead of being spread across multiple platforms. AK Patel founded the company, recognizing that traditional homebuying had become too complicated and time-consuming. Patel recognized that digitizing the process would help make the process simpler. “Lendsmart offers a streamlined service that adds value to both buyer and lender and is the first of its kind by offering a marketplace.”
Pay It Better, Sacramento, Calif.
Increasing debt loads are a problem across the United States, and one company is tackling the problem head on. Pay It Better, founded in 2017, is working to improve financial wellness for consumers and promote bank connectivity. With its software platform, the company aims to help consumers rapidly reduce debt to take control of their finances. Meanwhile, the platform provides banks with a connectivity tool that helps reduce acquisition costs and increase customer retention. “The community banking industry stands to benefit greatly with Pay It Better as the platform authentically helps their clients become better financially and better consumers overall while also helping the banks with lowering costs, retaining clients much longer and increasing overall revenues,” founder Sean Broadnax says.
Wallit, Portland, Maine
One Maine fintech is working to revolutionize how consumers save and how businesses reach customers. Wallit is an app that automatically pays consumers cash for saving and spending while helping businesses attract and retain customers. With its cash app and card-linked offer platform, Wallit directly connects businesses and banks with customers. Wallit integrates with bank accounts, providing consumers automatically with cash for shopping and hitting savings goals. For foun der Mike Vien, Wallit was partially born after thinking about how people will bank in the future and the financial literacy skills younger people now have. “The fact is, many people today lack the basic financial literacy skills to easily budget, save, and spend their money as well as the proper tools to create healthy money habits and live financially healthy lives. We’re changing that,” he says.