I Just got back from a tour of Europe to look at fintech startups there and this seems to be a good place to post my inaugural blog. I began in London at Finovate Europe courtesy of Byte Academy in New York. Thanks, Emily Hunt!
Finovate Europe presenters showed a maturation of the fintech sector’s last wave of innovations. Lots of white label solutions automating and updating legacy processes at banks as well as using analytics and mobile devices for product marketing and risk management. The event was overall less “start-uppy” than previous Finovates I attended in the US. It’s likely London’s very dense population of global banks attracted more seasoned companies able to sell into financial institutions.
As an early stage investor and entrepreneur, I am looking for the next big trends creating opportunities. In particular, companies solving the problems that are just becoming accessible to technical remediation following regulatory, technical or societal change. Sitting at Claridge's pondering life's big questions with Oscar Udeshi, my tailor extraordinaire (as one does in London), I began to wonder, is there a universal theory of innovation that applies equally to innovation in regulated markets and, maybe, cocktails?
Up until recently the Europeans were hampered in their cocktail creation by a cultural and regulatory standards for liquor pours being 2CL (0.68 ounces) per drink. Which translates into cocktails that won’t quite fill an espresso cup. The drinks were usually watery and bland. Fortunately, the craft cocktail movement has blessed Europe with global quality standards that demand decent drinks. Europe is getting used to good cocktails and vendors are implementing innovative European twists to self-regulate the impact of these new products on their user base. for Instance, The Dukes Bar in London’s has a two Martini per customer limit that would doubtless be a wise policy globally.
Just as trends for global standards for cocktails are driving innovation and new product lines, another favorite trend, maybe a bit more directly related to fintech and less co-incidental with aspirin consumption, is the increase of machine readable information. This refers to all information that is in formats that can be read by machines.
Academia, government, financial institutions and businesses started pushing their data to machine readable formats in the mid-2000s.The conversion to machine readable government, academic and enterprise documents is opening up huge opportunities. IoT, DaaS and, of course, big data analysis applications, to name but a few, crop up everywhere. In 2013, President Obama made open data the standard by which all U.S. government data needs to adhere.
Lately, there are a lot of business and government initiatives pushing advanced open data standards such as eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) and Semantic Web Ontologies. Consequently, I am downright giddy about the ongoing extension of bank and enterprise back offices into new smart data providers, as well as about the possibility of decent Martinis in Europe.
A big trend I see is an acceleration of DaaS (Data As A Service) systems integrating into the back offices of enterprise and SMBs both through on-premise and SaaS systems. This is an area where small companies are making great strides.
One such startup in Vienna, Austria, 360kompany, is taking a fresh approach to simplifying cross-border company identity verification by unifying government company information and mapping the unstructured (non–machine readable) official government records including certificates of incorporation, shareholder and directors lists, and other documents across 80 countries. They offer a webtool for the digital back-office and an API to customers such as banks, payments processors and online marketplaces so that they can verify the identity and legitimacy of their trading partners. By relying on accurate and up to date government, or as they call it, authoritative information and using machine readable formats for their data they use the same information for lead generation, client onboarding and errorless data entry. Companies like this one are creating value for customers by participating in larger trends mandated by laws, technology trends as well as common sense. Now, I if I could only find a way to make Viennese Schnitzels less waist expanding.