Top Stories at Finovate Spring 2011

The increasingly popular Finovate Conference Series just completed its spring event in San Francisco.

64 very interesting companies presented brief technology/product demos to a large audience of financial services media, analysts, investors, potential partners, competitors, and other industry participants.

All of the presenting companies are focused on technology innovation in finance, and most of the companies are young.

Below is a recap of some of the more interesting stories at the conference.  There are five companies/stories in each category.  The categories are intended to represent the perspectives of what could be considered core audience segments for the presenting companies.  In other words, each category lists the companies that might be most interesting to:


1) PayNearMe

  • Enabling remote cash payments – pay your phone or power bill at your local 7-Eleven with cash
  • Lots and lots of people use cash exclusively—the ability to use this preferred payment method without having to be physically present is important
  • Could be very interesting with a couple more partnerships like 7-Eleven 
  • Great demo

2) Dwolla

  • Use cash for web-based/mobile transactions
  • Inexpensive and potentially very disruptive/progressive
  • Very interesting data aggregation/visualization dashboard
  • Compelling CEO  


  • With Debt Coach, they appear (genuinely) to be on a mission to shed the much needed light-of-day on the murky world of individual debt solutions—a market that seems to leverage information asymmetries at the expense of the consumer
  • Great execution—data aggregation, analytics/decision engine and simple UI
  • Solid demo and clear, pro-consumer mission

4) Wikinvest

  • Demo and product launch/re-branding ( are strongly pro-consumer
  • Retail investors—particularly mass market/non-high net worth—benefit from knowing: a) what they are actually paying in fees/expenses; b) having access to information about what they are paying for, and; c) having information that presents alternatives that may offer greater value
  • Hard to think of a company that is currently doing more the empower retail investors through technology

5) Hello Wallet

  • Sophisticated data visualization and AI/simulation technology in the application
  • Powerful personal finance analytics in a clean, simple UI
  • First time available directly to consumers (previously distributed exclusively through employers)


1) TILE Financial

  • Any financial advisor knows how difficult it can be to retain clients when wealth transfers to the next generation, and retaining “what you already have” can be a much more efficient use of time and resources than new business development
  • It’s a no-brainer for financial advisors to consider TILE’s offering as a way to connect with, engage and retain the younger generation   

2) Adobe

  • A long and proven track record of designing elegant products which provide a great user experience
  • The dynamic landing page in the demo was pretty nice
  • The CEM suite brings together several solutions that work on any platform that might be of interest to FIs—hard to ignore if you are leading development at a financial institution

3) BrainTree

  • Ability to outsource PCI compliance and credit card storage
  • "Transparent redirect API” allows payment without redirect to third party site and no credit card data flowing through merchant’s servers (data goes directly from browser to Braintree’s servers)
  • 1.3 million transactions during one day in January
  • One of the clearest and most effective presentations

4) Trusted ID

  • Identity protection offerings are close to ubiquitous in financial institutions now
  • Good time for a free/freemium model like IDSafe
  • Potential increased revenue for FIs that are subsidizing, and increased conversion/adoption for FIs that are passing along costs to consumers

5) Bill Float

  • On-the-fly micro loans for consumers—seems similar to Kabbage but for consumers
  • Partner institutions can bake the offering into their payment platform
  • I can think of many interesting partners/applications in healthcare where receivables from co-payments/out-of-pocket spend are a nightmare


1) BrainTree

  • Braintree is apparently entirely boot-strapped and the company is firing on all cylinders (impressive client list and $10 million in revenue in 4th year of operation)
  • A leading company serving a space that is exploding

2) Gold Bullion International

  • At a time when virtually all developed countries appear to be dead-set on currency debasement, a platform that allows retail investors to buy and store physical precious metals is, to say the least, timely
  • A strong team and what appears to be solid early execution
  • Likely (or should be) on the radar of the corporate development group of every major wealth manager in the country

3) Dwolla

  • Early and a company that could have a big impact
  • CEO seems to be on a mission
  • Independent thinking and outside (Iowa-based) of conventional influences

4) TILE Financial

  • CEO has great distribution relationships and deep domain knowledge/experience
  • Early in a non-crowded space with (to my knowledge) a unique offering that addresses a trillion dollar problem

5) PayNearMe

  • While not exactly under-the-radar, meaningful traction in the cash market would make the company a very attractive acquisition target in the eyes of large, resource-rich buyers


1) Xero

  • Cloud-based accounting software for small/medium businesses—product features that are innovative and accessible/simple
  • 5,000 bank feeds and ability to SMBs to (simply) generate financial statements
  • Good demo and significant industry/customer traction

2) Kabbage

  • Small businesses—specifically online merchants—have near instantaneous access to working capital
  • Compare this process/time-frame to a tradition bank or SBA loan process
  • The new “profile building” feature offers the potential for better terms in exchange for more information

3) Lendio

  • Matching technology for business loans
  • Addressing a large, fragmented market and streamlining a good portion of what can be a prohibitively time-consuming process for parties on both sides of the exchange
  • Great appeal for small/medium businesses

4) Kony

  • Any large company needs to be developing mobile applications 
  • Developing applications that function across multiple devices/platforms is probably a nightmare, so a development platform that addresses current and future compatibility issues should prove very attractive

5) Expensify  

  • Processing photos/images of expense report receipts and ability to pull relevant info from the receipt image and use to reconcile expenses