Kensho Announces Strategic Partnership with NBCUniversal

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Global analytics and intelligence systems specialist Kensho has entered into a strategic partnership with NBCUniversal News Group. As part of the arrangement, Kensho has formed a “multi-faceted content and product agreement” with financial news network, CNBC.

Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed.

Touting the agreement as a first-ever in the business, NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Pat Fili-Krushel suggested that while the company was committed to “innovation from within”, the opportunity to work with Kensho would provide “unique analysis” to its viewers. SVP and General Manager for CBNC Digital, Kevin Krim, added “our transformative collaboration with Kensho enables us to empower our audience to make sense and money from any event, whether expected or unexpected.”

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Talking about the partnership, Kensho CEO Daniel Nadler put his company’s technology in the broader historical context of efforts to provide financial information to investors. Citing CNBC’s role in helping bring televised stock tickers to investors back in the 1990s, Nadler credited the company for “advancing the movement toward more transparent markets.” What Kensho will add, he explained, was “the power of statistics to gain context and make better, faster, more-informed decisions.” 
The specific components of the partnership include the debut of Kensho Stats Box, a technology that will be made available to CNBC’s journalists and anchors. The Stats Box, launching November 20, will provide research and analytics insights geared toward actionable, market-moving events. In return, CNBC will give Kensho access to its breaking news and financial market coverage, which will be integrated into the Kensho Professional Platform for FIs.
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Kensho combines “massively-parallel” statistical computing with innovations in unstructured data engineering to provide financial professionals with a unique analytics platform for guiding investments. By providing real-time solutions to complex, natural language, financial questions posed to it, Kensho aims to bring both greater transparency and deeper insight to the relationships between geopolitics, the natural and business worlds, and the markets.
Founded in 2013 and based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Kensho demoed an implementation of the technology called Warren at FinovateEurope 2014 in London. In January, Kensho raised $10 million in seed funding.

Alumni News– November 20, 2014

  • Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Finovate-F-Logo.jpgPrivatbank customers can now use MoneyGram to send and receive funds courtesy of new partnership.
  • Financial Times Technology section looks at UK fintech startups TransferWise and Azimo.
  • CurrencyTransfer recognized by Secret Tel Aviv as Olim Business of the Week.
  • USA Today column on millennials and saving featured Tom White, CEO of iQuantifi.
  • TransferWise helps lead fight for foreign exchange fee transparency.
  • iBillionaire’s Index has increased 16.5% since launching in November of last year
  • Swipely now managing $4+ billion in annual sales, doubles sales under management in 6 months,  and provides businesses with insights on 20+ million customers.
  • Numerous Finovate and FinDEVr alums make AWI’s list of top 50 fintech innovators.
  • Advanced Merchant Payments brings in $5 Million in First Funding Round.
  • Kony helps Farmatodo increase customer loyalty and deliver new services via mobile apps.
  • Coinbase teams with Rewardspay to create workaround to make purchases on Facebook and iTunes with Bitcoin.
  • TSYS offers merchants and partners an omni payments solution with more ways to accept payments.
  • $493 million in P2P loans originated on Prosper in Q3 2014.
  • Credit Sesame wins 2014 U.S. Mobile and App Design Awards in Financial and Information Tools category.
  • BancVue wins four MarCom Gold awards.
  • Kensho launches strategic partnership with NBCUniversal.
This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alums Raise $600 Million in First Quarter of 2014

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Want some context on the torrid pace of fintech financing in the first three months of 2014?

Consider this: a year ago, fourteen Finovate alums raised a total of more than $150 million in the first quarter of 2013.

A year later, we have just nine alums raising more than twice as much in the month of March alone.

March Madness, indeed.
Q1 of 2014 saw 23 Finovate alums walk away with just under $600 million in capital. The biggest haul of the quarter came courtesy of Klarna, which raised more than $125 million. 
But there were plenty of similarly impressive fundraisings, including the $85 million raised by Credit Karma, and the $77 million and $75 million secured by OnDeck and Tradeshift, respectively.
Total raised = More than $592 million
January — $91 million raised by seven companies
February — $139 million raised by seven companies
March — $362 million raised by nine companies

Note: Funding prior to becoming a Finovate alum not included. Questions? Comments? Email us at David@finovate.com or Julie@finovate.com

Finovate Alumni News– March 24, 2014

  • TransferWise recognized as “boldest small company” in winning FT’s Boldest in Business award for 2014.
  • BBVA follows Simple acquisition with launch of new digital banking unit.
  • Currency Transfer featured in Wired UK as Startup of the Week.
  • BillGuard invites beta testers to try its new Android app.
  • Mail Tribune highlights the importance of Credit Karma and Credit Sesame.
  • Ping Identity purchases Accells Technologies to make mobile devices into a tool for logging you in to all of your cloud-based services in one shot.
  • BellaDati launches the next level of visual data discovery with new release.
  • Matt Turck examines opportunities for Kensho and Quantopian in a Bloomberg-dominated world.
This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News– March 8, 2014

  • Finovate-F-Logo.jpgActiance partners with Shoutlet to integrate Shoutlet’s social marketing capabilities with Actiance Socialite.
  • PayPal’s Braintree to waive the first $50k of processing fees for startups building on its platform through its new Ignition program.
  • On Deck raises $77 million in funding round led by Tiger Capital.
  • Mechanics Bank’s Bradley Leimer takes a look at the lessons from BBVA’s acquisition of Simple.
  • Simple, Moven, and Numbrs are listed in American Banker’s feature “6 Apps That Are Making Bankers Jealous.”
  • Recode reviews Loop. Check out its new payment tech at FinovateSpring next month.
  • The Tally’s Financial News Fintech Focus column features Kensho.
This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News– March 6, 2014

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  • iQuantifi launches financial advice platform to general public.
  • Billeo and Danal partner to create a mobile ID solution for Billeo’s XpressBuy checkout service to make it easier by autofilling forms with your relevant information.
  • GMC Software Technology and Kony partner to develop next-gen document tech solutions for businesses.
  • SecureKey Concierge Service tops one million-credential mark.
  • American Banker takes a look at Jack Henry & Associates and its acquisition of Banno.
  • FinovateEurope: Behind the Scenes with Arxan Technologies, Kensho, and Plutus Software.
This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

FinovateEurope: Behind the Scenes with Arxan Technologies, Kensho, and Plutus Software

We hope you have been enjoying our “behind the scenes” look back at FinovateEurope 2014.

In our first installment, we shared with you some insights from our conversations with AdviceGames, Nous, and Yseop. We followed that with a peek at how CRIF, Mobino, and SaaS Markets were helping bring fintech innovation to businesses and consumers alike. And just last week, we presented a behind the scenes look at NF Innova, Vaamo, and Best of Show winner, Tink.

This week we bring you another handful of companies from FinovateEurope 2014. First up for today are three innovators from the fields of mobile app security, big data analytics, and lending to the underbanked in emerging markets.


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What They Do:
Arxan Technologies specializes in mobile app security, providing solutions that make it more difficult for fraudsters and criminals to tamper with apps. 
The company’s technology deploys small units of object code called “Guards” that work at the application layer to defend against a variety of attacks ranging from malware and data breach repackaging to fraud and IP theft.
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Stats:
  • Technology is deployed on more than 300 million devices
  • Revenue for 2013 increased by 95%
  • Enterprise adoption grew by 146% in 2013
  • First and only IBM partner to offer validated app hardening, tamper proofing for mobile channel

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Building Better App Awareness:
Having learned a little about Arxan Technologies via a conversation with CTO Kevin Morgan in January, I was looking forward to spending more time talking with the folks from Arxan Technologies at FinovateEurope.
What was particularly interesting about my conversation with Vince Arneja, who is Vice President for Product Management for Arxan, and the rest of the team was how the company has begun to expand beyond the “app hardening” technology that has served as a key concept in their recently released report on the state of app security. 
Now, as Vince tells it, the company is moving beyond simply making apps tougher and is focusing on making them more sensitive, as well.
“Apps need to be able to know more about the environment they are in,” Arneja explained. 
Mobile security is where Internet security was in 2003. There is a lot of emphasis on policy and configuration, “but that’s not really security,” he said. “That’s enforcement and locking down with certain policies. You’re not really securing your assets.”
Arxan’s innovation involves “environmental guarding,” reflecting a trend toward providing more visibility for the app itself into the environment in which it is running. 
The means the ability, for example, for the app to determine whether it is operating on a jailbroken device (i.e., an iOS device that has been altered to allow root access to the operating system)
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“Some folks call it a ‘health check’ or just providing visibility via the application,” Arneja said. In addition to being able to detect jailbreaking, Arxan is developing technology that will help apps ferret out patching or “swizzling” attacks that are more iOS run-time sensitive. This is visibility that is embedded into the application.
A smarter app is a good thing for the user and the enterprise. Banks that do not want jailbroken devices accessing their systems can have a tool embedded in their mobile app that helps them accomplish this level of protection.
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The prognosis for adoption of this technology? The bad news is that the company is not yet seeing the kind of adoption they would like to see among mid to low tier banks and financial institutions. The issues here are at least threefold: (a) cost is first, (b) a lack of technical ability or know-how is second, and (c) a failure to recognize that app security is an issue. How is that possible?
“They’re just trying to get the app out,” said Arneja. “They aren’t at the point where they’ve already had the app for the year. They’re just trying to get the app out and satisfy their small set of consumers, and aren’t even thinking about security at this point.”
The good news is that the team from Arxan Technologies is seeing “tremendous” adoption globally, in Japan and Korea, for example, particularly among Type A enterprises and large institutions. Arneja reported that about 42% of Arxan Technologies’ business is in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) and APAC (Asia- Pacific).  

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What They Do:
Kensho is the company behind Warren, technology that uses big data analytics to help institutions do quantitative analysis on financial markets. Warren uses natural language processing technology to provide real-time answers to more than one million financially-oriented queries such as “which sectors are most impacted by hurricanes?” and “how does unrest in the Middle East effect energy stocks?” 
Stats:
  • Raised $10 million in funding
  • Capable of responding intelligently to more than one million financial queries (expected to reach 100 million by end of 2014)
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Warren: Big Data, Natural Language, Actionable Insights
Kensho is democratizing big data analytics for the capital markets, said Kensho Head of Strategy and Business Development, Adam Broun during a conversation at FinovateEurope in London in February. Most data providers were built years ago, he explained. And while they remain effective at providing data, they have not kept up with many of the computing advances that have been embraced by, first, the world of personal computing and, more recently, the growing market of consumer computing devices from smartphones to tablets.
In contrast, Warren expresses these ideas by using:
  • Natural language interface that lowers barriers to participation
  • Cloud computing infrastructure that lowers implementation time to zero
  • Software that works “as is” across a variety of channels including tablets and laptops
  • Visualization (“we are visual beings. Colors and shapes help you get what the graphs are telling you”)

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With all the functionality of a financial platform like Warren, the question of competition with the 800 pound gorilla in the room is inevitable. And to that point, Kensho is quick to say that it has no intention of taking on Bloomberg, the financial information leviathan whose terminals have been a staple of professional trading desks for decades. “Warren is complimentary with Bloomberg,” Adam said. “We serve different purposes. We don’t want to do everything.”
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That said, Adam added, he wouldn’t mind a little bit of what Bloomberg has. “You go and visit a trading desk and you look at a trader and he’s got six screens going. All of them Bloomberg. I’d like two of them to be us at some point in time,” he said with a laugh.
As a company, Kensho has raised $10 million in funding from General Catalyst, NEA Venture Capital, Accel Partners, Google Ventures, and Devonshire Investors. Accolades and positive press have flowed from all the right places like CNBC, the Wall Street Journal, Business Insider and Institutional Investor. “People think it’s very cool,” Adam said. “People get it, and are very positive.”
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What’s next for Warren? Broadly speaking, Kensho is considering expanding beyond U.S. equities to include other popular markets such as fixed income, global commodities, futures, and FX. As for the technology itself, Kensho anticipates that Warren will be able to respond intelligently to more than 100 million financial queries by the end of 2014 (Warren can handle about 1 million questions as of February).
At this time, the idea of expanding to broader audiences is not front of mind. Future versions with modified functionality may effectively serve a less professionally-oriented clientele of retail traders and investors. But for now, Warren is a product – or rather a tool set – for professionals.
So the next time some wise guy says something along the lines of “Oh yeah? Well, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?” you can now respond, thanks to Kensho, “Ask Warren.”

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What They Do:
Kredit Aja is the name of the online and mobile marketplace developed by Plutus Software and deployed in the Indonesia market that helps traditionally underbanked borrowers connect with potential lenders. 
Kredit Aja is based on the same technology, LoanGarage, that Plutus Software successfully introduced in Singapore. Says the company “Kredit Aja is LoanGarage for Indonesia.”
Stats:
  • Raised S$700,000 in seed funding
  • More than $5 million in approved loans
From Bias Against Borrowing to Helping People Meet Goals:
It’s one thing to be a growing company in a growing market. It’s quite another to be a growing company in a growing market in a part of the world that itself is synonymous with growth. 
That’s the environment Plutus Software operates in. Focused in Singapore, but moving aggressively into the Indonesia market with Kredit Aja, the company’s innovation lies in understanding how to make credit decisions in markets where traditional markets like credit scores are not available or not especially accurate.
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The core proposition for Kredit Aja is that credit has been difficult to get in regions like South Asia. There are at least two factors behind this. One is the relative lack of interest on the part of many of the big brands in what are still emerging economies. A second factor is cultural. In many countries in South Asia, the idea of asking for a loan has had historically negative connotations. 
Fortunately for these countries, and for innovators like Kredit Aja, this sentiment is changing. “The feeling has changed from ‘it’s a bad thing to borrow’ to ‘we’re going to help people meet their goals.'”
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And the breadth of these goals – from financing for a consumer purchase like a refrigerator to education funding and home mortgages – reflects the kind of business lines Plutus Software is growing into. In the company’s experience, many banks historically didn’t see the value, which is why Plutus Software added fe
atures like credit scoring, document verification – precisely the kind of functionality that is now helping attract banks to the company’s platform.
As a first mover in a market in which only 20% of the population have a bank account, what makes Kredit Aja unique is as much its technology as it is their innovative attitude toward credit scoring. “Traditionally banks look at past transactions,” the team from Plutus Software explained. “We look at social behavior, as well” and included everything from Facebook and Twitter activity to mobile recharge behavior.
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Looking out over the balance of 2014, Plutus Software plans to improve its current portfolio of products, adding credit cards and other financial instruments (“more verticals”). Accomplishing this, in large part will mean building the Kredit Aja brand in Indonesia or “putting more boots on the ground” as the company puts it.
Another interesting challenge is that idea of branding. Growing interest in Plutus Software’s Loan Garage and Kredit Aja platforms has caused “top tier banks” to begin inquiring about white label opportunities. And this high quality problem is something that the multi-monikered company hasn’t entirely figured out how to deal with. “The main thing is that every conversation we have externally leads to another opportunity or another route,” said company CTO, Jagannathan Janagyraman. 
Update: A previous version of this article incorrectly described the current funding status for Plutus Software. 

Kensho Debuts Warren to Help Institutions Perform Quantitative Analyses

This post is part of our live coverage of FinovateEurope 2014.

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Then, Kensho debuted Warren, its technology that aids institutions in quantitative research: 
“Warren is a user friendly, interactive research environment that enables portfolio managers and researchers to quickly and easily perform sophisticated quantitative analyses in a fraction of the time spent by institutional research teams today.
Kensho designed Warren to shorten traditional investment research cycles from days to minutes. Warren can currently answer a million distinct types of natural language questions about the impact of global events on asset prices, such as, “What happens to the share prices of energy companies when oil trades above $100 a barrel and political unrest has recently occurred in the Middle East?” Warren will be able to answer 100 million distinct types of complex financial questions by the end of 2014.”
Presenting Daniel Nadler (CEO) and Adam Broun (Head of Strategy & Bus. Dev.)

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Product Launch: February 2014
Product distribution strategy: Direct to Consumer (B2C), Direct to Business (B2B)
HQ: Cambridge, MA, USA
Founded: May 2013
Website: kensho.com
Twitter: @kensho

Finovate Alumni News– January 29, 2014

  • Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Finovate-F-Logo.jpgKensho raises $10 million in seed funding ahead of Finovate debut.
  • ACI Worldwide partners with Integrated Research to launch Prognosis 10 for Payments.
  • TSYS CEO assures his company has no exposure from Target data breach.
  • Fiserv announces availability of its Vantage Risk and Budgeting Manager application as a hosted SaaS option.
  • Prosper selects First Associates to provide backup loan servicing for its P2P lending platform.
  • Feedzai brings its fraud prevention solutions to United States. Come see Feedzai’s live demo at FinovateEurope February 11-12.
This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Kensho Raises $10 Million in Seed Funding Ahead of Finovate Debut

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If you were a promising young start-up making a list of things to pack ahead of your first trip to FinovateEurope, how high up on the list would $10 million in seed funding be?

That’s the kind of high quality problem intelligent systems specialist Kensho gets to grapple with over the next few weeks. The company’s innovations in real-time, split-second investment analysis have attracted the likes of Accel Partners, Devonshire Investors, General Catalyst, Google Ventures, and NEA – all of whom participated in the seed round. But the kicker may be the delivery system Kensho has developed for all this split-second analysis: an intelligent virtual research assistant able to understand natural language commands and respond to complex queries.

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“Kensho is dedicated to the idea that communicating in natural language with intelligent computer systems which serve as virtual personal assistants will form the leading edge of global innovation over the next half-decade,” Kensho CEO Daniel Nadler said. He added that the funding would help Kensho bring on “the best and most experienced” engineering talent.

Kensho was founded in 2013, and is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To learn more about how to see Kensho at FinovateEurope in February, click here.