20 Alums Make the First Forbes Fintech 50


There’s more to the Forbes Fintech 50 list than just an awesome logo featuring George Washington wearing wrap-around shades. Forbes compiled the list by soliciting information from 300 startups, then interviewing more than 150 CEOs, founders, and industry experts. To make the cut, companies were required to have operations in the U.S. and a viable product.*

Simply put, Forbes describes the companies on the list as “small firms destined to have a big impact on your financial future and possibly upend your portfolio.”

This year, 20 Finovate and FinDEVr alums made the cut:


  • Founded: 2012
  • HQ: London
  • Funding: $30 million
  • Customers: 14 large banks and 140 buy-side firms
  • FinovateFall 2014 demo




Credit Karma


  • Founded: 2009
  • HQ: Washington, D.C.
  • Exit: Purchased by Morningstar in 2014 for $52.5 million
  • FinovateFall 2015 demo



  • Founded: 2009
  • HQ: New York City, New York
  • Exit: Purchased by Northwestern Mutual in 2015 for $250+ million
  • FinovateFall 2013 demo


Personal Capital











*While the list excludes financial giants, Forbes included startups acquired by larger companies but operating independently.

Marketing Minute: Optimizing Emails for the Small Screen

Recent email marketing research found that two-thirds of Americans regularly check email via smartphone and a significant number of total opens (as high as 70%) are now opened on a mobile device. Since most emails that look good on mobile look fine on a desktop (but NOT vice versa), you can pretty much disregard the desktop when creating a design template for your email alerts and marketing messages.

Here’s a few examples from my inbox during the past few weeks. Both Capital One and BBVA’s Simple use appropriate font size and a good mobile layout. Simple does an especially good job at grabbing attention with a small animation at the top of the message. In comparison, the BankDirect pitch is not well optimized for mobile, though it’s readable if you work at it. But it does nothing to grab your attention visually.


Bank email samples (viewed on iPhone 6)

First: Business Savings account promo from Capital One
Easy to read opening line and big Open Now buttons on first screen and below the fold

Second: BankDirect to American AAdvantage mileage club members
Harder to read the small type, and call-to-action is below the fold

Third: Simple announces its 100%-no-fee policy change
Grabs attention with small animated graphic at top with big “Hi FirstName” visible on first screen. The remainder of message is in a font easily read on a mobile phone:

capitalone_email bankdirect_americanair_email simple_email2

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • “From API to UX/UI: A Preview of FinDEVr 2015

Around the web

  • Stratos wins Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Award, the company’s third product award.
  • Business Insider ranks Algomi, Currency Cloud, eToro, Nutmeg, Zopa, and TransferWise among top fintech companies in Britain.
  • Concur integrates with GigSky to enable travelers to access the internet while traveling.
  • Dwolla expands its credit services to include instant money transfers among friends and family.
  • Let’s Talk Payments lists 25 top alternative lending startups including OnDeck, Street Shares, Zopa, and Lending Club.
  • Xero previews two new features—billable expenses and invoice reminders—for small-business users of its platform.
  • peerTransfer announces U.S., Europe expansion; rebrands as Flywire.
  • TSYS to expand its Enterprise Tokenization technology to support Android Pay.
  • Red Giant launches its Red Giant Family Plan to offer families a way to manage daily spending.
  • iSignThis‘ KYC services now satisfy U.S. anti-money laundering requirements.
  • PayPal explains its recently launched API Transactions Dashboard.
  • BehavioSec joins PwC’s Accelerator Programme.
  • Lending Club’s Carrie Dolan named one of American Banker’s 2015 Most Powerful Women in Finance.
  • Personal Capital appoints Mark Goines as CMO.
  • Matt Compton becomes COO of Simple, which has tripled its staff to 300 employees from February 2014.
  • TechCrunch features Lending Club’s coming-of-age story.

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.

Friday Feature Request: Banking/Card Transaction Annotation via Email


On Fridays, I try to post a new digital banking feature I’ve recently discovered. But with nothing to report this week, I will instead take the easy route and make a request for a new feature:

Feature: Transaction annotation by email

BBVA’s Simple has been a leader in adding richness to transaction detail. We reported here on its web-based solution for annotating transaction in late 2012 (see screenshot at top of post). Basically, that capability needs to be ported to email for, forgive me, simpler access.

The specs:

  1. After each transaction that hits my account (preferably ALL my aggregated accounts), I get an email confirmation of each transaction with whatever data the bank/PFM can already provide on it (amount, date, merchant, category). Using a free-form field, I add whatever text I want to the description, attach a photo or file (if I so choose), and categorize it (if I’m that kind of a user).
  2. Depending on how the feature is implemented, I press enter or hit reply and my annotations are recorded into my permanent transaction archives at the bank/PFM. Note: You must have a long-term archive solution in place for this feature to have value.
  3. The transaction details must be in the email message itself so that I can use my email client to forward the message to others, flag for later attention, or file.
  4. The same thing could be done via text (with a link) or notifications, but email is the key for me.

Bottom line: For me, this would be one of the best things a bank, card issuer or PFM could do to cement my loyalty—and perhaps even cough up a modest subscription fee. I want my transaction history to be both a personal diary, e.g., traveling or dining out; a tax record, for business or charitable transactions; and a searchable resource for future questions, e.g., What did I pay last month for cable?


Note: Hit me on Twitter (@netbanker) if you know someone already offering this.

Yodlee Brings “Sense” to Forward-Looking Bank Balances

yodlee_sense_lowbalFor several years I’ve used the forward-looking balance feature from Simple’s “Safe to Spend” and Key Bank’s MyControlBanking as a great example of where banking/PFM is headed (see notes 1, 2, 3). But this seemingly vital PFM feature has not been adopted by other major players.

My hypothesis is that banks are (rightly) afraid of the cost (customer service, litigation, fines, CFPB backlash) if it doesn’t work perfectly. The false positive problem is especially daunting (note 3). You tell customers they are good to go and then Monday morning you bounce two of their checks collecting $70 in OD fees.

Enter Yodlee’s version of the forward-looking balance summary, Sense. The service made its industry debut at FinovateSpring last month (video here and below). With 15 years’ experience providing mega-banks with data aggregation and PFM services, it may have the necessary credibility to power forward-looking banking features for its client banks.

Bottom line: Regardless of where the algorithms are sourced, I hope banks come to their senses soon, and offer seamless money-management guidance.


Yodlee Sense demo at FinovateSpring 2015 (13 May)


1. U.K.’s stealthy banking startup Mongo appears to be working on a similar function.
2. Simple was acquired by BBVA Compass in 2014 for $117 million.
3. Moven provides a compelling alternative-spending feedback/prediction system which is less likely to produce false positives. The neo-bank startup constantly compares your spending velocity with historical trends, to provide a real-time green-light/red-light indicator when you are headed towards overspending (see its FinovateSpring Best of Show 2015 demo here). For extra credit, the Moven app makes it easy to lock away the extra cash saved in the lower spending months.

Alumni News– January 29, 2015

  • 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.jpgTinkoff Bank to deploy fraud prevention solution from Iris Analytics.
  • EagleBank implements EnAct client management and sales software from Fiserv.
  • KDnuggets interviews Anthony Bak, principal data scientist for Ayasdi.
  • Red Zebra Analytics brings its card-linked offers service to Germany.
  • Ripple Labs raises $30 million in Series A round.
  • CNBC Tech Check interviews Tradeshift CEO Christian Lanng.
  • Computer Business Review features Venmo and Flint Mobile in its list of “5 mobile apps to turn your wallet digital.
  • Datamonitor analyst describes why he’s looking forward to watching Advice Games’ demo at FinovateEurope 2015.
  • Simple now works on BillGuard.
  • Google Cloud Platform now available to VMware customers.
  • TechCrunch explores Coinbase’s recently launched U.S. exchange.
  • Cachet Financial Solutions integrates with Apple Pay.
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.

Neo-Banking is Just Getting Started


Definition: Neo-Bank
Delivering banking services without touching the funds


This morning, Celent’s Stephen Greer published a post called, The Challenges of the New Neo-Bank, wherein he states:

In recent months, the neo-bank model (e.g., Simple, Moven, GoBank) has hit a few stumbling blocks that call into question the promise of the digital-only model…

Stephen lays out four scenarios for the future of neo-banks:

1. Neo-banks are acquired and assimilated into larger financial brands

2. Larger brands start their own digital “neo-bank-like” brands

3. Neo-banking fails to become a viable business model, but nevertheless influences the industry

4. Neo-banking becomes the dominant method of accessing underlying accounts held at traditional banks

My thoughts: We already see #1 and #2 happening, so the question comes down to whether we are headed long-term towards #3 or #4. Like most analysts, I’m firmly in the “it depends” camp. But I’ll go out on a limb a bit. I believe we will see dozens, if not hundreds, of neo-banks launch in the next few years. Here’s why:

image1. Simple’s $100-million exit to BBVA
I’m not sure how much equity the founders held at the end, but it must have been a multi-million dollar payday for five-plus years of hard work. While that’s not enough to make the cover of Forbes, it’s a huge win for most entrepreneurs.

2.  Marketplace lending provides a path to profitability
The problem with the neo-bank model in an era of low deposit rates and shrinking interchange, is that those traditional income sources are not enough to pay competent developers, execs and customer service folk. With consumers loath to pay fees, most startups end up forced into the ad-supported model, which strains their credibility with customers.

But with the growing popularity, and proven profit potential, of marketplace lending (aka P2P lending), neo-banks can partner with or build their own loan platforms to profitably put those deposits to work (sounds less “neo” and more “banking” doesn’t it?). So I envision the day where neo-banks allow you to store your funds in the prepaid account for no interest, or put it to work in a lending marketplace to earn a few percentage points on the funds, with the neo-bank pocketing a bit of the spread.

3. Third-party financial watchdogs become trusted services
Another advantage of being an independent neo-bank is that it’s easier to become an unbiased watchdog over all things financial. The neo-bank can track all your accounts (Mint/Yodlee), find areas where you are overpaying or have potentially been defrauded (BillGuard), monitor your credit score (Credit Karma) and even analyze the effectiveness of your 401k (Brightscope).

Right now, it’s still almost impossible for third-party startups to get to scale because customers just don’t trust them. But that will slowly change as the newcomers gain brand recognition (for example, Intuit’s Quicken, Quickbooks, and TurboTax brands).

4. It’s much, much harder to launch a real bank
Ten years ago, we were seeing about 10 new banks launched every month. Due to all the failures brought on by the Great Recession (and I would argue, way too much deposit insurance), there has only been one new bank launched in the past three years (through end of 2013). So, if you want to get a banking business started, you have little choice but to go with a non-bank model.


Comments? Give me a shout @netbanker

Picture credit: Article from NY Times, 20 Feb 2014 (link); sign in background from Simple HQ

Alumni News– September 5, 2014

  • Finovate-F-Logo.jpgCachet Financial Solutions will deploy its Select Business RDC merchant solution for leading regional bank.
  • Lending Club opens to investors in Vermont.
  • Forbes talks with Simple CEO Josh Reich on how a bank can be a brand you love.
  • MasterCard provides payment services for Basware Pay, an automated supply chain finance system. See MasterCard at FinDEVr in San Francisco.
  • Fenergo announces expansion into Asia-Pacific region.
  • Trustev to deploy its anti-fraud technology in RadioShack stores and online.
  • Courtesy of Nasdaq.com, NerdWallet features Prosper and Lending Club in its look at the rise of P2P lending.
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.

Alumni News– August 20, 2014

  • Finovate-F-Logo.jpgCUneXus improves loan acceptance by 68% over 2013 for Educational Employees CU.
  • With Simple’s 2.0 mobile app update, users can send paper check payments via mobile.
  • ID Analytics names Daniel Rawlings as Chief Revenue Officer.
  • Essent Guaranty offering lenders access to rate quotes through an interface with D+H’s MortgagebotLOS.
  • ThreatMetrix selected as one of CIOReview100s Most Promising Technology Companies.
  • EyeVerify and Zumigo selected for Wells Fargo’s accelerator.
  • Expensify integrates with Uber’s API to launch SmartRides feature.
  • PayNearMe and SIMI partner to offer cash collection services to US government agencies.
  • Kony launches MobileFabric to Accelerate Speed of Delivering Great Enterprise Mobile Apps.
  • PayPal announces access to its One Touch mobile payment solution. Join PayPal in San Francisco for FinDEVr this fall.
  • Cartera Commerce unveils new website.
  • Wallaby Financial launches CardBase and The Card Guide, opening its credit card database to the public.
  • National Real Estate Investor features Realty Mogul CEO and co-founder, Jilliene Helman.
  • Forex Brokerz talks about the beta release of Darwinex’s social trading platform.
  • peerTransfer tops $1 billion in international education payments, announces 500th client.
  • Bloomberg.com features Venmo, Fiserv’s Popmoney, and Dwolla in column on Millennials and mobile payments.
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.

With Simple’s 2.0 Mobile App Update, Users Can Send Paper Check Payments Via Mobile


After it was acquired by BBVA in February, Simple is showing the first major sign of access to the mega bank’s deep pockets.

The Portland-based startup updated its iOS and Android apps today to bring users an easier way to pay others via their mobile device. Aside from the redesigned interface, other major changes include: 

1) Simple Instant Transfer on mobile
Previously only available on the web interface, Instant Transfer enables users to instantly send funds to other Simple account holders. 
2) Updated goal interface on mobile
It’s easier for users to create and manage their goals with the ability to add notes to their goals and easily transfer money into and out of individual goals. It still lacks, however, the function to add pictures to goals. 
3) Customized profiles
Customers can customize how other users see them by adding a profile picture (see screenshot on right) to their account. They can also select other Simple customers as favorite contacts.
4) Mail checks from mobile

One of the more notable upgrades, is the ability to mail checks for free to anyone. All you need is their name and mailing address. I tested the feature on my iPhone 5S by sending a check to my mother, who does not have a Simple account.

Note the text at the bottom that indicates both when the money will be withdrawn and when the check will be received. Pulling that information out of the fine print and into plain sight aligns with Simple’s transparent policy.


After adding my mom’s address, I entered the amount, followed by the 4-digit verification code that I received via text.



Once I entered the code, the $1 had been withdrawn from my account and was ready to be mailed to my mother.

In the U.S., where writing checks is still common, the ability to do it from a mobile device is a very useful feature. Simple could improve it with a few small additions:

1) Option for users to pay for expedited shipment of the check.
2) Optional note field to send with the check that allows users to personalize the payment
3) The ability to assign a photo avatar to contacts who are not Simple customers

Simple launched at FinovateFall 2011. You can check out the demo video here.