Best of Finovate Spring 2010 in San Francisco
I spent most of the day at this year's FinovateSpring 2010 interviewing and chatting with many of the players. Rather than summarize my thoughts on all the companies I talked with, I've culled the list to what I believe represents eight of the more promising companies. Not all companies demonstrated or exhibited; some only attended.
Disclosure: no positions
- Blippy: Essentially, "twitter for purchases". Blippy is sure to elicit reactions of disbelief in much the same way that Twitter did, but it's revenue generating potential (IMO) far outweighs anything like Twitter. In a lot of ways, Twitter popularized the meme of publicizing one's private life minutia in real-time. Blippy piggy-backs on this now "market-proven" meme, and allows people to publicize their purchases in real-time. It's hard to stop thinking about powerful ways which having this kind of information can be used by real business: brand placement (what kind of cigar does Brad Pitt buy?), real-time viral marketing campaigns to drive purchase analytics instead of vice versa, a whole new form of search (for purchases) with time machine, location, and other rich demographic data (the next search startup ?), product distribution chain optimizations, etc. It almost goes without saying that rather than tweets, which may or may not have commercial value, blippy represents real purchase transactions. And btw, you can channel your blippy feed to Twitter. What should we call these blippy-tweets? I proposed "bleets", which the Blippy rep seemed to really like. So I'm hereby claiming bragging rights if it catches. :) Btw VCs, if you missed Twitter, than quit crying about it and get into Blippy for heaven's sake. Feels like a much bigger score to me. Amazon (AMZN), eBay (EBAY), Google (GOOG) et al ought to be paying attention.
- HiddenLevers: If recent financial history has taught us anything, it's that macro events can have monumentally large effects on one's portfolio. Currently, macro trumps nearly everything else, and without understanding & modeling macro changes, you don't have a clue of true risk in your portfolio. Well, FINALLY, after talking with a lot of plays surrounding optimizing portfolio management, I found HiddenLevers. They get this and let you scenario-ize macro events to truly analyze your portfolio. I ran into a HiddenLevers founder, though they were only attending for this Spring's conference. Why I think they're really powerful is because I see them as much more than a site. This is a service which could plug into nearly every other type of portfolio management system/app/site, whether used by big money or retail investors. Think about that for a moment. If you want one to watch for at FinovateFall 2010, look for HiddenLevers. And for the VCs, don't wait until Fall. For starters, TD Ameritrade (AMTD), E-Trade (ETFC), Charles Schwab (SCHW), TheStreet (TSCM) and every other financial brokerage & news site ought to pay attention.
- Kabbage: Financing exclusively for high volume online sellers. They can tap directly into marketplace data to determine credit worthiness of sellers. And lending decisions can be made nearly real-time. Vis-a-vis standard bank lending, it's hard to see how Kabbage has any competition. This one deserves a huge "Duh! Why wasn't someone already doing this?" With the sheer number of online sellers which could join the "Kabbage Patch", it's hard to overstate the opportunity here.
- RiskKey: What if compliance management was more continuous than just periodic audits, more collaborative, and yet centralized to a web based system? Then it'd look a lot like RiskKey. The result is that management would be hit with a lot less costly surprises, and compliance quality would increase due to a broader set of inputs. Initially, RiskKey is targeting the banking world, but I don't see why this wouldn't be a big hit in the ever-expanding health care industry. They may not have had the sexiest offering at Finovate, but they're addressing some big-ticket pain reduction.
- PerkStreet: Now here's a novel idea, get perks while spending responsibly on your DEBIT card. They save enough by not having branch bank locations, that they can afford to make money and give you back some of the savings (which was your money to start with) via perks. Shouldn't every college brand one of these PerkStreet cards and encourage students to start off on the right financial foot? Currently, perks are tax-free. I'm not sure how long that's going to last, but get while the getting's good. Anyways, a hint for colleges; some of those perks should be for buying next semester's books. And what a boon for charities if perks could be donated to the card holder's selected favorites. Maybe even brand cards with charity monikers, for those who are outwardly charitable.
- FTRANS: Rather than each B2B business manually managing credit and accounts receivable (which can be daunting given how many customers they may have), these functions are offloaded to FTRANS. The result is less costs to the B2B business and the acceleration of the time it takes to receive cash for sales from 50 days to 5 days. This is a true economy of scale play, and one that is sorely needed. Anything that can remove inefficiencies in business credit, is likely to help lubricate the economy.
- Wikinvest: What Wikipedia did to encyclopedias, Wikinvest aims to do to all information that is investment related. This is another application of crowdsourcing (see for example, my prezo on the future of Venture Capital being crowdsourced). Thanks to Wikipedia popularizing/proving the value of crowdsourcing, I don't have to here. Another thing Wikinvest takes aim at is the UI for your portfolio. Their UI is pretty slick, and it'd be nice to think in terms of living within one UI which fronts for whatever your actual brokerage account may be. But, until they can plug into brokerage accounts in an active way (e.g. when you can execute trades from within Wikinvest), you'll end up having two UIs. If & when that happens, I'd say they'll really strengthen their proposition and gain yet more traction and participation.
- WorkLight: In a nutshell, they wrap up the web app logic for online banking / financial services / e-commerce, and make it portable across mobile devices and your web browser, so that each application vendor does not have to re-invent it. This is the part of an app that you really want well tested, secure and of course portable. So it makes sense to turn to a company who does this for a living. WorkLight is also an economy of scale play, and lets companies focus on creating the parts of applications which relate to their value. The net result: cheaper development, more trust-worthy apps, and portability across myriad portable and desktop devices.
Disclosure: no positions