Fresh fintech companies to watch in 2017

The 2017 Finovate Conference showcased some of the best and most advanced innovations in financial technology.

abstract collage of financial money and icons
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Over 1,600 representatives of financial institutions, investors, industry analysts and reporters convened at the Spring 2017 Finovate Conference on April 26 in San Jose. With events in Asia, Europe, and the East and West Coasts, Finovate conferences showcase cutting-edge banking and financial technology in a unique, short-form, demo-only format.

Here's a look at 20 impressive companies I met at this year's conference. 

Spacequant

Spacequant offers a mortgage solution called SQ that's designed to to automate multiple manual tasks involved in commercial property underwriting and enable financial institutions to assess value and risk of small-balance commercial real estate properties in minutes. The platform supports extraction and standardization of data from property financial statements, multiple sources of external data about each property and market around it, and provides decision tools for real-time assessment of property value and risk.

Leondrino Exchange

Leondrino Exchange is the new type of virtual currency that combines the benefits of money supply control by central banks with the technological advantages of virtual currencies (including cryptocurrencies). As branded currencies, Leondrino are backed by the current and projected business data of the respective brand, thereby avoiding the some of the disadvantages of traditional and virtual currencies.

The money supply of each branded currency will be based on the unique monetary policy that is coordinated with the brand and clearly communicated to all those branded currency participants. It is not intended to change the individual monetary policy after the initial agreement between Leondrino Exchange and the related brand are approved by the regulator. With these measures, Leondrino Exchange will create currencies that have a limited volatility, are recoverable in relation to a brand, and can be used globally for products under a brand umbrella.

"Money isn’t what it used to be," said Sandra Leonie Ritter, co-founder and CEO of Leondrino Exchange. "Leondrino has created a whole new way of exchanging value... creating private virtual currencies. These are linked to well-known global brands."

MedPut

The No. 1 financial fear for many Americans is an unplanned medical expense, Harsha Puvvada, head of business development for MedPut told me. To assuage this fear, his company provides 0% financing for employees' medical bills. 

Say you have a $900 medical bill. MedPut will negotiate the bill on your behalf and, if they're able to reach a discount of, say, $300, you split the difference and your bill is reduced to $750. The whole time your bill is financed by MedPut at no interest.

The company has rolled out its beta release funding $1,000 loans with a reputable client. The next step for the team is to target manufacturing companies whose employees can benefit from the program. 

SynapsePay

Synapse Financial Technologies, or SynapsePay, gives developers the ability to create FDIC insured accounts with its banking partners, send payments, manage compliance and mitigate risk — all from one API. Account types supported include:

  • Deposit cccounts
  • Money market savings accounts
  • Clearing accounts
  • Escrow accounts 
  • Fiduciary accounts

And developers have several client libraries available on GitHub including PythonRubyPHP, and Node.js. The company is projected to expand its staff by 50% by year's end to keep up with development and demand.

BeSmartee

BeSmartee wants to get loan officers out of the loan origination system (LOS). Loan officers shouldn't be poking around in there anyway. So BeSmartee has built a "skinny loan origination system" portal that functions as a bridge to the greater system. With seamless integration, all files entered into BeSmartee get into the master system.

By utilizing artificial intelligence, BeSmartee’s process enables lenders to take their borrowers from the initial contact through underwriting in 20 minutes or less, with a complete loan application, a credit report, income/asset documents, e-signed and e-delivered disclosures, and a paid appraisal.

The platform is live and hosts 38 lenders, with the company's first solar industry lender having just arrived. BeSmartee's software is private-label-ready, and the company is currently targeting credit unions and banking partnerships.

DefenseStorm

DefenseStorm provides real-time threat detection and remediation using big data analysis. The company's Alert Inbox system enables streamlined event response and resolution workflow, so companies needn't hire more people than necessary to handle their security needs. DefenseStorm gives you the interpretative tools and actionable insights needed to contain cyberattacks in a timely and cost-effective way.

DefenseStorm client Washington Trust selected the company from a collection of vendors while looking for a way to build management processes around cybersecurity. “I can report in real time to my board and to regulators on how secure our network is," says Jim Brockett, CIO of Washington Trust Bank. "The ability to get good reports that are meaningful to management is something that DefenseStorm brings to the table that we just didn’t have.”

The company raised another $6 million last summer to, among other things, expand into new markets. And as far as great content marketing goes, DefenseStorm knows how to generate a veritable library of actionable and informative industry content, as well. Kudos. 

Layer

Messaging as a service (MaaS) was a newish cloud-based service offering at this year's Finovate. And Layer wants to lead the way. The value proposition is simple: Beyond phone and email, let your customers talk to you the way they want — through messaging.

Layer helps cut down on support email addresses (and costs), allowing participants to sort issues out by maintaining low-pressure communication. For support representatives, the technology helps maintain persistent, contextual customer conversations that render customer histories. And rich cards can be used to create a frictionless, mobile-native purchase experience for consumers.

The platform provides SDKs that enable message synchronization, and native support for iOS, Android and Web.

Lleida.net

Remember the name Lleida.net. This electronic communications company is on fire, haviong obtained 10 new patents in the first quarter of the year. 

Sisco Sapena, Lleida.net's chief executive officer told me how today's retailers (think Nordstrom Trunk Club), utility companies and telcos are becoming banks, but often doing so without the necessary infrastructure or expertise. Lleida.net offers a platform as a service (PaaS) focused on electronic notification and electronic contracting services, SMS solutions, and data validation, combining ease of use with legal validity.

With Lleida.net acting as a trusted third party, all communication sent through its systems can be used as documentary evidence for legal purposes. The company is listed on the Spanish Alternative Stock Market and boasts big-name clients, such as the Zurich Insurance Group and Colombia's postal service, to name a few. 

BancPass

In a short list of things that suck, toll road violations make the cut. Two seasoned toll road executives knew this all too well and launched a company, BancPass, and a product to combat it. 

BancPass's PToll is an innovative app that gives untagged, infrequent and transient drivers the ability to use toll roads without the hassle of having to pay tolls by mail afterward. The system saves drivers time and money without paper bills, late fees, fines or postage — consumers are just charged the toll and a small convenience fee.

For the toll road operator, the BancPass system mitigates the risk of unpaid tolls. Toll operators are also able to avoid “pay by mail” costs such as printing, mail and postage fees. And funds are available to the operator immediately.

The company is live in Texas, Colorado and other locales, and it has plans to expand into California later this year. Future uses for BancPass's PToll app might include parking and drive-thru restaurant applications. 

Ephesoft

There's power in the ability to quickly determine what content is valuable, what to do with it, and what repository it should go into. Ephesoft was built to help do that.

Fueled by powerful algorithms, Ephesoft's Smart Capture system extracts critical information from physical and electronic documents. For a fintech industry inundated with paperwork, automatically classifying, separating, sorting and extracting data from documents in paper, fax, and electronic formats cuts costs and enhances productivity.

After Smart Capture identifies a document type it converts it to ASCII text. The financial data can then be extracted from anywhere on the page and in variable moving locations, and compared to existing data in a database. In addition, it can be used to match records or collect additional information while expanding a business workflow and/or process.

Jumio

When it was first launched, Jumio's system helped retailers verify shoppers' IDs and accept credit cards online by having customers hold them in front of a webcam — all a bit rudimentary. Heated competition from similar technologies like Card.io, which PayPal purchased, and Apple Pay, led the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last spring. But it promptly re-emerged, as its assets were sold to investment firm Centana Growth Partners. Which, in turn, led to a $15 million windfall from Centana itself and new investor, Millennium Technology Value Partners.

Jumio has since invested heavily into advancing its technology to verify user identity in a connected-device environment through mobile apps and a smartphone camera. And with new, advanced facial recognition capabilities and the ability to authenticate ID credentials issued by more than 130 countries, Jumio is keen in its pursuit of reducing friction all the way from signup to checkout. 

Infocorp Group

Born in Uraguay in 1994, Infocorp Group's purpose is to help people love the bank. Part of that effort includes being omnichannel-accommodating rather than being "omni-annoying," says the company's CEO, Ana Ines Echavarren.

With more than 200 employees in Uruguay, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Puerto Rico, Infocorp Group's main division is IC Banking, a fintech specialist that supplies Latin American financial institutions with an omnichannel banking platform offering an innovative and inspiring customer experience with things like a chat bot that can be used with any messenger.

The brand partners with some of the largest financial institutions in Latin America, including Banco Santander, Towerbank, and Banco Internacional. Infocorp Group is now exploring partnerships with U.S. banks to provide a campaign manager banks want, not just need. 

Fuco&Solution

Founded in Taipei, Taiwan in 2015, with solid and comprehensive financial industry know-how, Fuco&Solution provides business document solutions to banks in Greater China to help evolve their customer services into the digital world.

Fuco&Solution's platform includes an integrated CRM, content management system, omnichannel customer communication module, along with data analysis. It provides high-quality, interactive, personalized statements for banks to use in communicating with their customers. Reducing client friction, the statements generate a higher opening rate, and system data analysis will help identify cross-selling and up-selling of other financial products. 

Now Fuco&Solution is looking to partner with U.S. institutions and came to Finovate to do it. 

Talk by AutoKept

Talk is painless. It especially is when you're not engaged in the mind-numbing activity like expense reporting. So AutoKept created a simple solution: take a picture, talk about the transaction, and submit. 1, 2, 3.

Through voice command technology, artificial intelligence and essential integrations, AutoKept's Talk system allows users to complete an entire expense report entry with a click and a quip. Compatible across all devices, your voice-transcribed description along with the receipt image are stored in the Talk system. Transactions are then automatically linked to your bank and posted to QuickBooks or a spreadsheet, depending on the size and needs of your company.

Records are 100% IRS-compliant, with source documents attached to every single line item. And daily reports can be generated to manage cash flow. With more than 6,000 business users, AutoKept is looking to partner with banks. The last four digits is all they need. 

Neener Analytics

Social media intelligence meets risk with this exciting fintech startup. Neener Analytics fundamentally asks, "Are you really going to pay us back?"

It's a shift in traditional risk assessment based largely on whether a borrower will have the capability of paying back his loan. Will they, is perhaps equally, if not more, important. With Neener, the answer can be inferred from social signals through Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter profile.  

But extracting personality traits, Neener can form a specific risk profile. This early-stage company has two customers in pilot with sites on learning and growing its product and client base.

MicroBlink

MicroBlink offers technology that makes mobile apps capable of real-time text recognition. The company's BlinkOCR system allows mobile app developers to solve a range of text-recognition problems using a mobile device's camera. The high-precision real-time text-recognition technology is designed to improve the user experience in a variety of use cases, including mobile payments, onboarding of new users, expense-tracking, ticket-validation, check-in at airports and hotels, and security checks and ID-scans for voting. 

The self-funded company has more 40 banks using its PhotoPay SDK and is now seeking partnerships with big institutions like Citibank and Wells Fargo. 

ePesos

Called "the Venmo for the unbanked," the ePesos system supports electronic payments to any person or establishment safely and instantaneously through Facebook, cellphone or email.

Forget the banks, users directly pay services such as electricity, water, telephone or cable through the app. It's capable of sending transaction codes that can be in turn used at ATMs to withdraw cash. It's offered for free, without forced contracts, annual or account management fees.

Popular in its native Mexico, the company is exploring opportunities for expansion into other countries.

Newchip 

Newchip‘s millennial CEO, Ryan Rafols, and its co-founder and CTO, Travis Brodeen, want 2017 to be the year investing is forever changed by helping new investors own a piece of startups they believe in and are passionate about. New Chip was created as a way to make that happen.

Newchip is a marketplace that consolidates private equity investment space deals without directly handling the investment. Participants can invest directly on a New Chip partner platform, and the platform will help manage their investments. The company also offers crowd financing to qualified applicants, allowing them to invest in partners deals with zero down and the flexibility to pay out the investment over 12 months.

The company's SmartMatch technology connects users to startups based on interests and preferences.

I particularly like the prospects of this product for the financial challenges in the cannabis industry

NCR

NCR moves fast. 90 days for each project, to be exact. And that's how I ended up dissecting a virtual ATM machine with a headset over my eyes. 

It's not what NCR traditionally does; it was part of a prototype. NCR is better known as the leading provider of check processing, document imaging and scanning solutions for banking institutions and corporations to deliver their products and services. NCR's CxBanking framework connects consumers and businesses with a need to the financial institutions that can fulfill those needs.

And a need that's never been entirely addressed? Fixing ATM machines without sending an entire crew of specialists to work on it. NCR is hoping the VR innovation shared at Finovate will help transform that. 

Horizn

As financial institutions adopt agile development processes with aggressive launch cycles, they have simply no digital method to quickly get all of their stakeholders the information they need. Rarely are financial employees equipped to keep up with the pace of modern business. That's where Horizn steps in. 

To gain adoption of new technology with employees and customers, financial services institutions need to make certain that the right knowledge at the right time is delivered directly to all their key stakeholders by launch. Horizn’s mobile enterprise platform incorporates the power of learning, social technology and gamification, with advanced analytics to deliver that kind of solution. And Horizn's clients are enjoying 84% employee adoption numbers and a 24% increase in mobile platform adoption.

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