Top 10 FinTech Startups of 2017
We look back over a year of intense development in the world of financial services. Whether it's regulatory changes, political activities, or technology adoption, a range of factors have influenced a generation of fintech startups.
For this year's list we focused on startups that are opening up financial services to more people, better preparing them for the future, through education or innovation. We've also tipped our hat to a few companies that cater directly to the financial technology industry.
The current lineup of challenger banks each promise a revolution for retail banking, but it may be difficult for the average consumer to distinguish between them and what they really offer beyond a slick mobile interface.
Revolut set itself apart from the pack from day one, eschewing the cost and complexity of a banking license application for rapid iteration and development. The company offers a card with a clear number of differentiators. Multiple currency wallets, virtual cards, and exchange rates at almost interbank rates... Plus upcoming cryptocurrency and wealth products. While it might not (technically) be a bank, Revolut is already offering value that is clear to see.
Moneybox is the perfect companion app for people who know they should save, but don't want to get to grips with the full range of products available. Moneybox provides incredibly easy management of an ISA with three options that balance the risk/return factor across different asset types.
After set-up, users can set a weekly deposit amount (and round-ups on spending, though you have to make a lot of purchases for that to really add up) and then forget about the issue - only logging in from time to time to check status and interest levels. Or to play with the owl on the app home screen, of course.
Following the theme of 'apps that make the unpleasant task of managing financial products easier', insurance is next. Much like Moneybox and Freetrade are making personal finance much more straightforward, Brolly is doing the same for insurance. In addition to making sure you are covered in every sensible manner, the app will also help you in comparison shopping to get the best deal.
Simplicity and transparency are the watchwords of Brolly founder Phoebe Hugh, who realised (as other founders behind startups on this list) that increased accessibility for those currently not engaged with the product category can be an easier path than competing for those who are.
Since Robinhood launched in the US at the end of 2015, people on this side of the Atlantic have been clamouring for the same opportunity. Freetrade offers users a fee-free mobile experience for stock trading. As a directly authorised stockbroker, the company can do this without passing on any additional costs to consumers.
Just as Moneybox provides a simple interface for managing savings, Freetrade provides the other half of the equation: A way to get greater return on the money you can afford to take some risk with.
While challenger banks are striving to provide users with a great mobile experience, Bud is going at the problem a different way: Not trying to build a bank, but rather a technology platform - an interface and integration platform that connects financial products together.
Competition for customer loyalty in the financial industry is intense, and supremely challenging, so a technology layer is a much more friendly proposition than another new bank.
There's virtually no way you haven't heard of 11:FS (or at least one of their offerings) if you work in any way related to Fintech. This year saw podcasts like Fintech Insider and Blochchain Insider racing up the iTunes charts, their expansion stateside led by the intensely personable Sam Maule, the unveiling of their 'Pulse' UX service, the FintechInsiderNews community site, and the announcement of their own venture into banking.
Co-Founders David Brear and Jason Bates recently met entrepreneurial legend Gary Vaynerchuk, presumably to share insights into juggling a million tasks and crushing it 24/7.
For industry nerds who want to stay on top of trends and opportunities, Burnmark's reports have become a must read. More tailored to fintech than other great research publications like CB Insights, founder Devie Mohan ensures they are always hitting the hot topics.
Standard school education gets a lot of flak for not preparing students adequately for the problems of later life. Perhaps the biggest of these problems, particularly in times of economic turmoil, is financial literacy. Learning to squeeze the most out of every penny you earn is just as powerful as increasing your earnings.
Black Bullion has taken this issue by the horns, and teaching the current generation of students how to better manage their money may be a much needed lesson - just in time. CEO Vivi Friedgut is something of an expert, having also authored books on managing family finances
Amidst all the speculation about Bitcoin's price, and the smug attitudes of those both buying and shorting the cryptocurrency, it's nice to remember there are some fantastic practical applications. BitPesa's mission is to make business payments in Africa faster and easier - using blockchain payments where the legacy financial infrastructure isn't meeting the needs of modern business.
Founder Elizabeth Rossiello came up with the concept after moving to Nairobi and noticing a mismatch in foreign exchange that was punishing native businesses. Since then, BitPesa claims to have lowered the cost of international payments by up to 75% for their customers.
11:FS get a second mention on this list, because in addition to a range of podcasts, articles, consultancy, a community discussion site and more... they are also building a bank - and building it quickly, from the sounds of it. Eight weeks from concept to functional test accounts? Not bad going.
If there was a team to get excited about when it comes to driving innovation in financial services, it's probably the folks who spent the last few years discussing the ins and outs of every new product with a list of founders longer than most financial directives.
Bring on 2018 to see what else they come up with. Meanwhile, we offer our thanks to a group that continues to bring the FinTech community invaluable insight and entertainment - all while crushing every day. Six letters, David.