Entry into the finance sector used to be almost impossible for new companies, but the advent of the Internet and its associated technologies is now presenting start-ups with a plethora of opportunities that previously didn’t exist. From the growth of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to the explosion of online marketplaces like eBay, the Web now provides SMEs with numerous entry routes and market openings that can be taken advantage of.
“FinTech” – the idea of using software to provide financial services – has become one of the biggest buzzwords in the financial world; global investment in the sector stood at $3 billion in 2014 – more than three times what it was in 2008.
Two of the most notable companies in FinTech are PayPal and TransferWise – but which are the companies that are set to make the biggest splash in the coming months and years? Which will be the next break-out businesses? We take a look…
Elliptic brand themselves as the “world’s most secure bitcoin vault” by offering customers “deep cold storage” facilities for their online currency. It means they provide insurance-backed protection against theft and loss up to a value determined by the owner – the first company in the world to offer such a service.
They do this by storing the cryptographic keys on offline servers. It means the coins are not traded whilst in storage but customers will still have the ability to watch their money and remotely see its value.
They hope to prevent a repeat of the 2013 story which saw British IT (Information Technology) worker James Howells throw away a hard-disk which contained his private key. He had mined 7,500 bitcoins when they had minimal value, but they were worth more than £5 million ($7.6 million) at the time of the loss.
It’s not easy to plan your financial future, and if you’re the type of person who struggles to budget for bills and instead blows all your money in the first few days after pay-day, Squirrel could be the answer.
It works by partnering with employers to let people save money, budget their income, and manage their bills directly from their payroll. They’ve been highly recommended on publications as diverse as CNN, the Financial Times, Wired, and Bloomberg, and have recently gone into partnership with the UK Government.
They will take complete control of your bill payments so you never have to think about them, they’ll split your income into smaller amounts that are staggered throughout the month to help you stick to your budget, they’ll help you save more money, and they’ll even give you an advance on your pay to prevent to need to turn to high-interest pay-day loans.
Iwoca, which stands for “instant working capital”, aims to offer short-term finance to online retailers.
In the UK alone, independent online traders saw revenues of more than £10 billion in 2014, and that figure is expected to double to at least £20 billion ($30 billion) by 2020. Since launching in 2011 they remain the only provider of short-term finance in the sector, and consequently hope to hoover up all the trade from marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon.
They offer credit facilities of up to £50,000 ($76,000) (with limits based on business performance) and can have approved funds in recipients’ bank accounts within hours.
By capitalizing on an area where traditional banks are typically slow and unwieldy, co-founder Christoph Rieche thinks the company could ultimately expand into offering support for inventory, technology, recruitment, and international expansion.
Square typifies what every FinTech company should be aiming for – disrupting incumbent financial systems with something simpler, more streamlined, and tech-driven. It was launched in 2009 by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and has already gone on to secure several high profile clients such as Starbucks and Whole Foods Market.
In Square’s case it’s processing credit card payments at points of sale. They take the procedure out of the hands of the financial giants and instead send anybody a mobile-compatible credit card reader free of charge. The reader works in conjunction with an accompanying app and will process any type of payment at any time, even when offline.
It means cash, cards, and checks can all be accepted, as well as newer services like Apple Pay. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express cards are charged at 2.75 percent per swipe.
AstroPay Card is a prepaid virtual credit card for use in online stores. Launched in 2009, it is already the largest cross-border payment services provider in Latin America and is now expanding into China.
With credit cards unavailable to huge swathes of the rapidly-emerging middle class in newly developed countries like Brazil, China, Argentina, and Mexico, the AstroPay card provides benefits to both the buyer and the seller.
Firstly, merchants can more readily accept payments in high fraud areas as no personal or financial details are ever revealed. Secondly, it gives people without credit cards a way to purchase international goods online – potentially causing a reverse flow of trade from Europe and the US.
It’s not easy to see your money in a new way, but that’s what some of these start-ups want you to do.
Have we missed one? Maybe you’ve used one of the companies we looked at? Perhaps you’ve found a FinTech start-up that’s revolutionizing your approach to finance, or perhaps you’ve got a money-based issue that you’d love a new business to provide a solution for?
Whatever your situation we’d love to hear from you. Let us know your ideas, thoughts, and feedback in the comments section below.