Live Blogging from FinovateStartup09

by Allen Weinberg on April 28, 2009

in Allen Weinberg, Conferences & Meetings, Innovation, Web 2.0 in Financial Services

Allen Weinberg

MORNING SESSION #1 – Whew – what a whirlwind!  Companies get 7 minutes to demo their products/services before the microphone is cut off.  Some very interesting stuff flying by at warp speed (so please excuse the grammar/any typos)!

So here goes:

Expensify* (PFM, prepaid debit)

Expense reports that don’t suck.  Paperless expense reports. Import credit card data.  Partnership with Amex (referral fee from Amex).  Have a companion MasterCard that rolls to a primary card (allows user to use a phantom card and still have purchases billed to a primary card – good for rewards junkies).  Can import from 92% of credit cards in US.

Import any expenses under $75 (but not hotel receipts).  Get all the info that’s on the original receipt.  User can just throw away original receipt.  Can also email receipts (e.g., from online merchants) – will convert to PDF.  Can SMS expenses (e.g., taxi receipts).  Once everything is on the site, can create an expense report online.  User can enter financial info (e.g., ACH routing data) to have expenses reimbursed electronically.


How to find the right financial advisor, most evaluations/recommendations just based on past returns.  “Radical transparency”  Tracking 375 portfolios.  Allows users to follow investors individually based on various filters (positive returns, diversification of at least x stocks, etc).  Proprietary metric = Investment IQ based on various factors/algorithms they’ve developed.

CircleUp* (youth, social media, P2P)

Collect money by email and other messaging networks, focusing on team sports right now.  Eliminates collecting money via cash and checks for the team party, gifts for the coach, etc.  Partners are team- based sites such as eTeams (has 1 million teams using the site).  Integrated directly into those platforms – -access to rosters and contact info on those sites.  Has expanded functionality – e.g., event management.  Currently based on Amazon payments – plans to expand to other payment mechanisms.  Also integrated into AOL webmail (access AOL contact lists and such).  Expanding into faith based groups (e.g., collect money for church bus trip).

Author’s note:  key is the integration into the group networks/access to contact info and event management capabilities – otherwise PayPal et al could accommodate the payment piece (interesting that they’re using Amazon and not PayPal!).

Receivables Exchange* (bill payment)

Online, worldwide exchange – really an auction, for selling commercial receivables to raise working capital.  Maintains that this is NOT just online factoring.  Different because real time online marketplace – sellers in complete control of auction – can eliminate need for personal guarantees and other traditional constraints.  Buyers get access to a new, interesting asset class.  Sellers can control who has access to their auction.  Avg “invoice size” is $50K (really composed of multiple invoices).  Seller chooses which invoices to put up for auction.  Seller controls when they want what % of the proceeds.


“Money management made easy and fun for the online consumer”.  Spain-based (English and Spanish sites).  User logs on and sees balances across FIs, alerts, new products suggestions.  Data analytics – income and expense categorizations (e.g., restaurant, fuel, etc), trends, budget tracking, debt to income rations, etc.  Alerts can be set for email notifications.  Can integrate third party data such as newsfeeds (from sites/RSS).  Compare spending and income patterns to the “community”.  iPhone app available next week.

iThryv* (platform, PFM)

All former banking and software guys building the next generation platform for online banking A few of problems they’re trying to solve – current systems are “too transactional” – not very flexible, limited capabilities, etc. (need a platform!), and no current online banking flavor for kids.  Their platform allows a high degree of customization – look and feel, functions and features – large widget inventory for users to construct their own functionality (tool bars, menus, etc.).  Partnered with third parties such as iPay for online bill pay.  Intelligent content delivery.  Author’s note – VERY cool capabilities to appeal to youth (as a parent of 13 and 16 year old boys, this is very appealing!).

Lending Club* (investments)

Enhancements include tools to help investors diversify, invest in loans based on tax advantages (e.g., IRA loans).  Investors can now sell their loans at any point in time, improving liquidity.  Takes about 2 days right now to sell interest.  Interesting that they also referring to investors as “traders”.  Lending club monitors FICO scores monthly – one filter for investors.  Investors can look at those and other trends.  Robust trader dashboard and analytic capabilities.

Misc stats: volume = $2million over past 6 months; 75% of late loans have been brought current.

New enhancements – better ability to track performance, more transparency (whatever that means), and individual performance re: peers/Lending Club investment community, e.g., how do I rank relative to other investors, and why are they doing better (more/less diversification?).

Tempo Payments* (debit)

Coming out of stealth mode with respect to their new initiatives (the company has, of course, been around for years under the Debitman and Tempo).  While debit will pass cash and credit cards in the next few years, believe there has been little/no innovation in years.  Tempo decouples the debit card from the consumer’s DDA.  Benefits for consumer include higher and more relevant rewards without having to change banks.  Allows affinity/cobranded debit cards without having to hook in all the banks as partners.

Tempo highlighted sign up and enrollment process, including features for consumer – user adds own image (with built in editing tools), chooses rewards, fills out requisite regulatory forms, and real time risk management (random deposit and other measures). 80-90% approval.


Discussed history and evolution of the company.  Launched 2.5 years ago – mini-revolution in personal finance.  Flattered by copy cat sites.  Launched a Twitter function to send expense info into the site.  “Cutback” function to show how much the consumer can save by cutting back on certain expense items (e.g., the gym membership you may not use that much).

Ability to import and analyze detailed credit card data.  Announced new iPhone app — user can sign up via the iPhone app, enter transactions online, leverage geolocation capabilities, etc.  Second announcement – started selling Wesabe Springboard to FIs.  Emphasized that ability to control finance provides more loyalty to the institution providing that control.  Provides tool for FI to reach younger consumers.  Just signed their first FI customer – large Georgia credit union (Delta).


Note – Even more PFM applications!  Question – is this a huge and growing market, or are the entrepreneurs just following the in success of Wesabe and (or both)?  My partner, Erin McCune, and I will be interviewing the CEO later this morning and will try and dive into this a bit more….

Helps consumers choose appropriate/desirable financial instruments — credit cards – filtered by type of desired rewards, mortgages, etc.  They pull bureaus in a way that doesn’t affect credit scores.  Suggest products and services. Tracks consumer’s credit grade monthly, for free (use it to filter offers to consumers).  Consumers can set search for loan products on auto-pilot.


Wants to be the Apple of investing – i.e., make it usable and approachable.  Easy interface to do company research for potential investments and manage portfolio.  In private beta – hope to launch publicly this summer.


Tool to save money on credit cards, cell phones, gas, etc.  Site analyzes your data and makes personalized recommendations – displays savings the user could realize if they did x, y, or z.  E.g., what’s the actual usage of your cell phone (data, voice, SMS, coverage/where calls placed from/to) vs. what’s available in the market done in an automated fashion (including the very latest plan offerings).  Very interesting demo of the cell phone analytics.  Just launched third vertical – gas.  Look at location of gas stations, prices, how far/long the user is willing to drive to get cheaper gas, etc.  Can set alerts.  Looking for distribution/cobrand relationships – e.g., with CBS Moneywatch.

Micronotes* (direct marketing)

Revenue sharing with banks, but real revenue comes from consumer product companies.  Consumer shares data with Micronotes, who then matches with money saving offers.  Consumer product companies can create an “audience” to reach consumers (e.g., “Ink Buyers”) with relevant offers.  Integrated bill pay functionality with offer engine.  Consumers can get paid for answering some questions, which then could trigger a coupon for relevant products/services.

People Capital* (P2P lending)

Target audience is institutions and peer to peer lenders.  About 80% done with building out their platform.  Raised $2 million to date, looking for additional $1.5 to get them through the end of the year (have $500K in commitments so far).  Focus on tuition funding, filling the funding gap via providing more accurate/reflective risk scoring.  Interesting risk market because students generally have little credit history.  Think they have a competitive advantage in how they measure “human capital” risk and how they correct problems with FICO scores.

Cooler Inc. * (tool)

How to reduce one’s climate impact.  Calculates footprint of individuals and small businesses based on financial information.  Offering saves money for consumers as well.  Partners with many well thought of organizations for endorsements.  Can link to Wesabe profile (and associated accounts) as well as other account-based aggregation services.  Dashboard shows footprint (pounds of carbon, greenhouse gas) from fuel, airline, groceries (at product level?), dining etc.  Offers suggestions re things you can do to reduce your emissions and save money at the same time.  Airline example would suggest buying tickets on airlines that offer carbon footprint offsets.  Savings from affiliate referrals (e.g. link to luggage from Green companies) shared with consumers


ACH-based online payments service.  Consumer proposition = easy and secure; lower cost for retailers (and says the Moneta customers are sticky), revenue sharing partnership with banks.  Signed a top 10 banking partner (but did not name).  Clearly targeting PayPal.

Demo’d using Moneta on Delta Airlines site with an actual ticket purchase.  Moneta sign in an iframe on the Delta site.  Already registered so the process was just using a user name and password.  Says merchants save about 1%.

Targeted marketing contained within consumer confirmation email (a la Bill Me Later and others).

Looking for investors.

Home-Account* (tool)

Free mortgage evaluations – “the for mortgages”.  For consumers, replaces the need for a mortgage broker.  Independent and transparent.  Captures user profiles (income, savings, existing mortgage, etc), pulls a full bureau, and can then pass info on to an appropriate lender.  75% of Americans can’t qualify for the best mortgage rates, so offer a “financial workout center” so consumers can improve their scores/rations and be more attractive to lenders.  Use Yodlee to analyze spending and make corresponding suggestions.

Mortgage lenders have 48 hours to lock.  Currently not charging lenders, so hope to have a hundred lenders on board quickly, especially since they’re delivering qualified, ready-to-buy consumers.  Announced API to link to affiliate sites.

IOUSOS* powered by Globefunder (small biz, P2P)

Discounts on medical bills for consumers.  Targeting health care providers, all of whom have huge amounts of unpaid bills/receivables, who offer financing plans and discounts to their customers/debtors.  Provider can choose if they want to offer different payment options.  Customer enters credit card info for paying down the healthcare bill.  Currently working with about $20million in patient accounts.  No fees to patients.  Providers benefit from higher recoveries (IOUSOS asserts that hit helps provider reputations since they communicate with the customers/patients in a compassionate manner).



1 million sign ups in 18 months.  Used for budgeting, tracking spending, managing savings, investment tracking, lowering costs of financial services products, improving users’ financial situation (via new feature introduced today = “Financial Fitness”, based on 5 principles of personal finance).  Facilitates improving credit scores, savings, preparing for the unexpected, considering health insurance (half of all bankruptcies have health expense hangovers), etc.

Pertuity Direct* (investments)

“New” way to conduct consumer lending – “social lending company built on a mutual fund model”.  Lenders are not lending to an individual, but to a portfolio of individuals.  Launched this past January.  Almost all borrowers have FICO scores in the 700’s.  Registered with the SEC.  Borrower gets an almost immediate decision.  Focus on prime and super prime borrowers.  Ask for income and bank account verification.

SecondMarket* (investments)

Marketplace for illiquid securities/assets.  70 employees, based in NYC.  They earn commissions on every trade (they’re a broker-dealer).  Have been expanding into new markets (e.g., mortgage backed, bankruptcy claims, LP interests, etc).  Have a marketplace for those who would like to offer services to SecondMarket participants.

Acculynk* (alt payments)

Only provider certified by multiple debit network providers for online PIN debit.  Expect 6 networks by the end of the year (have 3 now).  Software based, offered to merchants via their existing acquirers.  Live demo at  Uses floating/scrambled PIN pad that users click on with mouse (to guard against key logging).  User enters card number via keyboard.  AJAX pop up telling consumer they’ll be using the service, briefly explains the keyboard, etc.  Bank branded.

Note: Glenbrook has been following the debit networks entry into ecommerce for quite a number of years now – feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss in more detail!


Mobile security for banking and other applications.  Phone as a security token.  User enters PIN into the phone app (demo’d on an iPhone), the phone responds with a one time password.  Can also invoke a challenge/response to avoid man in the middle, browser poisoning, etc.  Showed a home banking session using a soft token.  Support a wide variety of platforms (iPhone, Symbian, Blackberry, etc).*

Huge percentage of residential real estate in US is over-assessed.  Mission is to help homeowners lower their property taxes.  Helps calculate fair value of home (free).  Alerts if an appeal could raise value of home.  Keep prompting for more info in case the break even is a bit close.  Calculates differential between fair and assessed value, the local tax rate, and potential savings. Can also set up an alert to let customer know when it makes sense to pursue an appeal.  Currently in 10 states (plan to be in all states by end of year) — i.e. where they have the forms, processes, etc. in place to appeal online).  For $124.95, the customer gets forms, evaluation model, etc. that helps them avoid higher cost options.


Making transactions more convenient.  Recently launched in UK – transaction lookup across a number of banks.  Plan to launch in US in the next few months.  Helps users conduct ecommerce transactions over a mobile device – appears to be a network based wallet.  Not sure if it’s a form-fill or if the merchant has to implement acceptance on their site…


Platform that individuals and businesses can use to manage their financial transactions.  Users provide bank info (question: is Yodlee behind ALL these financial management startups????), contract information (as applicable). Also provide ability to make payments from checking accounts.  Penetration in used auto, property management, and non-profit verticals.  Note: I just took a look at their website – lots more functionality than they were able to demo….


“Better Online Banking” – Focusing on credit union/small bank market — no direct to consumer model.  Much richer, more graphic online banking interface.  Also provides rich search tools of spending history (by merchant, ticket size, etc).  Includes budget tools and tracking against actual spending.  Looks a lot like PFM solutions, but it’s actually the online banking tool.  Can also import info from other accounts.  Works with iGoogle.

AFTERNOON SESSION #2 (Companies Selected by Audience)


Hardware based solution for ecommerce transactions – USB device with mag stripe reader and 3DES encryption.  They maintain that’s the only way to protect security of PINs.  Requires merchant implementation.  $12 device pretty much sold at cost; they make money on a per transaction fee basis(both data points gleaned through interview at their booth).  Demo’d a P2P money transfer with all the messaging and transfers versus a standard ecommerce purchase.  Hardware could also be leveraged in general authentication scenarios and can hook into a mobile phone via earpiece outlet.

Green Sherpa

Web based consumer application for cash flow management.  Usual array of income and expense tracking, but incorporates upcoming revenue and expenses such as a bonus, new set of tires etc. and includes into cash flow projections.  Has sharing feature to discuss with trusted individuals (such as your accountant, partner, etc).  Raising money.

Silver Tail Systems

Founders from PayPal and eBay.  Not just ecommerce risk, but also policy compliance and FI sites/transactions.  Key is proactively preventing vs. closing holes after they’re discovered.  Behaviorally based.  Need to look at an individual’s behavior (click stream) relative to all others, not just in a vacuum.  Claims effective against ‘man in the browser’ attacks.  Automates much of the manual review.  Tool to disrupt bad behavior in real time.


PFM tool.  Less focused on budgeting than on financial planning for the middle class.  80% of users are women.  Company is a registered investment advisor with SEC.  Categorize into “things you own”, things that grow, and things you owe”.  Planning categories and associated tools include retirement, goals, debt, life insurance, and spending plans.  Creates actions plans (and product offers).


Yelp for financial products.  Community ratings and recommendations.  Also have data on site such as lenders’ rate tables.  Offers to consumer based on FICO score etc.  Announced SmartHippo Answers – postings/bulletin board – some questions answered by lenders themselves, others by the community.


Helps people manage their debt.  Aggregates debt into one tool, provides information as to how much interest they’re paying, and advice on how to get out of debt.  Big piece if providing a plan to get out of debt (e.g., renegotiating credit card rate – even give the consumer a script to use with the customer service rep).


Consumer PFM product.  Empowers consumers to make better decisions; emphasis on looking forward vs. backwards.  Connects to 3500 bank and credit card institutions to get detailed data.  User inputs income, upcoming bills, etc. and Rudder calculates cash flows.


Largest peer to peer lending network in the US. 80K users, $180M lent.  Just relaunching in California today; still need to complete SEC registration process.  Minimum credit score is now 640 (was 520).  Opening up to FIs to list their loans (e.g., auto loans) on Prosper, with all the normal Prosper info (borrower data, type of car, payment history, where built, etc.) — their answer to the securitization transparency problem.  FI decides how to price but can only put up a loan where at least 3 payments have already been made.  Lenders bid on the listing (unlike Lending Club).  Announced secondary trading market today (provides liquidity) – lender can sell in auction format or fixed price.

Credit Karma

Founded on belief that consumers should have free access to credit scores at any time for free.  Says that most sites charge $15.  Helps educate consumers re the scores and how to improve.  Has a forward looking credit score app that allows consumer to simulate the score based on a variety of behavioral options (e.g., if pay down debt by $x, then score increases by y points).  Also works with consumers to understand their credit reports.  Tools to help with refinancing

Other companies present that didn’t present include:

*Guaranteed to demo live from stage on April 28; nine others will be selected by the audience to demo live in the last session of the day

2 Responses to “Live Blogging from FinovateStartup09”

  1. Tom says:

    This is an excellent summary of the day. Thanks for live-blogging this!

  2. What great stuff! thanks Allen

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