Founders building companies that enable financial institutions, or require partnership from them, face a number of barriers. From building the right solution that fits client pain points to making the sale, building a viable business model is crucial and that process is anything but easy. In the years to come, success in FinTech will be increasingly determined by the supporting ecosystem, which includes venture funds, accelerators and incubators, regulatory sandboxes and forward-thinking financial institutions.
Success in FinTech startups can’t be distilled down to acceptance into a single accelerator program or even landing funding from a notable VC firm – but the correct choice can certainly ease the path or even be the catalyst for incredible growth opportunities.
Out of hundreds of FinTech success enablers around the world, a particular organization stands out because of its vast network – the VC FinTech Accelerator – Empowered by FIS serves as an entry point for the growth of disruptive and scalable solutions that are empowering financial institutions by boosting revenues, cutting costs, reducing friction, and opening channels to build relationships.
VC FinTech is a 12-week rigorous program designed to accelerate the growth of early-stage startups while focusing on go-to-market. “The best source of capital is revenue,” said Lee Watson, President and CEO of The Venture Center, the organization that runs the program. “Our program concentrates on finding the best early-stage companies and exposing them to experts that help them refine their model and identify gaps. Then we bring in potential clients (FI’s large and small) to further validate their solutions. All with the goal of aggressively getting them to market.”
Christian Ruppe, CEO Monotto, a white labeled automated saving tool that is helping the “self-driving car generation” get a jumpstart on saving, was able to land their first customer during the accelerator – Bear State Bank. "During VC FinTech, we got the best support structure you can get as a startup,” Christian said. “Not only did we get mentorship as a team, but we got introductions to companies we were able to close deals with. Monotto continues to capitalize those relationships gained through the program.”
The Venture Center has a strong relationship with FIS, which began its rise in 1968 from the formation of Systematics, Inc in Little Rock. Since then, the company has grown into a global FinTech provider with over 23,000 financial institution clients. “There exists no other place on earth where a founding team can gain access to leaders within the largest financial software company in the world,” Lee Watson said. Central Arkansas is the birthplace of multiple successful institutions in the space like FIS, Arkansas Systems (now Euronet Worldwide), ABC Financial, Stephens Inc., Mainstream Technologies, and also the home of data technology firm, Acxiom.
The accelerator’s team works closely with portfolio companies during the hands-on program. Concurrent with its business development curriculum, the program features weekly attendance and one-on-ones with seasoned entrepreneurs, mentors, functional area experts and FinTech industry experts to help founders to grow their business. Accelerator teams also have access to all of the Venture Center's partners (legal, accounting, technology, web services, marketing, etc.).
Though some accelerators expose teams to a single bank or financial institution, VC FinTech leverages its network and partners to bring in dozens and potentially enabling access to thousands. From attending mixers and dinners with bank decision makers to formal interaction and scheduled one-on-one meetings, founders are able to build meaningful relationships in the financial world.
In addition to the Venture Center’s own network of industry professionals tightly participating in nurturing disruption in the financial services industry, FIS brings in its global capabilities and domain expertise driven from the depth and breadth of its own solutions portfolio. At the beginning of December, FIS launched a network of high-potential early-stage FinTech companies – FIS HiPo Network, a collection of six companies from VC FinTech’s 2016 program that demonstrated substantial promise in the development of new tools and technologies that deliver purposeful innovation for FIS’ clients around the world. VC FinTech 2016 companies will also be given the opportunity to showcase their solutions at FIS Connect in 2017, one of FIS’ premier client conferences.
“FIS has a responsibility to help our clients stay competitive today while remaining cognizant of the rapid changes taking place in the financial services industry. The FIS HiPo Network expands the innovation strategy for our firm and has been developed to bring the realization of new innovations to market in an efficient and practical manner,” commented Gary Norcross, FIS President and CEO, in the official press release.
VC FinTech is seeking early-stage financial technology companies that are innovating in core banking services, wealth management, wearables, alternative credit, wallets, bank back-office, compliance, payments and other innovations for the financial services industry. In addition, companies leveraging emerging technologies in IoT, cognitive computing, enterprise blockchain, and neural networks are also of interest.
The Summer 2017 Program applications close February 5, 2017, with acceptance offers made no later than March 31. The program runs from May 8 to July 28.
What do program participants receive?
- Initial investment of $50,000;
- Follow-on investment potential of up to $300,000 for top performers;
- 12 weeks of on-site training and mentorship;
- Free office space for founders and key persons for the duration of the program;
- 12 months of focused effort to achieve developmental goals;
- Demo Day (July 27, 2017);
- Over $100,000 in web services;
- Curriculum focused on FinTech business development and selling to financial institutions;
- Access to entrepreneurial mentors and coaches, FinTech experts, and financial institution decision-makers.