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SixThirty, the global financial technology seed fund and business development program based in St. Louis, hosted “Let’s Talk FinTech” on June 13 at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA). The event featured a panel discussion with Todd Taylor and Ryan Bulkoski of consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles, and Srini Venkateswaran of Marakon Consulting. The two firms collaborated on the report “Winning with Digital in Consumer Financial Services: Lessons from Leaders and Laggards,” published in April. Atul Kamra, Managing Partner of SixThirty, facilitated the panel. In addition, five CEOs from SixThirty’s Spring 2017 portfolio presented their products.
“We have two major components to today’s conversation,” said Kamra as he welcomed guests to the event. “One part is what we do on a regular basis with our portfolio companies at SixThirty, which is to introduce the companies we’ve worked with over the past four or five months to the community at large, and for you to get energy from them as well as to give them energy for what they’re doing across the globe, changing the way consumers and customers participate in financial institutions.”
Kamra asked the panelists questions on the digital gap between established financial institutions and early-stage financial technology companies. Taylor emphasized the importance of focusing on the customer rather than the way information is delivered. He said, “Let’s not think about digital as just this singular channel. Digital is a way of doing things and it’s across all channels. We should be thinking with an omni-channel orientation. It’s actually [about] what the customer experiences regardless of the channel.”
Ryan Bulkoski made the point that there isn’t one way that financial institutions are working to incorporate innovation. He said, “Every week there’s a new announcement of someone opening up a new lab in the Bay Area to set up those partnerships; to encourage meetings like this so they can hear pitches from the technical startups and figure out where there is an opportunity to have a partner or make an investment. It seems to be that there’s an evolution. There’s no one way of designing an organization.”
When the five SixThirty CEOs introduced their companies, it was clear that they had heard what the panel said. Ace Callwood (CEO) of Painless1099, an application that provides a smart bank account for independent contractors, highlighted the relevance of the panel’s commentary due to a recent pivot his company made from B2C to B2B2C.
Callwood said, “We got our butts absolutely kicked trying to get to end consumers. It’s a super-fragmented market and really hard to get to–Joe Schmoe the freelancer, and his sister the Uber driver. Moving to B2B2C has been a big shift for us over the last couple of months, made possible through SixThirty and the connections here. It has forced us to think about our process and our pipeline. We’re now focused on finding marketplaces, places with a large independent workforces–the Ubers of the world. These companies have large concentrations of contractors, and we’re working on plugging them into our platform to continue growing. That has been a really exciting piece, something that SixThirty has been integral in getting us up to speed on and helping us to accelerate the process.”
The Spring 2017 Portfolio companies have worked intensively with SixThirty’s network of investors, mentors, and corporate partners including Edward Jones, Ernst & Young, State Farm, Reinsurance Group of America (RGA), Twain Financial Partners, and UMB to refine their business models, deepen their sales pipelines and grow revenues. This is the third year that RGA has invested in and provided mentorship for SixThirty.
For the Spring 2017 portfolio, Kelle Bub, Innovation Manager at RGAx, mentored Sindhu Joseph, CEO of CogniCor, with whom RGA is running a pilot. Bub emphasized that mentoring SixThirty participants is a two-way street. She said, “I don’t always get partnered with InsurTech or insurance-based companies. It just depends on who comes through the portfolio, so there’s always a lot to be learned in terms of people with different business models and how they approach things, because you know there isn’t always one right answer. So it’s been very beneficial for me to get exposure to so many different business models and perspectives that help us as we evaluate companies that we partner with.”
SixThirty companies come from all over the world, a fact of which Kamra is clearly proud. He said, “It’s nice to show up in Singapore and Tel Aviv and start introducing ‘SixThirty’ and they tell you, I think we know about SixThirty. It’s nice that they know about what we’re doing in St. Louis.”
Here are the five companies that make up SixThirty’s Spring 2017 Portfolio:
Founders: Rasheed Hammouda (CEO) & Sanjay Sharma (President) | Chicago, IL
BridgeFT builds automated SaaS solutions for financial advisors to radically streamline their operations, enhance client interactions, and scale their businesses faster.
Founders: Jordan Fishfeld (CEO) & Juan Hernandez (Managing Director) | Chicago, IL
CFX Markets solves the broken, inefficient and painful process investors face when liquidating their holdings in alternative assets, currently focused on the $90-billion- dollar non-listed REIT market.
Founders: Sindhu Joseph (CEO) & Rosh Cherian (CTO) | Bellaterra, Barcelona
CogniCor is an artificial intelligence (AI) based Cognitive virtual assistant platform that drives customer engagement for enterprises by enabling lead generation, customer on boarding, and customer issue resolution via text and voice.
Founders: Ace Callwood (CEO) & Nick Green (Director of Business Development) | Buffalo, NY
Painless1099 is a smart bank account that automates tax withholding and benefits contributions for freelancers and the self-employed.
Founders: Daniel Peled (CEO) | Tel Aviv, Israel
PayKey enables banks to provide their users with peer-to-peer payment options just when they are needed most–while they are engaged in social interactions. Initiating a payment transaction right from the social app keeps the payment experience intuitive, contextual and simple without needing to share the details of the recipient’s bank account.
Applications for the Fall 2017 Business Development Program are open and will be accepted through early July.