Fintech is seeing dollar signs. From blockchain to cryptocurrencies, Fintech is getting the attention of Venture Capital and other investors. In 2020, investment in Fintech reached $44bn and the future looks even brighter. But what is the difference between Fintech and a normal tech startup? How do you get into Fintech? And how do I start a Fintech startup? We will explore these below.
What is Fintech?
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Financial Technology (Fintech) is the application of new digital technology to the world of banking, payments, and finance.
But this time it is different. Startups are using new technology to disrupt the business models of banks and other financial service providers. The internet, blockchain, and other tech have leveled the playing field. New products, services, and business models are emerging.
Examples of new Fintech areas include:
- Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin
- Decentralized Finance (DeFi) systems based on blockchain like Ethereum
- Initial Coin Offerings and Security Token Offerings as an alternative to IPOs and corporate debt.
- New payment and transfer systems like Square, TransferWise, and Venmo.
- Niche online lenders like Prosper and Kabbage
- Online credit report services like Karma
- Insurtech: niche and tailored insurance platforms
- RegTech: technology-assisted compliance
And this is just the beginning. As technology such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies mature, and new technology is discovered and applied to finance, Fintech applications will continue to multiply.
How to get into Fintech
Given that Fintech is an amalgam of tech and finance, skills and experience in both fields are invaluable. But most people are experts in one, not both. You may be a great coder but do you have knowledge of international payment systems or blockchain or vice versa?
The easy solution for bridging tech and finance is to find a co-founder that has skills in the field that you don’t.
There are also many online courses and traditional degrees emerging that teach the specialist skills relevant to Fintech or combine both fields like degrees in Financial Technology. Alternatively, if you have experience in tech then an MBA could help.
Another option is to gain experience with a Fintech firm. Round out your skills and knowledge with direct experience.
Steps for a Fintech startup
Once you and your team have the necessary skills and experience and you are armed with a good business idea it is time to start planning your business.
Writing a business plan for a Fintech company is similar to writing a standard business plan but with a few minor but important differences.
Financial systems and services are typically heavily regulated. Laws govern operations within countries and also internationally e.g. anti-money laundering laws.
Even in areas where there is currently little regulation, like cryptocurrencies, future regulations are likely and need to be anticipated (if possible).
There are also international systems and conventions to take into account.
Any startup needs to understand the regulatory requirements for its operations. A regulatory compliance expert and legal counsel may be required depending on the complexity of their operations.
Startups should even consider choosing their initial jurisdiction or a trial jurisdiction for their Minimum Viable Productbased on a comparison of regulations.
Investors are very interested in Fintech at the moment. There is also a category of big cashed-up investors that have a singular interest in Fintech: banks. A bank may not care to invest in the next Amazon but if they have the opportunity to invest in the next Paypal, they will make all efforts. Many banks believe that Fintechs represents an existential threat and are desperate to buy and integrate potential future rivals. This is a big advantage to any Fintech founders with a disruptive business idea and a plan for a handsome exit. Keep your pitch decks polished!
If you have serious aspirations for your Fintech startup, consider moving to one of the emerging Fintech hubs around the world.
The benefits of moving to a hub include a deep pool of suitable workers, a supportive regulatory environment (including regulatory sandboxes), government funding, networking, and funding opportunities.
Key fintech hubs include Silicon Valley, London, New York City, Singapore, and Los Angeles. But there are also significant hubs emerging in countries like China, India, and even smaller countries like Estonia, Israel, and Sweden.
There is money in the money industry. Fintech startups have a level of interest and potential that many other industries could only wish for. So if you have the interest and skills (or ambition) and are looking to start the next unicorn, consider Fintech.
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