Daddy fintech helps baby fintech find a home
Yodlee Interactive, which runs an incubator-esque program for financial technology startups, is expanding its offerings. It's adding acceleration and cultivation stages, to help companies find investors, meet media, and get advice from successful fintech teams that came before.
If you haven't heard of Yodlee, it's what powered Mint.com before Intuit bought Mint. Yodlee has been around since the 90s and runs many banks' digital platforms. Since it has long-term relationships with banks, it's able to act as the intermediary between big financial institutions and disruptive startups that want access to users' banking data.
Basically, when a company like Mint needs to be able to pull its consumers' financial account information -- transactions, loans, investments, and the like -- to feed into the Mint application, it uses Yodlee's API to do so. Or at least, it did before Inuit bought it.
Yodlee has decided to take advantage of its unique middleman position, and act as a guiding father figure to members of the growing fintech ecosystem. Almost a year and a half ago, it launched an incubator of sorts, where chosen startups would get access to Yodlee's API for free in exchange for...nothing. Yodlee doesn't take equity in the company. It knows the more companies that use its API -- which they must pay for post-incubator -- the stronger foothold Yodlee holds in the fintech market.
"Almost immediately, companies who were in the program were coming back saying, 'We want there to be a next phase,'" Yodlee Chief Strategy & Development Officer Joe Polverari says.
Now, many months later Yodlee is acting on that and rounding out its incubator to become a full-circle offering with two additional stages.
In the new acceleration phase, startups that have polished their product will attend events and connect with journalists, investors, and bigger banking customers that Yodlee invites. I went to the first event a few weeks ago in the Virgin America suites at a Giants game, and we were all given different colored Giants baseball hats to wear depending on whether we were a startup, media, or money.
In the second new stage, cultivation, more successful companies previously fostered by Yodlee will work with younger startups, sharing expertise, insights, and connections.
"We want to go deeper. We want to be business partners in helping you innovate in a space desperate for innovation," Polverari says. "We've been rewarded in growth on our platform."
It's a particularly interesting time for this attempt to create a healthy, sustainable ecosystem in fintech. Banks are starting to realize they can't keep ignoring trends in consumer behavior. People want to be able to visualize and understanding their financial data in new, easy, innovative ways, just like how technology has transformed other aspects of their life. And Yodlee is sitting pretty in the middle ground between those innovating, and the stodgy banking system that wants said innovative products.
A snapshot of Yodlee's incoming incubation group gives a sense of what disruptive startups are trying to create with users' financial data. Presenting, the August 2013 class:
Persint: wants to give people a financial physical, like visiting the bank doctor, if the bank doctor was an automated artificial intelligence system. It takes users' account statements and gives them a bill of health, telling them how they're doing compared to other people in their income/geography/age range. It then offers suggestions: stop renting and buy a house, sell your stock investments, eat your vegetables.
Rental Kharma: automatically reports your rental payments to credit agencies, so that if you're a perennial renter who pays on time you can build up your credit score that way.
Retail Intel: helps store owners track in realtime what transactions are occurring in the store. It gives them analytics on how the business is performing and what they should be doing differently -- like buying more jellybeans, because those are popular, or cutting back on beets, because no one really likes that.
StockSmart: grabs data from places like Bloomberg terminals, mixes that with your personal data, and then tells you what investments you should be making. Its stock suggestions are tailored to you as an individual, your income, and your security.
[Image via Shutterstock]