Originally posted by our friends at HARK.
By: Tim Freeman
LITTLE ROCK – The Venture Center, a Little Rock-based Entrepreneurial Support Organization, in partnership with FIS, a global leader in financial services technology, hosted Demo Day for the inaugural cohort of the VC FinTech Accelerator, an aggressive 12-week program designed to accelerate the growth of early stage startup companies focused on developing Financial Technology solutions. The event was held at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.
The highly selective program invited 10 leading startups to Little Rock to participate. Through a fund established and directed by The Venture Center, each portfolio company received an initial $50,000 investment.
“This inaugural portfolio exceeded our expectations. In many cases, these founders are seasoned business owners who have created strong products that are disrupting the financial services sector,” said Gary Dowdy, managing director of the VC FinTech Accelerator program. “We’re proud to celebrate their success on Global Investor Demo Day and are even more excited for the deals they have in the pipeline for the coming year.”
Each of the 10 early-stage startups showcased their innovations for nearly 300 venture capitalists, bankers, technology professionals and local community leaders, including the governor.
Solutions cultivated within the program include:
● Contactless point-of-sale payments
● Secure payments and money movement across borders, particularly for the underserved
● Personal finance and 401(k) plans to engage young people and those who don’t invest
● Underwriting for small businesses
● Compliance and analytics software that helps banks, investors, traders and more operate more efficiently
This year’s portfolio included teams from around the U.S. world.
1 Akouba, providing an online, end-to-end commercial loan platform that enables regulated financial institutions to lend money to small businesses simply, efficiently and profitably through an omni-channel experience. Company founders are Chris Rentner, Evan Hareras and Nick McMillan.
2 Bleu, a point-of-transaction network and universal payment gateway, powered by Bluetooth beacons, that enables all forms of payment and a mobile platform for customer loyalty and engagement. Company founders are Sesi Bonsi and Brett Howell.
3 Dream Forward, a low-cost 401(k) retirement plan that uses new technology to boost the savings rate among middle- and low-income employees. The company founder is Grant Easterbrook.
4 Flutterwave, providing technology and infrastructure for seamlessly and securely processing payments, remittances and digital services across Africa. The company founder is Iyinoluwa Aboyeji.
5 Fundseeder, a data and performance analytics platform for traders, designed to democratize and globalize the capital allocation process. Company founders are Emanual Balarie, Jack Schwager and James Bibbings.
6 Hexanika, a data software company that has developed an end-to-end solution for financial institutions to address data sourcing and reporting challenges for regulatory compliance. Company founders are Yogesh Pandit, Huma Usmani, Rahul Bhide and Makarand Gadre.
7 LumoXchange, a remittance marketplace to compare exchange rates in countries across the world and enable individuals to send online money using local FX rates at lower costs versus current providers. Company founders are Maf Sonko and Mamour Dioum.
8 Mortgage Peer Network, a platform that enables analysis of a bank’s mortgage lending process by providing peer-based scoring and real-time customer feedback to improve processes and increase customer retention. Company founders are blank. Company founders are Greg Ellis and Dave Demster.
9 Monotto, a personal finance solution that automates the process of saving and is built to increase the savings of millennials and grow with them as their needs change. Company founders are Christian Ruppe, Hank Stocker and Jared Kopelman.
10 PFITR, a BPV™ tool that provides bond market transparency and internal controls for the Bond Buyer, helping them to get better bond pricing and risk information. The company founder is Jim Koetting.
During Demo Day, each team presented their investor pitch, showcased traction with clients and partners, and highlighted their company’s next steps.
During the event, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson joined FIS CEO Gary Norcross to announce plans to partner to extend funding for the VC FinTech accelerator through 2018, as part of the first phase of a broader high tech accelerator initiative for the State of Arkansas.
“Innovation in financial technology is happening at an incredible pace,” Hutchinson said. “As one of the original homes of FinTech, it was important for Arkansas to continue pushing that innovation. We’re extremely proud that Arkansas and FIS could continue to support this wonderful program.”
“FIS’ support of and participation in the Fintech Accelerator is part of our broader innovation strategy. This isn’t just about turning startups into strong investment opportunities, it’s about reinventing the financial industry by identifying and fasttracking the best ideas,” said Norcross, who spoke at the event. “The Accelerator and the fostering of innovation fits squarely with our strategy to deliver results that empower the financial world. It is at the heart of everything that we do.”
The initial phase of the High Tech Accelerator Initiative will be followed by a more comprehensive accelerator plan to be presented to the General Assembly in January. The future plan will include program requirements to measure the job creation and technology benefits to the state.
While Gov. Hutchinson did not disclose details regarding future plans for additional accelerators, in addition to FinTech, Arkansas is home to Acxiom, a pioneer in Big Data, well as Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, potentially providing clues regarding future endeavors.