By Glen Sarvady – View original article
VentureTech seems to be growing as rapidly as the fintech startups it highlights. The credit union-centric technology showcase drew nearly 350 participants to Frisco, Texas (outside Dallas) last week for its fifth annual edition. Conference co-founder Nick Evens wryly noted that an unofficial scan indicated greater credit union attendance than at the 13,000-attendee Money 20/20 held in Las Vegas two weeks earlier.
More than two-dozen emerging companies took the stage over two-plus days, engaging in an audience-judged pitch competition but, more importantly, aiming to make a lasting impression with potential investors, customers and partners.
The Day One winner–by a decisive margin- was Ranqx, a white-labeled small business lending solution promising to dramatically cut both decisioning cost and time to serve this notoriously challenging market. Founder Dave Lewis traveled from New Zealand to present–he recently introduced Ranqx in his native country and declared it “U.S. launch ready.” Based on audience response, he’s chosen to address a compelling pain point.
NCUA Board Member Rodney Hood opened Day Two with remarks centered on financial inclusion, which he called “the civil rights issue of our generation.” Hood observed that “credit scores dictate so many aspects of our daily lives,” and posited that addressing their shortcomings is not only the right thing to do, but can be profitable as well.
VentureTech’s organizers built on Mr. Hood’s comments by sequencing four inclusion-themed startups to follow him, each of which made strong impressions.
Credit Mountain actually began its startup journey as an alternative credit scoring system, but pivoted when customer feedback suggested the true need was for “a credit improvement tool” to overcome “the FICO roadblock.”
Nickels was founded by designers of the energy usage reports that often accompany utility bills- its mission is to provide similar insights through credit usage reports.
And Zirtue, fresh from its America’s Got Access startup pitch victory at Money 20/20, showcased its “friends and family” lending solution.
However the winner from this cohort was Brooklyn-based Goalsetter, a youth-focused financial education app with an accompanying debit card leveraging social media (think TikTok) to win the mindshare of Gen Z and younger. Founder Tanya Van Court previously led digital products for Nickelodeon and ESPN, has attracted prominent investors like CUNA Mutual Group’s CMFG Ventures and NBA stars Chris Paul and Kevin Durant, and has forged a partnership with US Bank.
Goalsetter edged out Credit Mountain in a photo finish for the Day Two vote, then outpolled Ranqx to win VentureTech’s overall title.
A New Feature
As a new feature for 2022 VentureTech added a separate Launch Party competition, a chance for 10 earlier stage startups–many of them pre-revenue–to show their wares. The winner of this category was Arcanum Technology, whose nKode solution adds shapes, colors and special characters to passwords to make them more memorable and secure. By decoding them behind the scenes, founder Brian Finnan claims that data remains concealed even in the event of a breach, allowing passcodes to be updated without any end user disruption.
The Launch Party segment was emceed by Asish Garg, CEO of Eltropy– the consensus winner of VentureTech’s inaugural 2018 competition. Garg used the opportunity to proudly announce his firm had recently surpassed the 500 credit union customer milestone. Prior winners Zogo, Illuma Labs and Breach Clarity (subsequently acquired by Sontiq), have each gone on to achieve impressive traction as well.
The hotel venue overlooking the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility was a far cry from VentureTech’s early days in a generous sponsor’s conference room.
“Our tremendous growth is a testament to the industry embracing, investing in and adopting the newest technologies to increase efficiencies, improve the bottom line and most importantly, provide superior services for their members,” said co-founder Jenny Jackson.
Despite a turbulent economic environment, there’s no sign of a slowdown in credit union innovation.
Glen Sarvady is Managing Principal at 154 Advisors. Hear his interviews with four of VentureTech’s presenting founders at: https://www.big-fintech.com/Media/BIGcast/ArticleID/846/Plenty-Ventured-Plenty-Gained