Financial services innovation is alive and kicking at Finovate 2009

Originally posted on the Currensee blog on Sept. 15, 2009.

I spent most of my career in the financial services industry. Back in the day, when I was working at one of the “big guys”, we were truly innovative. New products, new technologies, first to market on many fronts but then something changed. The big guys got big and when you get big, you get hung up in meetings, politics, reorgs, red tape, managing up, reforcasting budgets and, voila, all the big innovation gets pushed aside for making the numbers and keeping the beast steady as she goes.

When I took the leap into the land of startups I never imagined a financial services vertical for startups. I wondered what there was to innovate in a place so layered in compliance, risk, security and privacy hangups? Well, first I discovered Currensee, and was charmed and delighted by the innovation and technology in the space. Then, most recently, I came across Finovate.

For those of you who know TechCruch50 or DEMO, Finovate is the financial services equivalent. A Spring and Fall yearly event (NYC, Sept 29) that “showcases the best new financial and banking technology innovations from established leading companies and hot young startups.” The Finovate judges hand-pick the companies that get their 7 minutes of fame on stage to show (live demos only, no slideware) their latest and greatest to an audience filled with VCs, big financial services companies looking for ideas and other startups watching the competition.

After checking out several of the companies, I was pretty impressed. I loved Smarty Pig – simple, smart savings plans and accounts you can create with your family and friends. And, BrightScope – transparent information and ratings for your 401k plan. Then there’s my favorite, Bill Shrink – where Dave in Witchita found a cell phone provider that will save him $500 a year. Now, that’s smart.

The best news in reviewing all the Finovate finalists is that they are all in the same business – making life simpler and better. That’s where the big guys often miss the boat. When you connect to the real goal of the average investor it is, quite simply, to have a damn, good life. I am loving the fact that financial services startups are connecting to this reality, cooking up unique products and services and serving up a solid dose of innovation. We’re happy to share the financial services startup space with these exciting companies and putting Finovate on our horizon for 2010.


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