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Your local knowledge safe harbor
Last night, I stopped by the Day Pitney offices in Time’s Square to attend the August NY FinTech Startups Meetup. It was co-organized by former Startup Harbor-interview subject Michael Giles at Roboinvest. It was my first FinTech meetup and won’t be my last. The Meetup’s name basically summarizes what it’s about. It’s focused on all sorts of financial technology: social, deals and loyalty, payments, and more.
The format’s pretty easy. Networking, introductions, speaker one, discussion, speaker two, discussion, and networking. We all gathered in a conference room, drank some soda, ate some pizza, and met each other before everything kicked off. The crowd was different from the HackNY Meetup I went to before. It very much reflected the topic. The average age was probably mid-to-late thirties and everyone was dressed in business casual. There were more sports coats than jeans and shorts. It’s certainly not a criticism, just an observation. I don’t think you’ll see that in many other startup verticals. But after working for and being around banks my entire life, it felt pretty easy to me.
Everyone sat down as host Jon Zanoff kicked things off. Because only ninety people attended, we all got to introduce ourselves. It was the expected mix of current and former banking executives, entrepreneurs, biz dev folks, and investors, with an NYU Law professor and some media sprinkled in for kicks. The introductions really helped target who you might want to speak with later. We had two presenters, Jeff Stewart of Lenddo and Adam Oliveri of Second Market. Quickly, about the presentations: they’re extremely interactive. Jon and Michael ask that participants not raise their hands, but just ask questions. It facilitates a great conversation.
Jeff focused on what Lenddo does. Direct from their website: “Lenddo is the world’s first online platform that helps the emerging middle class use their social connections to build their creditworthiness and access local financial services.” I hadn’t heard of it before and was pretty skeptical. As we dove further into it, it’s leveraging your social communities instead of a traditional credit score to determine trustworthiness through their own algorithm. That trust graph or score is then used to determine whether your they should lend you money or not. They’re currently practicing microfinance in Columbia and the Philipines. It’s an ambitious product and Jeff’s a convincing speaker.
Adam came up next, not to talk about Second Market, but to cover the JOBS Act. It was an overview of the opportunities it opens up. Adam spoke about how someone’s going to figure out internet marketing, like an AdSense, and find a way to verify accredited investors, like VeriSign. He thinks there’s a huge market out there that’s yet to be tapped. Personally, I’m more skeptical. In our group discussion, we touched very briefly on fraud possibilities in crowd funding. I wanted to hear more. That’s a major risk that gets introduced.
Overall, we had good speakers and good people attend. I met an intern at Covestor, an Angel group founder from Boston, the CEO at Local Bonus, and a few people trying to figure out exactly how they fit into the startup scene. Well worth a Wednesday evening and I’m excited to see what next month brings, when Dwolla presents.