Cash, crypto and crowdlending: meet New Zealand’s rising FinTech future

From a platform that helps you lend support to the Māori economy to a system that allows you to donate your transactions fees to charitable causes, this year’s cohort for the second ever Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator promises big things for the future of the country’s financial system.

Sharesies was built on a simple idea: to make investing more accessible for regular people to do. It officially launched with some tentative hype in June, but by the end of the year, it was boasting more than 7,500 users on its platform — not bad for a company still in beta mode.

Ultimately, a successful company is buoyed by the quality of its idea and the people behind it, which Sharesies has with Sonya Williams, Brooke Anderson and Leighton Roberts coming together to make an easy-to-use, visually-appealing product. But there’s something else that’s helped Sharesies to become the burgeoning startup it is today — an accelerator. More specifically, Kiwibank’s inaugural FinTech Accelerator held in early 2017.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator is a three month business growth programme powered by Lightning Lab. It’s an opportunity for startups working in the fintech sphere (security, lending and financial literacy, for example) to grow their business in a short time frame, with the end goal being that their success will help improve the country’s financial system.

Sharesies has gone on to become the programme’s highest-profile success story from last year, and with the accelerator returning for the second time around, this year’s cohort is keen to follow in Sharesies’ footsteps. For three months, they’ll prep and prime their business ideas for the all-important demo day in May where they’ll pitch to angel investors, early-stage venture funds and those in the wider business/fintech community.

This year, 66 teams applied to join the accelerator with just nine teams making the cut:

HomeScore

HomeScore

Housing affordability has become a serious issue in New Zealand, particularly in major cities like Auckland and Wellington. The Kiwi dream of home ownership has become increasingly elusive, particularly when it comes to young people. This, in turn, is creating an unbalanced society where many young professionals and couples are left in a perpetual cycle of moving and renting. This then generates other unintended consequences where communities are weakened, relationships are strained, and the starting of families is delayed.

The first home problem is what HomeScore is trying to resolve, by making it easier for people to save and get organised financially. It does this by tracking multiple moving targets on a consolidated dashboard, such as your debt, savings and income. It also tracks things like property prices in specific neighbourhoods – and keeps you informed on government initiatives.

Tā Koha

The Māori economy is a thriving one that’s estimated to contribute up to $11 billion annually to New Zealand’s GDP. PledgeMe and Māori Women’s Development Inc (MWDI) want to help encourage this positive trend to flourish, teaming up to create a microlending platform for Māori entrepreneurs.

The platform is called Tā Koha (koha: gift, present, offering) and looks to empower Māori entrepreneurs and changemakers to raise money by involving their whānau, fans and community to help raise capital.

Tā Koha wants to see an equitable and inclusive funding landscape in New Zealand, which is imperative to creating a more diverse business community overall. As Anna Guenther, PledgeMe’s founder put it back in January: “The platform will be focused both on supporting funding within communities, as well as across communities. In the words of one of our friends, we see this as a chance to ‘redress in a small way the tilted scale, the imbalance between communities”.

Hnry

Hnry

Being self-employed in New Zealand comes with many benefits: you get to be your own boss, you get to work your own hours, and you get to work from home (or at least somewhere nicer than a cramped office). But there are also downsides to this otherwise attractive lifestyle, with tax seemingly topping the list of self-employed hassles.

It’s this hassle that Hnry (pronounced ‘Henry’) wants to help resolve, doing away with the need for spreadsheets, software and even costly accountants. Whether it’s income tax, GST, ACC or student loan repayments, Hnry will calculate and pay all of these for you. Same goes for your tax returns, which Hnry will complete on your behalf. It’ll also handle all your invoices, regardless of whether you work for a single client or multiple clients at the same time.

Jrny

Customer experience is a rapidly changing beast. Nowadays, it’s common to see banks with bots advising customers on loans, and airlines getting passengers to check-in with their virtual assistants. And while nothing will ever completely replace human-to-human interaction, artificially intelligent avatars and chatbots are increasingly helping customers get more of the right content at the right time.

Born from a desire to change how enterprise companies and individuals interact with one another, Jrny uses AI and conversational interfaces to create more relevant, two-way channels of communication. Jrny allows businesses to handle thousands of messages instantly in an effort to build a closer relationship between company and customer.

Choice

Choice

New Zealanders are a generous bunch — up to $3 billion a year goes towards supporting charitable causes — so it’s no surprise Choice wants to make it even easier for people to give back. It does this by allowing consumers to turn their transactions fees to merchants into support for charities instead.

“Transaction fees are a broken relic of the past and payments providers are profiting to the tune of trillions of dollars every year,” Choice explains. “We’ve created a way to pay that all but eliminates transaction fees passed on to Kiwi businesses and replaces that with a small donation to charity”. These charities include Oxfam, Youthline, Cancer Society and WWF.

Stash

Stash is a simple visual management platform offering a hassle-free way to document, manage and insure valuable items from your smartphone. Acting as a personal inventory, it organises and keeps up-to-date information about items such as photos and personal receipts. That way, all relevant information is on-hand in one place.

Stash also doubles as an assistant to help you sign up for new policies and start claims. It works closely with insurers so they can provide an all-digital novel insurance offer, focusing on providing users with the best value for money.

Invsta

For the past year, the Auckland-based team have been helping New Zealanders make better financial decisions with their KiwiSaver and investment portfolios. Through the Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator they are now focusing on developing Invsta, a cryptocurrency investment platform.

Cryptocurrency can be a lucrative venture for those who know what they’re doing, but for newcomers it’s a complex market that can be time-consuming, costly and confusing. Invsta seeks to eliminate all that, taking an existing robo-advice platform and applying it to the crypto market to help first-time investors enter the crypto world.

Invsta

Totem

The rise of cryptocurrencies and the use of blockchain are opening up new opportunities and challenges for the world of finance. A key challenge is the ability to link digital identity to real-world identity in a way that meets regulatory hurdles.

Totem has partnered with Kiwibank to develop a self-sovereign identity solution that meets these regulatory thresholds, enabling easier anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) processes while maintaining privacy and data integrity. The wider vision for the project is to move towards developing a digital ID solution that can be used by Kiwis (and eventually people and organisations all over the world) in their everyday lives, both online and in the analogue world.

Greenbase

Born as part of the Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator, Greenbase is designed to create “the next great financial service” by providing access to the core infrastructure of a bank over powerful APIs. This means access to infrastructure as a simple on-demand cloud service.

Greenbase gives a single integration point to gain ‘read-and-write’ access to a customer’s accounts at any New Zealand bank – as well as many other non-bank lenders, utilities, and telcos. Greenbase will also clean, homogenise and categorise data streams.

Greenbase provides a suite of deposit, lending, card and payment products available on-demand over APIs that can be created and configured to however you need, with infrastructure, compliance and security taken care of.


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