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FinTech Is All The Rage At Venture Atlanta By Moira Vetter Oct. 22, 2015
There was tremendous energy and a ton of content covered this week at Venture Atlanta. The star of the show this year was the booming FinTech category. Here are some particulars about why the space is spawning so many startups and why one leader in the space, Worldpay, has invested in the FinTech accelerator at Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC).
Why is FinTech so big?
(My apologies early…I’m going to say FinTech about 50 times in this piece.) The amount of change and transformation in payments is shocking. We buy things with our cards, our phones, our fingers and so on. In a few short years the transformation in consumer’s purchase preferences along with the maturity of mobile devices and payment technologies has exploded. With omni-channel streams, the point of purchase is moving around, sometimes several times before a purchase is completed.
This spells trouble for payment traditionalists and laggards, and huge opportunities for startups that are reinventing payments and inventing new ways to help people buy. Some caution that there is too much frenzy in the space. Entrepreneurs everywhere are getting their concepts developed quickly and tapping in to incubators everywhere. Let’s Talk Payments last month created a list of 12 incubators for those interested in FinTech.
We know Fintech is big, but why is it so big in Atlanta?
With FinTech experts center stage at Venture Atlanta it became clear how critical this sector is to the region. According to the American Transaction Processing Coalition (ATPC), 70% of all U.S. payments are processed through Georgia’s ‘Transaction Alley.’ With a sector so significant in our front yard, there is tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurship, great demand for talent, and ample, motivated resources to nurture that talent.
How one FinTech leader, Worldpay, is investing in entrepreneurship
Worldpay US, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia is one of the top 5 acquirers in the world. President and CEO, Tony Catalfano, who participated in multiple events at Venture Atlanta spoke to me about the critical importance of spurring innovation and growing talent to keep his industry growing.
Catalfano has committed over $1 Million to launching the FinTech accelerator at Georgia Tech’s ATDC and to develop one of the nation’s first FinTech curriculums. In addition to helping onboard the entrepreneur in residence, Catalfano, his CIO and other Worldpay executives attend multiple working meetings each month mentoring and supporting aspiring FinTech entrepreneurs. Catalfano and his executives say they are taking away as much as they are giving, loving when someone points out that ‘it doesn’t have to work on the rails like that.’
Worldpay’s advice for startups in the FinTech space
Good job: Keep your fresh perspective. Seasoned veterans get caught up in how the payment rails have worked in the past and their creativity is blocked. Startups avoid a lot of that friction and breakdown a workflow or process totally differently.
Needs improvement: Many startups rush to write an app that can take a payment. There are lots of places to go for software. Instead take the time to understand the consumer and develop an experience that helps them buy…or keep buying.
Needs improvement: What is the revenue model behind your payment technology? Are there subscriptions with recurring payments? How will you monetize your offering?
Let’s collaborate: Many payment applications have gotten very mature around certain verticals such as retail, grocery, petro/convenience. Startups can bring their creativity and combine it with the vertical domain expertise that established players have to build use cases that will work in the real world.
Let’s collaborate: How will you scale that? Some technologies work well in the lab but may in practice need more robust approaches to encryption and security. Established players with large technology infrastructures can help anticipate the challenges to scale to head off future concerns to a startups model.
Catalfano is not only excited about the talent and energy around FinTech, he’s prepared to compete for it, ‘There are many talented people interested in mobile, security, healthcare and FinTech here in Atlanta. We want to help develop that future talent and show them a path to grow in our industry.’
How is a vibrant FinTech community affecting startup capital?
Atlanta has seen a big increase in startup activity, funding, and outcomes over the past five years. Much of that activity is thanks to the growth of technology incubators and the emergence of Tech Square, adjacent to Georgia Tech’s campus, as a magnet for startups, research labs, and more than a dozen corporate innovation centers for companies including Coca-Cola, Home Depot, AT&T, Panasonic and Worldpay.
According to Blake Patton of Tech Square Ventures and Chairman of Venture Atlanta, ‘Out of town venture capital investors are increasingly setting their sights on Atlanta, where it’s less competitive because there’s a gap between the amount of capital available and the level of opportunity. Venture Atlanta is addressing that gap by connecting our startups with the capital they need. This year, we hosted investors from Silicon Valley, Boston and New York, among other cities, looking for great investment opportunities.’
The lesson from this week’s event for the startups I saw was to get into the nerve center. Connect with the movers, the shakers, the teachers and the makers. The capital will be right there. If you have the next great idea in payments and want to get to market quickly, fly on in to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport or ride the payment rails straight into Transaction Alley.