This week, Siliconrepublic.com aims to uncover and demystify fintech, starting with this guide to the wealth of opportunity Irish start-ups have capitalised on in this area.
Championed as one of the new frontiers of the tech industry, fintech is on a fast-track to becoming an overused buzzword meaning everything as a whole, and nothing in particular, all at once. Such is the nature of a technology with broad-ranging application (see: cloud.)
Fintech as a whole is a vast web connecting products and services we have become accustomed to over years of use but now, with the adoption of new technology, can be greatly improved and also massively disrupted.
The current Irish start-up scene perfectly illustrates fintech’s omnipresence, from world leaders in online payments, fraud detection and global financial services support, to innovators in cryptocurrency technology, emerging biometrics security and products making personal finance more user-friendly.
Just five years old, Stripe is heralded as one of the most successful start-ups to come out of Ireland – and that’s exactly what its founders, brothers John and Patrick Collison, did, selecting San Francisco, California as their base of operations.
With Stripe, the Collisons set out to create the best way to accept payments online, taking on established giants such as PayPal. The company’s suite of unified APIs and tools enable businesses to accept and manage online payments.
After a recent round that brought in just less than US$100m, Stripe is now valued at US$5bn, almost 50pc more than what it was valued at when the year began.
2. Pay with Fire (Fire Financial Services)
Fire Financial Services Limited was founded by Colm Lyon, who is best-known as the founder of payment processing service Realex, which he sold to US firm Global Payments for a cool €115m this year.
Lyon’s latest venture aims to bring instant personal payments to users in the UK and Ireland through Pay with Fire. The Pay with Fire app users will be able to keep their accounts topped up to make instant mobile payments to anyone with a UK or Irish mobile phone number.
3. Way2Pay (Schoolspace)
Way2Pay comes from Schoolspace, a Dublin-based company working within the education system, and provides a platform to make transactions between schools and families cashless.
With Way2Pay, schools can create invoices and send them to parents and guardians via SMS and email, while parents and guardians can manage their child’s school bills with a one-click solution 24/7.
Founded just this year, Bynk wants to be known as ‘the money messenger’, combining mobile payments with the convenient and familiar format of a messenger app.
With Bynk, users can chat directly or in groups, but as well as sending texts, photos and location data, they can also send money. Coming soon to iOS, Bynk makes use of Facebook log-ins and Apple’s Touch ID biometric security instead of PINs and passwords.
Bynk has secured a European licence to process payments in both euro and sterling and the team plans to add cardless ATM withdrawals to its features in future.
Another great Irish success story, Cork-headquartered Trustev develops anti-fraud technology for e-commerce and financial companies.
Trustev’s real-time online identity verification focuses on validating the individual performing an online transaction, not just the method of payment. By tracking behavioural, transactional and social data, the Trustev platform processes thousands of dynamic data points. This information is used to help retailers recover 2pc of revenue lost to fraud plus an additional 2pc lost by blocking genuine customers.
Belfast-headquartered B-Secur promises to deliver the ‘next generation of internal biometrics’ by using your heartbeat for authentication.
A recent Siliconrepublic.com Start-up of the Week, B-Secur has devised a biometrics solution using an algorithm that detects your unique ECG pattern via external sensors that can be built into almost anything.
CEO Alan Foreman, a former MD at Accenture, said the company is currently engaged in discussions with corporates within the financial services, automotive, ICT, public services and mobile industries.
Java software security firm Waratek aims to make enterprise applications more secure and easier to manage
Though the start-up has its origins in Australia and California, it was lured by Enterprise Ireland to develop in Dublin, where its HQ is now based.
Waratek’s RASP (run-time application self protection) technology can detect and block application logic, unpatched vulnerability and network layer attacks in Java apps. According to Gartner, this method of placing security monitoring and enforcement inside the application will eventually be commonplace and, last year, Waratek secured a key deal with Deutsche Bank to deliver security to its legacy IT infrastructure.
8. TouchTech Payments
TouchTech Payments emerged from Trinity College Dublin’s Launchbox programme last year, with an idea to tackle what is known as ‘card not present’ fraud. TouchTech Payments designs, engineers and implements online ID authentication software for financial institutions to ensure cards are present at the time of a transaction.
The young company is on the up, having recently raised a seed round, upgraded to a new Dublin office space and partnered with Visa UK.
Though only six years old, Fenergo has all the confidence of a well-established financial services company. Its grown-up status is no doubt helped by a recent private equity funding round of US$75m.
Fenergo provides client onboarding lifecycle management software for corporate, investment and private banks from its Dublin headquarters and international offices in Boston and Sydney. Its new capital will go towards growing its global footprint and expanding in new and existing markets.
Corlytics is a risk-focused financial intelligence technology company providing banks and financial services firms with software that helps them identify avoidable losses and fines.
Founded in 2013, the company operates a head office from NovaUCD with other offices in London, New York and Boston. This summer, the start-up celebrated a €1m investment through the Bank of Ireland Seed and Early Stage Fund.
Along with B-Secur and some others on this list, Antuar was one of six early-stage start-ups to take part in the inaugural FinTech Innovation Lab in January.
As banks shift from bricks-and-mortar branches to increasingly online interactions, a new understanding of customers and relationships is required. While Antuar promises to deliver secure, cost-saving branch systems that promote efficiency, sales, communication and control, the company makes sure to keep its eye on the overall customer experience.
With its head office in Dublin, Antuar operates a North American office in Florida and a South American office in Santiago, Chile.
LinkedFinance utilises crowdfunding to provide small businesses seeking funding an alternative to borrowing from banks.
Founded in 2011, LinkedFinance adopts the crowdfunding approach of complete transparency between lender and borrower. Borrowers are vetted and deemed creditworthy before they can access cashflow from a large pool of potential lenders. These lenders can then request and earn significant returns on their investment and engage with the businesses they invest in, both as customers and backers.
Last year, the peer-to-peer lending platform passed €5m in loans. After raising €2.5m in venture-capital funding in February, the amount businesses can borrow was increased from €50,000 to €100,000.
13. Grid Finance
Another online financing platform from Ireland, Grid Finance was officially launched in October 2014 with backing from Enterprise Ireland and private investors. With Grid Finance, users can invest in businesses to receive monthly repayments, or support charities and community organisations without returns.
Businesses who went ‘on the Grid’ seeking funding include KC Peaches, Happythreads, RH Distribution and The Art of Coffee.
14. Fund Recs
Fund Recs tackles the funds industry’s legacy problem by providing a cloud-based reconciliation software-as-a-service (SaaS) replacement for ‘prehistoric’ enterprise software.
Identified as a Siliconrepublic.com Start-up of the Week in 2013, Fund Recs pivoted from co-founder Alan Meaney’s initial idea for collaboration software to deal with fund reconciliation – the ‘non-sexy’ side of the industry, as Meaney noted.
Fund reconciliation is a manual and time-consuming process that is typically outsourced to low-cost bases such as India. Fund Recs’ plan to fully automate this process is an effort to keep this work within in Ireland. After all, according to PwC, Ireland is the largest hedge fund administration centre in the world, servicing 40pc of global alternative investment funds.
15. AQ Metrics
AQ Metrics pitches itself as a one-stop shop for financial regulatory risk and compliance solutions. Based out of Maynooth Business Campus and with international offices in London and Paris, AQ Metrics’ cloud-based software is used by fund managers, fund administrators, stockbrokers and global financial services companies.
This October, the start-up hopes to walk away with the Best Compliance & Regulatory Solution award it has been shortlisted for from the Investment Week Fund Services Awards.
InvoiceFair is an online marketplace for invoice trading, enabling companies to sell selected single invoices to investors at competitive rates.
Founded in 2014, InvoiceFair is one of a number of start-ups on the list recognised by Enterprise Ireland in The High Potential Start Up Class of 2014. To date, the platform has provided an alternative source of funding to businesses in Sweden, Poland, Germany, China, Singapore, the US, Jamaica and the UK.
Bitnet, led by former Visa and CyberSource executives, is a digital commerce platform that enables enterprise-scale merchants to accept digital currencies such as bitcoin. A former Siliconrepublic.com Start-up of the Week, Bitnet grew from a European office in Belfast and crossed the Atlantic to open a US office in San Francisco.
In October 2014, Bitnet raised US$14.5m in series A funding from investors, which included Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce site and, now, a Bitnet user. This year, through a major deal with UATP (Universal Air Travel Plan), 260 international airlines – including Delta, Etihad, Lufthansa, Qantas, US Airways, United Airlines and American Airlines – were also brought to the platform.
Another FinTech Innovation Lab alum, Signatur offers secure hardware solutions for cryptocurrency applications. Among these solutions are the Vault, a physical NFC-enabled bitcoin wallet for generating, storing and managing cryptocurrency, and Signatur Card, a smartcard for facilitating bitcoin payments at bricks-and-mortar retailers without the need for your phone.
This Dublin-based company was also part of NDRC’s Launchpad X programme.
CurrencyFair is an online marketplace where individuals and businesses can exchange currencies and send funds to bank accounts worldwide.
Through CurrencyFair, users perform currency exchanges on a peer-to-peer basis and, last year, it became the first platform to break the US$1bn barrier in money-matching transfers.
Since being selected as a Siliconrepublic.com Start-up of the Week in 2013, CurrencyFair has grown its Dublin office and, in April this year, secured €10m in funding.
In just a few years, TransferMate has grown from a Kilkenny-based company to a worldwide sensation providing international business-to-business payment solutions.
Following considerable success in the past year, the foreign-exchange brokers expanded its teams worldwide, including its US, Australia and UK offices.
In all, more than 35,000 clients use TransferMate, which is regulated across the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
21. Barracuda FX
Based in Dublin’s IFSC, Barracuda FX specialises in the design and development of enterprise-class foreign-exchange trading and risk-management software solutions for the global banking industry. Combined, its management team has more than 100 years of experience developing technology for foreign exchanges.
On the back of being named Best Trading Technology Vendor at the 2015 FX Week e-FX awards this summer, Barracuda FX announced the establishment of a research and development office in Skopje, Macedonia.
Ding, the start-up formerly known as Ezetop, enables people living or working abroad to instantly top-up the mobile phones of friends and family back home.
Speaking to Siliconrepublic.com editor John Kennedy in 2014, Ding CEO Mark Roden revealed that some 80,000 Ding transactions are made per day, with a 10pc commission earned by the company on every one.
Ding achieved second place in the 2014 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 ranking, with a growth rate of more than 1,000pc in the last five years, but it hasn’t stopped there. This year, Ding acquired iSend, the largest top-up network in the US, doubling the size of its global business.
OCRex develops optical character recognition (OCR) data-capture software solutions that remove data-entry dependencies.
For example, the first product from the OCRex suite, AutoRec, automates the process of performing bank reconciliations by extracting the transactional data from paper documents such as bank, credit card and online statements. An acccountant’s dream, this software could reduce hours or days of work to just minutes.
According to OCRex, AutoRec is used by almost 1,000 accountancy firms in Ireland, the UK, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Brite:Bill takes a regular customer touchpoint – billing – and optimises it for modern digital communications. With Brite:Bill, firms can analyse billing data and use this to form personalised, targeted messages around offers and promotions, turning a bill into a marketing opportunity.
Brite:Bill counts major telcos such as Vodafone, T-Mobile and (as of last year) Sprint among its clients.
Taxamo jumped on the need for help with the 2015 EU VAT changes early. Founded in 2010, the company pitched online businesses with a real-time solution for compliance with new VAT rules on digital services.
The Kerry-based company’s software-as-a-service solution promises compliance in line with EU regulations without impacting on the existing customer experience.
The rules changed for the EU on 1 January this year, but Taxamo’s market could be set to grow. Speaking to Siliconrepublic.com earlier this year, CEO John McCarthy noted that Canada, Japan, India, South Africa and Australia have also revealed plans to explore the introduction of similar taxation systems.
Senddr aims to make invoicing quick and easy by transferring invoices, credit notes and purchase orders directly between different accounting systems.
Founders (and brothers) Morgan and Malcolm Lynch built Senddr to reduce errors and ensure payments are made in a swifter fashion, though the platform is not limited to e-invoicing. In fact, Senddr’s secure service can be used to exchange structured data for management of any custom document type
In 2014, Legalshine won €30,000 in follow-on investment through the NDRC Lift Off competition and this year was selected as one of 11 participants in the Lab353 accelerator boot camp in Dublin.
Legalshine is a tool for large organisations to reduce and control their legal costs using text analytics. In essence, Legalshine ‘reads’ every line from every invoice and presents what it has learned in one insightful dashboard.
Using this tool, businesses can track spending as well as understand what tasks are costing the most and which timekeepers are giving the most value.
MyFutureNow’s mission is to use algorithms to help people retire with enough money to continue their lifestyle. Recently regulated to provide professional advice in the UK, MyFutureNow also offers a free asset mix report that will help people to understand how a pension works and what type of investment they should go for.
Originally registered in Dublin, MyFutureNow now operates out of its London office, while CEO and founder Alan Browne double-jobs as a partner at SMP Financial, a pensions and investment brokerage based on Dublin’s Baggot Street.
The LifeSight team is gearing up to launch its online financial assistant, accessible via desktop or mobile, later this summer.
LifeSight is pitched as a personal finance manager that uses personal data to guide its users towards greater financial security. What is expected is an easy-to-use, jargon-free application that analyses users’ financial information in one secure location to provide helpful indicators. For example, if a bill has not been paid on time or if you are in danger of going into your overdraft as your mortgage payment is due.
Rubicoin was made to make the process of finding and buying shares in companies easier and more beautiful.
This user-friendly and attractive app was built to help novices learn how to invest ‘like a pro’, and Rubicoin’s ease of use is exemplified by its trademarked ‘Swipe to Invest’ and ‘Tap to Invest’ functionality – the likely product of lifelong investors and tech geeks.
Siliconrepublic.com’s Fintech Week (17-21 August) brings you new stories every day from this exciting new field. Get updates by subscribing to our news alerts or following @siliconrepublic on Twitter.
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