The nascent financial technology industry has seen rapid growth over the last few years. Nearly all the major banks and financial services firms are either actively incubating or facilitating the development of startups and their technology in the FinTech space.
Investments into FinTech startups have recently boosted, growing from just over $3 billion in 2013 to over $12 billion in 2014. The growth of capital being invested in FinTech startups determines how technology and the Internet are radically changing the nature of money and financial services.
Remember that even Thomas Watson of IBM said at one time that the world would never need more than five computers, at most. Over the next few years money will go from paper and plastic to zeros and ones of computer code. It is likely that in one generation from now, most customers and investors won’t handle physical money, checks or cards at all.
As money becomes increasingly stored as digital data and moves on mobile devices, it will flow fluidly, and at a far lower cost from person to person; from customer to vendor; and from investor to business.
As this happens, the traditional revenue streams big banks and brokers have enjoyed monopolistic control over will be challenged since the banking technology they have charged customers to use is rebuilt and improved by FinTech entrepreneurs and simply downloaded to their phones.
FinTech companies have emerged to address the gap between small business needs for financing and the willingness and capacity of banks to serve these needs effectively. They are pioneering a distinctive online and digital-based approach that promises to greatly enhance small businesses access and efficiency to funding for growth. The companies are benefiting from the fact that small businesses are increasingly turning online to search for financing, especially through mobile devices.
FinTech companies are growing fast and attracted $12 billion of investments in 2014, an increase of $4 billion from 2013. Further, nearly one in five credit-seeking small businesses surveyed in the first half of 2014 applied for funding through an online lender, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York survey.
Let us mention the key leading FinTech companies in Silicon Valley.
Square is a software platform that enables retail stores and restaurants to accept mobile payments via iPads, iPhones, or Android devices. They say the company may have already filed a confidential registration document with the SEC, which is permitted for companies with less than $1 billion in revenue. The company’s most recent round came in late last year, when it raised $150 million at a reported $6 billion valuation.
Lending Club, one of the world’s biggest online lending marketplaces, was founded by Renaud Laplanche to let people provide low-cost financing to their peers. At the moment, it lets institutional investors do the same. Last year, Lending Club’s IPO was the largest among all US tech companies. The online credit marketplace raised $870 million in its IPO last December. It’s valued at more than $7 billion.
Robinhood, a mobile-brokerage application, makes it possible for anyone to invest – not just Wall Streeters. Robinhood is free to use. In May it raised $50 million in a funding round led by New Enterprise Associates. Previous investors include big-name VCs and celebrities, like Snoop Dogg.
21 Inc. wants to bring Bitcoin to the masses through an embeddable chip for phones that will allow users to “mine” Bitcoin in the background. Though the company has only recently announced its master plan, it has been building capital for some time. In March it raised $116 million in venture funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Yuan Capital, and RRE Ventures.