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NextSeed Says it has Now Returned $8 Million to Investors



NextSeed, an online capital formation platform, says it has now topped $8 million in returns since its inception in 2015.

Initially launched as a bank replacement platform providing loans to SMEs, NextSeed has since expanded its offerings into other securities.

In an email, NextSeed said that they have “never been more optimistic that the future of investing is with everyday investors like you, and we’ll continue working hard to bring you unique and exclusive investment opportunities.”

In 2020, the assets of NextSeed small business investment platform were acquired by Republic – a leading full-stack investment crowdfunding platform.  NextSeed co-founder and CEO Youngro Lee became the Chief Operating Officer of Republic while remaining CEO of NextSeed Securities – a separate entity.

NextSeed currently offers securities under Reg D and Reg CF.

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Top 10 Fintech News Stories for the Week Ending September 25, 2021



Many of the biggest names in fintech made news this week with PayPal, Coinbase, Robinhood and Revolut all making significant announcements. And then, of course, we have China who seem determined to stifle any new fintech innovation they don’t like. And JPMorgan Chase had not one but two big developments this week. Here are what I consider to be the top news stories in fintech this past week.

PayPal launches its ‘super app’ combining payments, savings, bill pay, crypto, shopping and more from TechCrunch – PayPal’s digital offerings now may well be the most comprehensive in all of fintech and they have a massive customer base to market these new services. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the neobank space.

China Cracks Down Harder on Cryptocurrency With New Ban from The New York Times – In some ways China is a real leader in fintech, with their work on CBDCs and the innovations around mobile payments but in other ways they seem determined to go back to the 20th century. This ban will only hurt innovation in China as crypto is here to stay and China will be contributing very little to its future.

Coinbase Won’t Offer Lending Product Questioned by SEC from The Wall Street Journal – Coinbase realized there was no point in fighting the SEC and decided to pull their planned lending product. The big question is what is the future of all the platforms, decentralized and centralized, doing that very thing.

Robinhood muscles deeper into Coinbase’s territory with new crypto wallet feature from TechCrunch – Robinhood are signaling they are getting more serious about crypto as they will be introducing their own wallet starting next month. This will allow users to send and receive crypto from external wallets.

Revolut, the $33 billion fintech player, is rolling out commission-free stock trading in the U.S. from CNBC – Revolut is going to start encroaching on Robinhood’s turf as the UK-based fintech will be rolling out stock trading in the U.S, and, yes, they will also be using the payment for order flow model.

Amazon announces partnership with Lendistry for SMB lending from LendIt Fintech News – Amazon has had a large SMB lending operation for many years but in this latest initiative, called Amazon Community Lending, they are focusing on underrepresented businesses in a partnership with Lendistry, a leading CDFI.

JPMorgan takes on British rivals with launch of digital bank Chase from Reuters – JPMorgan has launched their digital bank into the highly competitive UK market where they are hoping for a better result than their last effort. Finn was a dismal failure in the U.S. but at least this time they will not be competing against their own products.

JPMorgan Chase moving retail bank’s core system to cloud from American Banker – It is hard to overstate how big a deal this is for Thought Machine, a relatively new fintech startup based in the UK. The largest bank in the U.S. decided they couldn’t replace their core on their own. Penny Crosman has the scoopt on what JPMorgan is thinking here.

Shares in MoneyLion to Trade on NYSE on September 23rd as SPAC Deal Approved from Crowdfund Insider – Another neobank is now trading on the public markets. MoneyLion completed their SPAC deal and is trading on the NYSE under the ticker ML.

BNPL Company Affirm Rolls out Adaptive Checkout from – Affirm has launched a new product they are calling Adaptive Checkout which allows merchants to provide more choices for their customers at checkout including weekly and monthly payments options.

Peter Renton is the chairman and co-founder of LendIt Fintech, the world’s first and largest digital media and events company focused on fintech.

LendIt Fintech conducts three conferences a year for the leading fintech markets of the USA, Europe, and Latin America. LendIt also provides cutting-edge content all year long via audio, video, and written channels.

Peter has been writing about fintech since 2010 and he is the author and creator of the Fintech One-on-One Podcast, the first and longest-running fintech interview series.

Peter has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The New York Times, CNBC, CNN, Fortune, NPR, Fox Business News, the Financial Times, and dozens of other publications.

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Podcast 316: Shri Santhanam of Experian



Using artificial intelligence in lending decisions has gone from a curiosity to, I would argue, the mainstream over the last five years. Most lenders have either started a pilot program or are considering it seriously and some, led by fintech lenders like Upstart, have made it core to their business.

Our next guest on the Fintech One-on-One podcast is Shri Santhanam. He is the EVP and GM of Global Analytics at Experian. Shri has spent much of his career bringing big data and AI to bear on a myriad of business challenges. For the last two years, he has been leading the global analytics initiatives for Experian.

In this podcast you will learn:

  • Shri’s background with AI and data analytics.
  • The three big changes that have accelerated for lenders in the last 18 months.
  • What fintech lenders need to be successful in the competitive environment today.
  • How lenders are best driving impact from AI.
  • What Experian is doing to help lenders with their client journeys.
  • How they are helping lenders increase their speed to market.
  • The impact of regulatory constraints on AI underwriting models.
  • The three ways Experian is differentiating themselves today.
  • How lenders should be using AI today.
  • What it will take for all lending to be done via AI models.
  • The interesting trends in the AI space that will shape the future.
  • What Experian’s plans here are for the next five years.

You can subscribe to the Fintech One on One Podcast via Apple Podcasts or Spotify. To listen to this podcast episode there is an audio player directly above or you can download the MP3 file here.

Download a PDF of the Transcription or Read it Below

Welcome to the Fintech One-on-One Podcast, Episode No. 316. This is your host, Peter Renton, Chairman and Co-Founder of LendIt Fintech.


Peter Renton: Today on the show, I’m delighted to welcome Shri Santhanam, he is the EVP & GM of Global Analytics and AI Products at Experian. Obviously, he is an AI expert and I wanted to get Shri on because we haven’t really delved deeply into AI in a long time and a lot has changed which we get into in some depth in this episode. You know, we talk about what lenders are doing today, what they need to do to be successful, how they’re using AI. 

We delve pretty deeply into how Experian is really helping some of the things they’re doing that is really unique in the field, we talk about how lenders should be using AI and what are the trends that Shri is seeing, both historically and going forward, and he also looks into his crystal ball and provides predictions for five years from now. It was a fascinating interview, hope you enjoy the show.


Peter: Welcome to the podcast, Shri!

Shri Santhanam: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Peter.

Peter: My pleasure. So, let’s get started by giving the listeners a little bit of background about yourself. Can you give us some of the career highlights before you got to Experian?

Shri: I spent a significant portion of my career at Oliver Wyman which is a strategy and operations consulting firm in the financial services space. I started my career with Oliver Wyman right out of school, I was actually getting a PhD at Stanford which I didn’t end up finishing, but what really attracted me to consulting was bringing an engineering approach to business problems and that’s been the theme of my time at Oliver Wyman. 

For the last seven or eight years at Oliver Wyman, I helped build a business called Oliver Wyman Labs where we saw the opportunity in about 2011/2012 to bring Silicon Valley style tech and AI into some of the challenges large banks and financial institutions faced post-crisis. That was a fun journey bringing Python, Big Data to AI tech into that sort of space and spent a bunch of time there. 

And then about two years ago, the senior leadership at Experian asked me to come over to play a role leading global analytics in AI, helping drive impact with Experian’s data in a simpler way so here I am.

Peter: Okay, So, before we get into the meat of the discussion, I’d love to kind of get a little bit of background about your experience with AI and analytics, how that journey has gone for you throughout your career.

Shri: For me, even before it was called all of the fancy names that it is now, AI/ML, I’ve always been attracted to pursuit of data-driven decision making. What attracted me to consulting is what was a group called Retail Value Engineering and the founder of that group was a man named Jacques Cesar who would often describe the work we do as “squeezing blood from the stone” that is sort of data, right. 

Actually, the initial work we did was with retailers and in the early 2000’s, they had an enormous amount of data largely captive in these huge monolithic systems and I was very attracted to the prospect of putting that data to work and helping their businesses run better, helping improve the lives of consumers and businesses. That, eventually, over the course of the first decade of this century translated into Advanced Analytics, AI and tech being tools in making that sort of mission a reality, like one of the interesting things we did in retail was, for instance, cannibalization analysis. 

Retailers, as they traditionally think about…. let’s say you’re promoting an item of toothpaste, you largely look at the sales of toothpaste, but it has an enormous amount of impact on other items in that week, bringing customers into that store and the impact of a simple thing like promoting Colgate toothpaste is actually profound and AI and analytics can help you understand that and make better sort of choices. So, that was my starting point, I think it eventually grew into my interest in driving financial services post-crisis and helping banks lend better. 

Now, historically, banks and lending institutions have mostly used rules or basic logistic regression models to make decisions, but to me, bringing AI and ML to really drive financial inclusion help consumers have better access to credit and sort of lenders make better decisions is an important part of the mission I see.

Peter: Okay. Well, let’s get right into it and talk about the lending space. You know, it’s been a very interesting last 18 months for all lenders, I would say, and obviously we’ve seen them move to digital that I think became mandatory pretty much for the entire world. But, I’d love to get sort of what you’re seeing at Experian as far as how this transformation is playing out. What are you seeing as far as, you know, the democratization of digital capabilities and that sort of thing.

Shri: It’s a great time to be talking about the lending revolution and even before COVID, I would argue that there was a very significant lending revolution underway where if you looked, historically, at how lending happened, it was with sort of pen and paper. Over the last decade and a half, really the notion of digital tools, digital decisioning, analytics and digital underwriting has come into play. Now, COVID has dramatically accelerated that and we’re seeing three big things which are different. 

First, when you looked at maybe even three/four years ago, you have the Capital One, some of the large, sophisticated banks really being at the forefront of leading this revolution in bringing either machine learning or digital tools to the entire lending process. Now, it’s almost becoming a necessity for the entire spectrum of lenders, large, medium and small, to operate digitally and make some of those decisions. 

The second thing we’re seeing with the lending revolution right is actually this deep focus on the customer experience. It was okay five/six years ago to wait several days, weeks to approve loans or make decisions on loans for consumers and businesses, now, that expectation has dramatically changed. We’re seeing lending institutions willing to make that decision in real-time instead of minutes, hours, that sort of dimension. 

Third, fundamentally, sort of product innovation and inclusion. You’re seeing the whole fintech space come in and really the operating challenge and the question of fintechs is, can I find an underserved niche of the market which I have unique perspective and how to think about that risk and I can improve them and lend to them. Is it student loans, is it sort of immigrants who’ve been in this country where our traditional credit and lending methods don’t do them in the same way. So, there’s a significant shift in how lenders are starting to look at the space and you’re seeing those three trends are what we’re seeing at Experian.

Peter: Right. And, I’d love to get your take too, because I know you work with both banks and fintech lenders and I think it’s a curious time for fintech lenders because they’ve had sort of the digital space wide open for them, I mean, some of them for longer than a decade and now that gap is closing. What do you think fintech lenders need today to be successful in the environment we’re in?

Shri: Fintech lenders, as I see it, are actually disrupting the market in a way which, net of net, really benefits the consumer because if I look at the four pieces of a fintech in this lending space that they’re coming in and saying, can I pick a segment of the market where I apply an underwriting sort of lends and I apply a customer experience lends which is very, very different, right. And you’re seeing a number of these fintechs like Affirm, Prosper, sort of start to be very successful in that space. 

So, I think in order for them to be successful, they need three big things. First is they need to embrace machine learning and advanced underwriting because the core of their business model involves in them being at the forefront of underwriting with a lens that slightly seems different. So, I think embracing machine learning, understanding how that works and that can improve financial inclusion should be part. 

I think the second thing that fintechs need to be able to succeed is really disrupt and reinvent the customer experience and decisioning around that. Lots of it is digital, but, essentially, interesting product innovation where you can get into the retail customer journey or much closer to the purchase occasion or the use case of all sorts of customers in a way that traditional lending still has friction.

Peter: Interesting. So then, can we just dig into the AI and analytics just for a bit here. What are you seeing as far as lenders, you know, how are they best driving impact from AI.

Shri: If you look at how, let’s say, the bulk of the middle market has lent, even four/five years ago, it’s been on the back of two simple things. It’s been a set of policy rules and it’s been some sort of underwriting model. That’s how a lot of the lending frameworks have actually sort of worked. And, in the main, the long tail of lenders that mostly use either standard scores which are available off-the-shelf or if they created specific custom models, they will mostly use self-logistic regressions. That was sort of how, historically, things have worked. 

Now, it’s been a challenge to change any of those things because the costs and the infrastructure required to stand up machine learning models, put them into production, have sort of decisioning rules and optimization tools and more sophisticated have been prohibitive, but that reality is fundamentally changing now So, custom scores, the ability to create optimized decision rules and the ability to do this in a tailored way on data sets which are actually relevant for you as a lender, that reality is changing the costs or are dropping, even as we speak, to do that. 

So, that holds to the adoption of a modern sort of lending decisioning structure is a big part of what AI and analytics replace. If you look at models which were logistic regressions now, there are gradient boosted tree models which can start to help outperform those. You have decisioning rules which start to help like significantly outperform and really get better approvals and lower sort of charge offs for lenders.

Peter: Okay. So, I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about what Experian is doing, specifically in the space. Maybe you can start with just talking about how is Experian helping lenders with their client journeys and that sort of thing today.

Shri: So, when I came in two years ago, one of areas we saw as a big opportunity was to help clients with some of the analytics and AI which they use, particularly in the mid-market, for building these models. So, there’s credit unions, there’s mid-market customers where, historically, what we’ve done is we’ve built custom models and projects for them. What we found was the typical time it took to build these custom models were somewhere between five/six months and the deployment of these models, again, was sort of complex and took another three months. 

So, for many of our customers in the space, we found that there was a clear need, but the time and the ability to deliver these things, there was a lot of overhead which was involved. So, one of the things we’ve done is we’ve built a platform to significantly disrupt the space, a platform called, Ascend Intelligent Services, which we believe significantly reduces the time to both build models, create decision rules and really put this into production. 

So, the whole build model and produce, we’re still in early stages with these products, but we have several tends of successful customers where we’ve significantly reduced the time for end-to-end build and the cost where we can put these things into production. One example is a public case study we have of a mid-market lender named, Atlas, where we’ve seen very, very significant cost of results with this sort of work with our platforms.

Peter: Interesting, interesting. So, can you dig a little deeper into that. I mean, I’d love to get sort of a sense, without giving away the secret sauce, but how were you able to make this a much faster process?

Shri: Yeah, great, happy to talk about that. So, if you look at the historical process, there have been probably four main points of friction which has added a lot of time. The first has been around data management and wrangling where we’ve had to bring a lot of data and manipulate it to create models. The second point of friction has been actually running like computed scale. To typically build a custom model, you need to actually like try 30/40 different sort of models, run sort of many calculations and then sort of decide. The third has been regulatory compliance and documentation. 

These models that….the reason it’s challenging in financial services is like you have a whole regulatory framework and you have to go against that management. And then, finally, like deployment. Once you’ve built a model, the traditional approach is to say, great, I’ve built this, I’ll document it, now I’m going to take it and throw it over the fence and have someone sort of code it. 

So, we’ve gone after these four problems in a very significant sort of way. We have some strategic advantages and how we can help our clients because we’re building these on our platforms and data. So, I’ll take you to these in turn. 

So, first, we have a lot of the data for several of our clients so it allows us to proactively source that data, curate it and significantly reduce the time and creating the right sort of training data set. So, if I’m a fintech looking to innovate a new product, like at Experian we can very quickly create a proxy data set and, historically, that has been a manual process now we’ve added automation. 

The second piece is an interesting one which is on the models. In the last year and a half/two years, we’ve built a technology which is akin to the technology that Google, Facebook, some of the leading tech companies run which really allows us to spend cloud-based compute and run sort of like tens and hundreds of models. 

At a recent client, one of our data scientists was saying, in one day he tried probably like 80 different sort of models and reviewed their results, an exercise which would normally take a data scientist several weeks of work because even though you’ve open source library, the tedium of creating a model, looking at its results, managing it, managing all of the engineering is complex. So, what we’ve done is we’ve abstracted away all of the engineering to allow for the data scientist to really do their job of figuring out what is it that would work. 

The third is on documentation and dashboards. We’ve got products which provide a lot of the standard regulatory documentations sort of framework and a lot of automation around this so it doesn’t put a restriction on how many times you try and what you do when standard documentations are collated. 

And, finally, seamless deployment which has been like the Holy Grail of all these machine learning and ML ops. What we’ve built is a mechanism to seamlessly deploy models into production which allows the hope for the whole world to know known as the MLOps Cycle so they can be monitored live, they can be re-trained, they can be managed. 

So, those are four of the big things we’ve worked on with some of the technology people investments we have and our main theme has been productizing the entire theme so we’ve productized it to make it available to our customers.

Peter: Right. So, I want to dig a little bit on that third point, the regulatory piece, because it’s something I’ve always been curious about. How much of these AI models do you have to sort of throttle back or adapt because there needs to be, you know, you need to be in compliance with all of the FCRA and all things that need to be explainability, you have to explain a credit decision, what is the impact like? 

You talked about data sets from Google and Facebook where they are going to have very different regulatory requirements. In some ways, they don’t necessarily need to scale back or to change to explain things like you have to do in financial services so what is the impact of having sort of that type of regulatory framework on the models themselves?

Shri: Yeah. It’s a great question because it has implications for models that will ultimately be permitted to be put into production and the process by which you build it as well. If you look at an unconstrained world in which you didn’t have a regulatory framework, what you would do is you would take the most sophisticated framework you had and the best data you have and you will throw models and you will have like machines maybe explore that sort of state, right, so create and have a gradient booster tree.

The problem is you then run into specific growth constraints like there are certain attributes which you use have to be explainable, they have to be monotonous so you can strain around certain attributes, Further, the topic of bias and standards is also becoming an important one. So, if I exaggerate for effect that the traditional process of how a data scientist goes after this is he says, well, I’m going to apply these constraints, build the first model, see if it works and then see if I can play with a bunch of these things and apply the constraints again. And, it’s often a real tradeoff between like performance and sort of the regulatory framework and what we can manage. 

Now, what we’ve done with the product is actually we’ve allowed many of those constraints to be baked into how the data is curated as well as how the model itself is allowed to go and search for solutions. So, it makes the job of a data scientist a lot easier saying, okay, you’re allowed to use these attributes, these attributes can only be used in certain ways and then at last, the machine don’t say, go, explore this sort of straight space and that’s a really important step for a data scientist because, otherwise, it creates a lot of tedious work where you’re almost playing like this game of cat and mouse saying, hey, I’ve got better performance, but have I violated regulatory constraints. 

So, there is a tradeoff and I think in the space we’ll continue to see more of that sort of tradeoff as our regulations evolve to manage sort of ML and AI, but we also believe that the product and the tech can evolve to address this.

Peter: Right, right, makes sense. So then, obviously, we live in a competitive world and Experian has competitors as well. What are you doing that’s different, how are you differentiating yourself from others in the space?

Shri: I think, for us, we believe there is a very significant opportunity in the mid-market and democratizing many of these capabilities which have, historically, been limited to maybe sort of large banks or lending institutions where they can afford this infrastructure. So, we’re differentiating ourselves in three ways. 

First is we’re providing an end-to-end experience across data, analytics and decisioning. Experian has, as you know, some of the most valuable data sets on lending on the planet. We also have a decisioning business which is around providing workflow and software into customers to allow them to make sort of lending decisions, policy rules and we bring sort of analytics. So, one big differentiator we have is we have the ability to really provide, and if I might draw a retail analogy, we have the ability to provide the Shopify equivalent to the mid-market. 

But, we say, hey, like if you’re a lender and you focus on what you do, you know best which is actually figuring out the right lending niche, figuring out the customers and your targets. We can provide that sort of end-to-end analytics data instead of tech. That’s the key differentiator for us. 

I think the second differentiator for us is we’re making a specific move to increase access to some of these sort of tools and how we price and what we’re doing like really democratization. So, we’re leaning forward and growing our base. 

And the third differentiator we have is we’ve got a very, very significant penetration of data with a number of lending institutions. Overnight, like the vast majority of lending institutions in North America, in some form, utilize Experian sort of data and what we want to do is bring a set of accessible products or analytics and AI to all of them. Right now, our penetration rate on that is low single digits, we believe that’s a huge opportunity ahead of us if we successfully democratize is to bring it into the long tail of lenders.

Peter: Okay, interesting.  So then, you’re talking to your clients, what would be, looking at all the different things that AI can do, what is the most important thing that businesses should be using AI for today?

Shri: I think maybe the answer has two parts to that question. The first is like how should they be using AI and what should they be using it for. In terms of the biggest way to get impact, I think a company should be taking a more holistic view of AI to get impact. Historically, there’s been a lot of infatuation with one part of AI which is largely sort of AI performance, but when you look at generating impact from AI more holistically, we think there are four components. There is not just AI performance which is, hey, I’ve built a better model, but AI adoption, AI scalability and AI trust so really to get impact from AI, it isn’t sufficient just to have AI performance which is a data scientist saying, I’ve got sort of a very good proof of concept. You’ve got to think about can that be embedded in the workflow to allow clients or companies to make better decisions, is it on a sustainable and scalable platform and, ultimately is it trusted by customers. Now, that’s fundamentally what we think is the need for AI impact. I think for lenders, in my mind, I think the obvious and in some ways the biggest opportunity is our financial inclusion. 

If I look at my business story, when I was sort of growing up in India, I remember my mother was sort of an entrepreneur, like had a number of ideas and things where she could have used capital to invest, but she really didn’t have as much access to lending, but if I look at the core of it like the lending credibility or the likelihood of default for someone like her, what she would have done with that sort of capital, I believe it’s sort of enormous. 

And I believe that’s true with a number of segments of the population across North America where with the right lens, with the right sort of framework, I believe it can be a “win win” for lending and for the customer. So, I believe there is a lot of potential in using AI and analytics for financial inclusion.

Peter: Right, right, yeah, for sure. I want to ask about something that…..Dave Girouard, the CEO of Upstart, obviously a pioneer in the AI space in lending, he said that all lending will be done by AI in the future and it seems to me when I talk to lenders, it feels like the…..there’s very few lenders of any type that are just saying, we’re not interested in exploring this, it feels like that conversation has changed in the last couple of years, but I’d love to get your perspective. Will all lending be done by AI and what’s it going to take to get there?

Shri: I agree with Dave and I do think that future is almost inevitable. I think the biggest challenge which I believe we will sort of manage and overcome is trust. Under sort of trust there is explainability, there’s bias and fairness and really under regulatory framework. I think the narrow reason why you don’t have a bunch of folks having adopted sort of AI, you’ll hear this often, well, there’s regulation and there’s structure, but if I look at the spirit of it sort of more broadly, really the overarching theme is trust, right.

I think the regulators as well are….they’re sharp, reasonable people making sort of…creating regulatory frameworks and they’re actually…having talked to a number of regulators, they’re quite thoughtful about this. I think the broader question is around sort of trust and creating the right frameworks to ensure that lending with AI is fair, transparent and trusted above all, but I do believe we will get to that journey in the same way. At some point, I believe it’s also inevitable that majority of cars on the road are going to be driverless.

Peter: Right, right, yes, yes. We’re not quite there yet. I would argue that the AI for driving a car is much more complex than it is for deciding whether a consumer should get a loan or not, seems to me. 

Anyway, we’re almost out of time, but a couple of more questions. I want to talk about the trends that you’re seeing and predictions for the future, I mean, what are some of the trends that you’re seeing today in AI analytics that teams really should be on the lookout for.

Shri: I think one interesting trend which you’re hearing some of the experts in the space talk about is the shift to what Andrew Ang, one of the leading thinkers in the space, calls data-centric AI. At the core of it, the concepts are like very simple and if you look at historically the big giggle around AI is like, hey, can I create a neural network or a gradient boost and can I take the same data and can I like get better results and better outcomes. Now, the dialogue is slightly shifting into another very significant point of leverage which is data-centric AI which is actually saying, can I get and create the right sort of training data to really make sort of better decisions and that’s opening up an interesting question on like tapping into more of data sources, managing the data and can you really get sort of better performance. 

There’s a lot of work being done in the AI space on data-centric AI on how to prepare data, manage data, extract data from sources which previously were sort of dismissed. So, that’s sort of one big trend we’re seeing which I think has important implications for the space we’re in and financial institutions as well because, historically, the data that can be used in lending has been carefully demarcated. I think there’ll be more thought in the future on how to sort of expand that and what else we’re willing to allow to consider into that. So, I think that’s one big trend. 

I think the other big trend is almost sort of an obvious one which is move to the cloud, but, actually, I see it under a broader theme where AI is actually moving to much more of an engineering discipline and a technology discipline. Historically, data science and AI was a set of things that data scientists did and it didn’t quite have the systems, the process, the rigor which software engineering sort of had. But now, you’re actually starting to see all of that rigor come in and particularly with migration to the cloud, you’re having ten data scientists who could work on the same sort of model like these ensembles of models and structure. 

Those problems are starting to become real and unless you have an engineering discipline akin to software to be able to manage that, you get into a whole bunch of complex issues where data scientist one creates a model and data scientist two tries to go and look at that like he’s not quite sure what was built on and when you’re putting it into production, is it lost. So, the whole engineering discipline around data science and AI is also a big trend which we’re seeing.

Peter: That’s interesting, I hadn’t heard that, that makes complete sense to me. Okay, so then, last question, as you’re looking out let’s say five years from now, how will Experian be using AI and advanced analytics in say September of 2026?

Shri: We have started on a journey where we have a broader model and product-type stock to a small set of funds. What I would hope is that we have successfully like arranged the full scale on that democratization bit and we’ve got a very, very significant portion of our data clients where we’ve actually opened up access to analytics and AI and many of these sort of advanced techniques and models and sort of broader, hundreds if not thousands of funds, that’s what I would sort of hope. 

The second thing I would hope at Experian is that we are powering Experian with analytics and AI sort of much more like across the business in a very, very significant way. We’re starting to make sort of forays into that at Experian. Beyond our consumer business and our decision analytics business, we also have businesses in the health space, the BIS space and we’re starting to use AI and analytics in those spaces. So, I would hope that AI and analytics fundamentally becomes core to Experian sort of DNA and stocks to power like a number of our products and businesses across.

Peter: Okay. Well, we’ll have to leave to leave it there, Shri, it’s going to be fascinating to see it all unfold. I really appreciate you coming on the show today.

Shri: Thank you very much, Peter, thank you for having me.

Peter: Of course, okay, see you.

Alright, you know, I’m no data scientist, but I do talk to a lot of lenders and what strikes me is that I don’t know of any lender that has gone and tested an AI model and done it in a serious way and then say, you know what, it’s not as good, it’s not as good as what we were doing before, I think we’ll just go back to what we were doing before. That just doesn’t happen and it makes me realize that as Shri was saying there, it’s inevitable that we are going to have this movement, it’s going to continue. 

No, it doesn’t mean that everybody in even five or ten years time will be using AI models, but that’s the direction we’re heading. I don’t know whether it’s five years, ten years, 15 years, but soon there’ll be no one using these old traditional models as AI will be taking over. That’s my prediction, anyway.

On that note, I will sign off. I very much appreciate you listening and I’ll catch you next time. Bye.


Peter Renton is the chairman and co-founder of LendIt Fintech, the world’s first and largest digital media and events company focused on fintech.

LendIt Fintech conducts three conferences a year for the leading fintech markets of the USA, Europe, and Latin America. LendIt also provides cutting-edge content all year long via audio, video, and written channels.

Peter has been writing about fintech since 2010 and he is the author and creator of the Fintech One-on-One Podcast, the first and longest-running fintech interview series.

Peter has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The New York Times, CNBC, CNN, Fortune, NPR, Fox Business News, the Financial Times, and dozens of other publications.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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‘Good ideas, good work and good luck’: Australian grassroots campaigners on how they got it done



‘Good ideas, good work and good luck’: Australian grassroots campaigners on how they got it done

From town hall meetings to QR codes and crowdfunding, three environmental campaigners share the practical tips that helped make their work effective

Edwina Robinsons wears a black top and jeans in front of tall, thick green plants

Last modified on Fri 24 Sep 2021 16.34 EDT

If you’ve ever signed a petition, written a cranky letter to your local MP or joined a protest there’s a good chance you’ve been part of an grassroots campaign, but what does it take to actually start one? How do you bring people together to solve a common problem and how do you increase your chances of success?

We asked some of the people behind three successful campaigns for the practical advice they learned along the way.

The small-town organiser

In 2009 the small New South Wales town of Bundanoon was streets ahead of today’s single-use plastic bans when it became the world’s first municipality to refuse to sell bottled water.

Huw Kingston, who worked with his neighbours in the town of Bundanoon to ban plastic bottles in 2009.

Local residents overwhelmingly supported the ban at a town meeting, voting 354 to one, cementing their long-term opposition to a multinational company’s bid to extract 50m litres of water a year from a nearby bore.

The “Bundy on Tap” campaign became international news, which local businessman Huw Kingston puts down to “a combination of good ideas, good work and good luck”.

At the time, Kingston ran the town’s bike shop and cafe. He floated the idea of a ban in a letter to the local paper, suggesting it was hypocritical to oppose water mining while selling bottled water. The idea caught on and a committee was formed to investigate.

Kingston says education about the environmental impact of bottled water was the key to getting everyone on side, including businesses and local event organisers, although they faced stiff opposition.

He says arguing respectfully with the industry helped their cause: “It was good to do a lot of debates on talkback radio and help them dig themselves in a bigger and bigger hole.”

What begin as a fairly simple plan took off once the world noticed: “We wanted to make a point that we didn’t want the water extraction plant. We would get rid of the product, put a few signs up in town and get a bit of extra notoriety.”

However, the international media attention meant that companies wanting to be on the winning side supplied Bundanoon with free reusable water bottles and public water fountains.

Schoolchildren queue to drink from a new public drinking fountain on the first day of a bottled water ban in the Southern Highlands community of Bundanoon on September 26, 2009. The 2,000-person town pulled all bottled water from its shelves and replaced them with refillable bottles in what is believed to be a world-first ban. AFP PHOTO/Penny SPANKIE (Photo credit should read Penny SPANKIE/AFP/Getty Images)

Kingston wouldn’t advise others to attempt a complete ban: “We were able to do it in a small town with 15 or so businesses, but you couldn’t do it elsewhere without legislation. The main game is bringing back the water fountain.”

“We wanted to give people a choice. They can go into a shop and waste their money on a plastic bottle of water, or they can go on to the street and fill up from a fountain or fill up at a cafe.”

The social strategist

Australian Capital Territory landscape architect Edwina Robinson’s campaign to establish “a climate-cooling microforest in every urban hotspot in Australia” was sparked in 2019, during Australia’s hottest, driest summer on record: “I wanted to do something about it, so I came up with the idea of creating microforests, which are dense pockets of climate-ready native vegetation that cool the landscape, provide habitat, enhance community wellbeing and give hope for the future.”

Robinson’s idea became reality when she participated in a social enterprise incubator program and launched a StartSomeGood crowdfunding campaign. She began emailing her network of friends and environmental design colleagues and posting on her Facebook page and LinkedIn – in 30 days she had raised $23,000 to establish the ACT’s first microforest in a “dusty, weedy” public park in Downer.

Liz, Purdie and their kids in the Downer Microforest

Robinson worked through the paperwork from four government departments to get permission and motivated hundreds of volunteers to join four community working bees to build 450 sq metres of garden beds.

A carer group and planting volunteers were sourced from a mailing list compiled during community consultations, as well as through local publicity: “We advertised in the local newsletter and I put events on Eventbrite and linked people through to my social media.”

The first microforest quickly inspired two others. Purdie Bowden and Elizabeth Adcock from the neighbouring suburb of Watson contacted Robinson, wanting to do the same thing. Robinson made introductions, creating a new microforest powerhouse. The trio quickly set up a dedicated website and Facebook page and launched their own crowdfunding campaign. They raised $53,000 in 40 days with the help of an extensive social network, including school families, and QR code on the website that linked to the fundraiser.

Robinson said she met regularly with the Watson team to share tips and resources then, once the Downer microforest was established, she documented the whole project to share with them and any other interested groups.

“We say to people, they don’t have to be experts because we team you up with the experts, no matter where you live. We’re inviting people to do something great in their community and I think people really like that.”

The persistent letter-writer

A large bunch of balloons released 300km away is the last thing you expect to find on a beach walk. But when Karen Joynes, a community environmental activist from the south coast of New South Wales, found 14 deflating balloons branded with logos from Albury city council and a soccer team, it only took her a few phone calls to find out they had drifted from the border town overnight: “I called council and they confirmed that a bunch of balloons had been released at the game the day before. I followed up with the Bureau of Meteorology and they confirmed that it was possible.”

The 2014 discovery prompted Joynes to start tallying the numbers of balloons washing up on her local, remote beach. She says balloons are one of the most deadly forms of litter for seabirds and marine life, even when advertised as “biodegradable”.

Joynes described these risks to sea life to a local shopkeeper who started selling helium balloons in 2016. She begged the retailer to ask her customers not to release the balloons. When that request was refused, Joynes decided she would have to do something herself. She connected with two other women, Victorian Amy Motherwell and Western Australian Lisa Hills, to found No Balloon Release Australia and launch a petition asking the federal government to ban helium balloon releases, and the use of helium to inflate balloons.

Joynes writes to every new state, territory or federal environmental minister about the environmental dangers of balloon releases, and pens new letters every time there’s “a mass balloon release or some new research comes out, saying, ‘Here’s another example of why we need to take action’.” She also writes to public servants: “It’s really useful to contact those people because a lot of them are involved in policy and can tell me this issue is coming up repeatedly, and they can make recommendations to the minister.”

She says existing state litter laws are rarely enforced for balloon releases: “A lot of the time the releases are in memory of someone who’s died tragically, so it’s really hard to fine people in that situation.”

After five years of campaigning, in July 2021 Joyce celebrated Victoria becoming the first Australian state to outlaw balloon release: “We’re hoping it’s a tipping point, that other states will see that it can be done and it’s been well received.”

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A Day in the Life of Emily Kenison, Inventor of RobeCurls



Running your own business is no easy feat. It takes a healthy dose of passion, discipline, and commitment. Ever wondered what a day in the life of a small business owner and founder is like? We’re here to give you a glimpse!

Today we’re sitting down with Emily Kenison, Inventor and Co-Founder of RobeCurls. Emily created RobeCurls to create the perfect heatless curls. Inspired by the TikTok trend and perfected for easier use, RobeCurls is a fashionable curling headband that you can wear to work, exercise, or sleep, and then let your hair down to reveal the curls of your dreams. Here’s what we found out about Kenison’s daily routine, followed by an exclusive Q+A.

8 A.M. I wake up excited for breakfast. While I can’t cook (like I cannot boil an egg, that’s how much I can’t cook), I have figured out how to blend up a dense and delicious acai bowl. That’s step one to my morning, followed by a 30 minute walk outside with coffee in hand and my NPR news podcast in my ears. Then I get dressed, curl my hair (a/k/a take off my Curling Headband), and get going.

9 A.M. For the first hour of the workday, I jump into my emails and any other messages we’ve received, either in our social inboxes or otherwise. I try to maintain inbox zero, so anything that is going to require a time-consuming reply is added into my to-do list. I also personally handle all of our customer support emails, and reply to them during this time. I greatly appreciate any customer who has taken a chance on us and put their hard earned dollars towards our product. So this is something I love to do — so much so that sometimes I’ll even film a video message reply. Plus, I think it is super beneficial for founders to communicate directly with their customers, especially at the early stages of the company. You learn invaluable information from them that will flow through every area of your business. 

10 A.M. Every night I plan out one large task, three medium tasks, and three to five smaller tasks to be completed the next day. After reviewing communications, I’ll adjust or add to my day’s agenda accordingly. Then I jump on Zoom to touch base with the team and confirm our action items for the day. 

11 A.M. After that point, my day varies widely. No two days are the same. Some days I’m heading off site to do photoshoots with our creative team, other days I’m working on production samples in our studio. Aside from our internal team meetings, I try to calendar all meetings in one day if possible. If it is a meeting day, then you can assume back-to-back calls after I wrap up communications.

1 P.M. I like to stop and have lunch with whoever I’m working with that day, usually someplace local. 

2 P.M. I return to whichever project I’m working on that day. Right now I’m working with the creative team on our website, so I’m reviewing the current layout, creating and/or revising copy, and confirming the imagery in place. 

3 P.M.  I handle sales development and press communications. At some point during the day, I’ll address any important follow-up steps related to those projects. I work closely with our creative team to gather the assets needed and our production team on shipping samples, as requested.

4 P.M. I have a lot of tips and tricks to share on how to get the best curls of your life using our Curling Headband. So every day, I try to carve out an hour a day to create video content to share on social media. We recently put together a pretty solid videography and product photography studio, which has been really helpful for making content. I often also use this time to jump on Zoom and do personal one-on-one curling tutorials with our customers. This is one of my favorite things to do as a founder/inventor. I love getting to meet our community directly, and hear directly from them how they use our Curling Headband. (It’s also nice to hear how much they love it!)  

5 P.M. I work on presentations, reply to emails, pay suppliers, and catch up on anything outstanding from the day. 

6 P.M. I update the team on the status of the day’s projects. If anything took longer for me to complete than I originally anticipated, I like to make a note so I can better account for my timing in the future. I’ll also update the team on any new developments that popped up (there’s always something), and review the numbers. 

7 P.M. Lastly, I’ll create my to-do list for tomorrow, including how long I think it will take to complete each task. I’ll then go into my calendar and reserve blocks of time accordingly so I know exactly when I’ll be doing what. I find having an understanding of how long I should be working on a project is helpful. For many projects, especially as a founder, you feel like you can always do better, or spend more time on something. It can be hard to know when to stop. Pre-outlining a finite amount of time in which I have to complete a task makes sure I am using my time efficiently, and allows me to stay on track with our company’s goals.

8 P.M.  I order in some dinner, watch the news, and make calls to my friends and family to catch-up. 

9 P.M. I like to take short 15 minute walks throughout the day as I find they clear my mind, and give me a clearer, fresh perspective on the day’s projects.  At the end of the day, I like to do a longer 30 minute walk, usually with a friend in tow — and ideally a friend with a puppy.  

10 P.M. Wash up, brush up, put in my Curling Headband, and get ready for bed.  I’m a big believer in the idea that you can learn anything yourself and I have a large collection of books. I’ll usually spend a little time each day reading (or re-reading) a book on a topic that directly relates to a project I’m working on, like copywriting or advertising. Other times, it’ll be a book on a more general topic always in play, like management, public speaking, accounting, or productivity. 

11 P.M. These days, I’ll end the night with an episode of Criminal Minds. Nothing to do with work, not super scary. Plus, I love how the star FBI team is a family, a dynamic important to our own company’s culture. Then lights out. 

Now that you’ve gotten a glimpse of what their days are like, get more inspiration in our exclusive Q&A with her below!

INDIEGOGO: How and why did you become an entrepreneur? Was it something you always intended for yourself? 

EMILY: I never intended on becoming an entrepreneur, nor an inventor. In fact, I worked as a lawyer before this. I had gone to law school and did not think I would change professions. 

I was born and raised in New York City as a first-generation American from Turkey with a passion for helping others. At 18 years old, I started an eBay store where I resold high fashion items while majoring in economics at Columbia University. This was the start of my entrepreneurship endeavor, which helped support my way through college. During my time at New York University School of Law, I started to realize my interest in fashion was something I could continue to pursue. 

Upon graduating, I started my career as a lawyer. During my first week on the job, I slipped out of my pump. This resulted in me stumbling in front of all of my co-workers. It was pretty embarrassing. I wished I had bought heels with a strap instead. This was when it came to me. Why not just make detachable straps to go over your pumps to keep your foot in the shoe? This was the inspiration for my first invention and brand, Straplets. A year after launching Straplets, I left my job to follow my passions full-time. This allowed me to have focus and further develop my business acumen and also my latest invention, the Curling Headband, which we recently launched with my second brand, RobeCurls. The Curling Headband is the world’s first heatless curling headband inspired by a viral TikTok hack dubbed #robecurls. 

I create ideas for progress by using my background in law to identify and secure patents, an anomaly in the fashion industry that gives my creations a unique edge. These products solve everyday frustrations for everyday people. To me, creating and launching these innovations and seeing the help it brings to others feels like my calling. And I hope that my journey inspires others to know that they, too, can create innovative change to better the lives of others. 

INDIEGOGO: What makes your Indiegogo project unique? 

EMILY: The amount of testing that went into the product we launched on Indiegogo is unbelievable. From a product development side, we wanted to make sure that our heatless satin Curling Headband addressed all the frustrations users have with curling irons and other heatless tools. And with our Curling Headband we did just that — we made a product that gives you easier, healthier, flawless curls. We cut the average time spent curling one’s hair from 40 minutes to 90 seconds; we transformed curling tools into a wearable solution that is comfortable and stylish to wear and curl day or night (even at the gym!); and we developed a way to curl your hair that actually promotes hair health and reduces the damage that curling irons and hot tools cause. It promotes hair health, adding shine and moisture to your locks through use. 

Before launching the Curling Headband you see today on Indiegogo, we tested our product in the market for a year, making several substantial design improvements during this time. This means thousands of users have tried earlier iterations of the product, which has over four stars on Amazon from over one hundred reviews. For the new and improved Curling Headband currently on Indiegogo, we had over 500 women test and try the product and share with us their results. We made sure it created heatless curls and waves on short hair, long hair, super straight hair that never curls, and even wavy and curly hair, on which it is used to help define the curls. 

We also have tested, and continue to test, pretty much all heatless curling tools that come to market. To date, this tallies up to nearly 100 products tested. In good conscience, I could not launch a product that I did not know is the best in our category. For those looking for an easier, more natural, and healthier way to curl their hair, we are confident the RobeCurls Curling Headband is the best solution out there and that you will love it.

INDIEGOGO: What’s your biggest piece of advice for women who want to start their own business?

EMILY: It took me nearly four years to launch my first invention, Straplets. I waited until everything was perfect before launching, which I do not recommend. For my RobeCurls Curling Headband, I went from idea to market with only two months and $500, launching our first prototype on Amazon, which sold out a couple days later. I would definitely advise starting small, launching fast, and staying lean. Get the product out there, and start testing and iterating. Use real feedback from real customers to improve and get to actually know them and what they want. 

For the first year after we launched our RobeCurls initial prototype on Amazon we focused on confirming demand, testing product-market fit, iterating the product design based on feedback and scaling production capabilities (which started with our product being handsewn by a local fashion student, to now being created overseas at a factory selected for their mass retail production capabilities). For Straplets we did all those steps pre-launch, but I’ve learned there’s no need to wait. Just launch it, and fix the details in real time.  Your customers always know best, so it’ll make completing those steps easier, more accurate, and plus, you’ll get them done faster.

INDIEGOGO: What tools (gadgets, apps, books, podcasts) would you recommend to anyone starting their own business, crowdfunding campaign, or project? 

EMILY: My iPhone 12 Pro is a life-saver. I use it for email, social media, research, filming, podcasts, music, zoom calls and keeping in touch with everyone. Slack, Notion, Quickbooks and Google Drive are tools that make running your own business and sharing information a lot more efficient. I’m also an extra huge fan of AspireIQ for sourcing and managing relationships with content creators and your community. And if you are looking for expert hair styling tutorials, I highly recommend subscribing to Alex Gaboury’s Youtube channel. For books, I would recommend Let My People Go Surfing by Patagonia founder Yvonne Chouinard, The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman, and  Spark! How Genius Ignites, from Child Prodigies to Late Bloomers by Claudia Kalb, which is on my nightstand right now. For any young founder, I would recommend Project Startup #1 (Eat Bugs!) which is based on our RobeCurl’s teammate Laura D’Asaro’s adventure bringing her first company, Chirps, to life! 

INDIEGOGO: What’s your favorite Indiegogo campaign, or a campaign you’ve recently supported?

EMILY: Well, since our Indiegogo campaign is live right now it has to be ours! The original heatless Curling Headband by RobeCurls – the first and only headband that creates flawless, healthy curls and waves. It is a game-changer! Spend less time doing your hair, more time doing what you love.

Want to support Emily’s campaign? Check out RobeCurls on Indiegogo.

You can also explore RobeCurls on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, and on the RobeCurls website. You can also follow Emily’s journey on her personal website.

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