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Six favorite Techstars startups ahead of its next rush of demo days

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With TechCrunch Disrupt happening last month, I fell behind on watching accelerator demo days. It’s time to correct that oversight.

In August and September, the Techstars network of startup accelerators held demo days for various classes of startups, grouped by either geographic location or focus. Kansas City, for example, or space.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


With October upon us, there’s another crop of Techstars demo days around the corner. To prevent falling further behind, let’s take a look at a few startups from Techstars’ September cohorts (and two from August) this morning to get primed for what the accelerator collective and venture fund will get up to next.

To find six favorites to share today, I dug through startups from Techstars’ Kansas City accelerator (full class here), its SportsTech Melbourne accelerator (full class here), its Toronto cohort (full class here), and its Tel Aviv location (full class here). You can find TechCrunch coverage of Techstars’ two space accelerators here, and their full classes here and here.

Before we jump in, this month Techstars has cohorts graduating from another five accelerators, including groups from LA, NYC, Atlanta and more. So, there will be no shortage of startups to look at in short order. With that, let’s get into some favorites from the the past groups.

Favorites and standouts

We’ll start with the Kansas City accelerator. Kansas City, where my parents are from, incidentally, is a locale best known for its culinary magic and musical history, not to mention a famous sports team or two. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Techstars also had a foothold in the city.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/10/05/five-favorite-techstars-startups-ahead-of-its-next-rush-of-demo-days/

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ālea iacta est… PayPal crosses over to Bitcoin

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When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he uttered the famous phrase ālea iacta est (“the die has been cast”). On the October 21st, we had one of those moments and passed the point of no return. PayPal, one of the biggest payment companies in the world, with a market cap of $240 billion, 346 million users and 26 million merchants will soon allow its customers in the  US to buy, sell and HODL Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litecoin. In a press release the company announced that its new cryptocurrency service will be available in the US. in the coming weeks and by early 2021 customers will be able to use crypto to shop with its network of 26 million retailers. PayPal is offering this service to its US customers, then plans to add more geographies and features over time. PayPal also plans to expand the service to Venmo, its peer-to-peer payment app popular with younger consumers, by the first half of next year. While the announcement is cause for excitement, there is one big problem with the new service. PayPal users won’t be able transfer their cryptocurrency into or out of PayPal, nor will users have control of the private keys. PayPal is not alone here, Robinhood, Revolut and eToro are all in the same boat when it comes to crypto ownership. While there are many places to buy crypto which and keep ownership of the coins, there is no question that the announcement of PayPal’s crypto service is huge piece of news and has the potential to bring millions and millions of new users to crypto world and propel Bitcoin’s usage beyond speculation.

Ilias Louis Hatzis is the founder and CEO at Kryptonio, a bitcoin and cryptocurrency “keyless” wallet, that lets users manage bitcoin and crypto, without private keys or passwords.

PayPal’s foray into crypto, is a strong bullish sign for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. For the last 20 years, PayPal has built an enormous user base and has helped millions of individuals and businesses send and receive money. The 350 million people that already use PayPal, trust it with their money. With its recent move, PayPal adds adds a level of credibility and trust to Bitcoin and crypto.

Bitcoin’s price
As you can imagine, Bitcoin’s price went up more than $1,000 on Wednesday after PayPal’s announcement, shooting up to $12,800, far above the previous high in July 2019. Since the announcement, CoinMarketCap.com shows that Bitcoin went all the way past $13k.

Other services
Other fintech companies, such as mobile payments provider Square, stock trading app Robinhood, neobank Revolut, and social trading brokerage eToro already allow users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. All have had a huge boost in user growth and revenue because of their crypto offerings.

PayPal’s and crypto offering is similar to what its rivals are providing. For now Square is the only one that allows Bitcoin withdrawals, while RobinHood and Revolut are still not there. All of them have made millions in revenue though their cryptocurrency services, which is probably one of the motivations behind PayPal’s decision.

In the second quarter of this year, Square reported a huge increase in bitcoin revenue, generating $875 million, a 600% increase from the year before. For Revolut, cryptocurrencies was the most viral product it has launched to-date. The impact of cryptocurrencies was enormous, resulting in a huge growth in user acquisition and paving the way for a $500 million round in February, valuing the company at $5.5 billion.

Merchant angle
In the second quarter of this year, PayPal processed $222 billion in payments and the big question for PayPal’s crypto service will be if users will use it to pay merchants for goods and services.

Cryptocurrencies’ volatility poses risks for merchants and shoppers. Also, transactions are slower and more costly than other mainstream payment systems.

With its new service, PayPal will try to address these issues. PayPal will manage the risk of price fluctuations and merchants will receive payments in fiat. When customers choose to pay via one of the four cryptocurrencies, the PayPal merchant will still receive the respective fiat amount, just like always. The merchant won’t even know in which cryptocurrency the customer used to pay. There will be no additional fees charged to the merchant for accepting and receiving cryptocurrency.

In effect, cryptocurrency simply becomes another funding source inside the PayPal digital wallet, adding enhanced utility to cryptocurrency holders, while addressing volatility, cost and the speed of cryptocurrency transactions. PayPal becomes a “second layer” that uses Bitcoin, but does not use blockchain. Most likely PayPal will hold a supply of digital assets and when user pay an online merchant, the transaction will not take place on the blockchain, but only in PayPal’s database.

Importance of PayPal’s decision

In the past, PayPal was not supportive of cryptocurrencies, actually it was anti-crypto. In 2018, Bill Harris, its previous CEO, called Bitcoin “the greatest scam ever”.

A lot has happened since. Bitcoin started a bull market cycle again, even exceeding $13,000 in June 2019. The launch of the Facebook Libra in that same month also changed a lot of things. PayPal was one of the founding members of the Libra association, before leaving the project under pressure from US. authorities. Now it has found itself changing its narrative and going in the other direction.

This is undoubtedly a turning point for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. PayPal decision to enter the crypto market is noteworthy, because of its size. For the first time, a company of this size allows its users to hold and use cryptocurrencies through its application. There’s no comparison in the potential exposure for bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, between PayPal’s offering and that of any other company in the past. This is probably the biggest step in the spread of digital assets, since the birth of Bitcoin. Not only will PayPal bring 346 million users, but also 26 million merchants who will now have the ability to offer Bitcoin as a payment method. Even if 1% of its users decided to purchase cryptocurrencies, that would mean another 3 million new users. PayPal has the potential to scale cryptocurrencies to hundreds of millions in transactions everyday.

Overall this news is important, verifies that Bitcoin is here to stay, will help build more awareness and trust with the general public, but there is also some risks here.

When I first heard of bitcoin, my first thought was “I already have a PayPal account to buy things online, why do I need bitcoin”? At the time, I failed to understand that bitcoin was a currency, not just a transfer protocol. I failed to understand you can store bitcoin long term.

Now, the same will happen with all the new Bitcoin users that PayPal brings to the market. Yes, they will buy and sell cryptocurrencies and we’ll see more transactions, but they will lack the knowledge of that they can really do with cryptocurrencies. Keeping them locked in to their platform, PayPal will give them a false perception of how Bitcoin works.

Some, will research and realize that there are other alternatives, and that you actually can own your bitcoin. But, the majority will remain content with PayPal’s offering, due to their inherent trust in the platform and that PayPal must know what’s best for them.

The race for Bitcoin has started, corporations are investing huge sums in Bitcoin we are seeing major companies changing their stance, from sworn enemies to frenemies. PayPal’s announcement will drive millions of people to the world of cryptocurrencies, will help make cryptocurrencies mainstream, publicly accepted and widely adopted.

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Source: https://dailyfintech.com/2020/10/26/alea-iacta-est-paypal-crosses-over-to-bitcoin/

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This Week in Fintech ending 23 October 2020

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This week our experts brought you the following insights based on their experience as investors, entrepreneurs & executives.

To continue receiving This Week in Fintech, you can either become a paying Member for $143 per year (and receive all our content in addition to this weekly summary) by clicking here.  If you just want to receive This Week in Fintech for free, you will need to fill in this form

Your Editor is Bernard Lunn. He is also the CEO of Daily Fintech and author of The Blockchain Economy and occasional opinion columnist.

Monday Ilias Hatzis our Greece-based crypto entrepreneur (Founder & CEO at Mercato Blockchain Corporation AG and Weekly Columnist at Daily Fintech) @iliashatzis wrote Crypto is already way too big to ignore

Yesterday, I came across a tweet by Marc Bernegger about WEF’s first council entirely focused on cryptocurrencies. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has created the Global Future Council on Cryptocurrencies. The job of the council will be to evaluate challenges and opportunities, bring together different stakeholders and members of the global ecosystem to improve governance and spearhead initiatives that approach money in new ways. This is the third initiative by the World Economic Forum, related to cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Earlier this year, in January, the WEF launched the Global Consortium for Crypto Governance and in 2019 it launched the Global Blockchain Council. These initiatives by the WEF are of great importance and will change cryptocurrencies forever. They will influence the interest and growth of digital assets and blockchain technology among some of the most elite institutions, governments and world leaders and create global standards that countries around the world can follow. WEF’s crypto initiatives are just another indicator that confirm cryptocurrencies have reached a level of maturity that no one can ignore anymore.

Editor note: With 3 cryptocurrencies competing – CBDC & Libra & Bitcoin – the future for this asset class looks good.

——————————————-

Tuesday Efi Pylarinou @efipm our Swiss-based Fintech Adviser,  founder of Efi Pylarinou Advisory and a Fintech/Blockchain influencer – No.3 influencer in the finance sector by Refinitiv Global Social Media 2019 wrote Bloomberg and Excel resilience

Soon it will be thirty years since I started working on Wall Street – 7 WTC, 37th floor, Salomon Brothers, Fixed income derivatives department.

Scary but true. Bloomberg terminals and excel spreadsheets were then the basics. The Salomon Brothers culture and entity has been completely absorbed and has disappeared. I have become a thought leader and influencer in Fintech. Bloomberg and Excel have yet to be disrupted.

Bloomberg is strictly a wholesale finance tool, business. Excel is a tool for both retail and businesses.

We all know that Bloomberg could be replicated with one tenth of the cost (figure referenced by Marc Rubinstein) but it has not happened. Every accelerator and VC, will advise against spending resources to put together the next generation of Bloomberg. It remains private, the anti-thesis of open source, and with no sign of `pay as you go` pricing. Surveys show that most users in the investment, financial world, use a very small part of the $20+k services. And yet, there is no pressure to move to `pay as you go`.

The strong social network (a kind of a boys club) remains intact.

Editor note: Premature epitaphs for Bloomberg & Excel (& Bitcoin) have been embarrassing. I was sure that open data networks would put Bloomberg into the dustbin of history – that was 30 years ago!

Wednesday Alan Scott Managing Director EMEA at 24 Exchange @Alan_SmartMoney wrote Stablecoin News for the week ending Wednesday 21 October 2020.

This weekly snapshot is the news that matters in the Stablecoin market.

Bernard Lunn, CEO of Daily Fintech and author of The Blockchain Economy wrote: Fintech4us. How “empowered muppets” could get free financial content without becoming the product sold to the sell side.

Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing between casinos and brokers. Casinos always make money from punters and brokers always win whether traders make or lose money. Both can be a fun way to usually lose money, because the occasional dopamine hit from winning makes you forget the losses.

Rich traders use expensive services such as Bloomberg that Efi profiled on Tuesday. They are the customer not the product.

Poor traders use free services that monetize by selling eyeballs to brokers; they are the product not the customer. These are the traders famously derided by somebody at Goldman Sachs as  “muppets”. This problem is evident in all markets, but worst in Finance/Fintech. Look at the biggest payouts for various forms of advertising and you will often find some variant of brokerage or casino. In anecdotal evidence, Daily Fintech get lots of enquiries “about the possibility of publishing a sponsored article” from advertisers who are in the brokerage or casino industries. Hint to all who reach out – the answer is no.

Editor note: We are reaching out to people who can help build a more inclusive financial system that will reduce inequality.

——————————————-

Thursday

Rintu Patnaik, an Insurtech expert based in India, wrote: Innovation Cuts Basis Risk, Spurs Inclusion Of Uninsureds

In the past week, several promising insurtech ventures competed for top honors, based on impact they were making on the insurance landscape. As part of the proceedings, leaders were awarded in categories such as underwriting platforms, usage of artificial intelligence and few other focus areas.

The award in the underwriting platform category was given to a parametric solution designed to meet SME insurance needs during the hurricane season. This category had stiff competition, including another parametric product that is targeted to insure agri constituencies against commodity price volatility. In the AI category, the winner was a health insurtech that has employed innovative techniques to reduce health expenditures by ensuring fit of procedure to the symptomatic condition of patients.

Parametric risk transfer mechanisms are a common feature of insurance and RI, as well as a trigger applied in the ILS sector. Most often used by large corporations, sovereign risk transfer sponsors and risk pools around the world, as well as in micro and RI for micro-programs, as an alternative and more responsive form of risk transfer to traditional, indemnity-based solutions. Benefiting from fast and efficient proof of loss which requires no inputs from loss-adjusters, with payout being tied to pre-determined parameters, it offers rapid payout post-event and after the occurrence of natural catastrophes, can be extremely valuable.

Editor note: If you care about the efficiency of the Insurance business, this post is for you.

Christian Dreyer @x3er, our Swiss based CFA who focusses on how XBRL changes our world wrote XBRL News: Blockchain, specifications and ESEF

Editor note: This weekly snapshot is the news that matters in the XBRL market.

——————————————-

Friday Howard Tolman, a well-known banker, technologist and entrepreneur in London, wrote: Alt Finance for week ended 23 October 2020

Editor note: This weekly snapshot is the news that matters in the Alt Lending market.

——————————————-

To continue receiving ‘This Week in Fintech’, the weekly recap of our articles, you will need to fill this form to give us consent to send this to you. Please note that Daily Fintech requires your organizational email address (e.g. corporate, educational or government) and your LinkedIn URL. This information is required for subscribers who want ‘This Week in Fintech’ for free. If you prefer to not provide this information, you can still receive all our content by becoming a paying member.

Source: https://dailyfintech.com/2020/10/23/this-week-in-fintech-ending-23-october-2020/

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Alt lending Week Ended 23rd October 2020

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A mixed Bag of loan loss provision in European Banks

The overall picture is blighted by the lack of clarity in exactly how banks carry out this important activity. Worth a mention because it is very easy to assume that such a major item as loan loss provisioning is largely carried out on an Ad Hoc basis throughout practically every bank in Europe. Add to this the subjective nature of provisioning in the first place and you may well wonder why it is even worthwhile doing any kind of analysis on major banks results. The principal question to ask is of course exactly how objective are each banks processes. As far as I am aware there is no standard way to assess provisions which is somewhat surprising given the importance of the content. In the alt fi world the subject is just as relevant but just as opaque.

Property Market’s early warning signs are flashing red.

This is useful article which points out some of the things which lenders should be looking for when financing property assets in the UK. In general this is aimed at the residential  property market which, since lockdown was eased in July, has shown signs of considerable resilience. In fact residential property prices have soared and according to major property lenders Halifax and Nationwide have shown a rise of between 5% and 7.3% over the past year and mortgage approvals hit a 13 year high in August. This is however not the whole story as a number of other factors need to be taken into consideration and digital lenders will need to tweak their assumptions accordingly as these  assets are often the security for Small Business Loans. Presumably the same situation exists all over Western European economies in one form or another. The major UK lenders seem to be affected by groupthink and are insisting on punitive levels of equity on any house purchase TSB is insisting on a minimum of 40% and other banks are withdrawing from certain parts of the market such as flats and new builds. There is almost nobody lending over 85% of valuation and this is prohibiting first time buyers which cascades upwards as more expensive properties are not selling. On top of this on line estate agencies are recording property sales which have not yet occurred and a lot of sales are falling through. This will ultimately have a negative affect on asset prices. Time to tread carefully.

UK Infrastructure obscure priorities

There has been a lot of chat lately about infrastructure and how the construction of new schemes would be one way of raising the levels of activity in the UK. I therefore decided to have a look at the UK governments web site on infrastructure projects. It seems likely to me that the objectives being set by the government are a lot to do with diversity and inclusiveness but not a whole lot to do with getting the job done or how to do this in the most efficient way possible. It makes my blood boil when I think about how useless we are in the UK at anything approaching a successful project. HS2 is billions over budget and way behind schedule fails to solve all the problems and cannot even produce a coherent justification for the spend. The same goes for crossrail which is billions over budget and so far two years late with no end date set. It seems that political correctness is however a very high priority? God help us.

Howard Tolman is a well-known banker, technologist and entrepreneur in London,

We have a self imposed constraint of 3 news stories per week because we serve busy senior Fintech leaders who just want succinct and important information.

For context on Alt Lending please read the Interview with Howard Tolman about the future of Alt Lending and read articles tagged Alt Lending in our archives.

Daily Fintech’s original insight is made available to you for US$143 a year (which equates to $2.75 per week). $2.75 buys you a coffee (maybe), or the cost of a week’s subscription to the global Fintech blog – caffeine for the mind that could be worth $ millions.

Source: https://dailyfintech.com/2020/10/23/alt-lending-week-ended-23rd-october-2020/

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