China is quickly gaining on the rest of the world in innovation, these are unsaid conclusions of the Overview of the State of the U.S. S&E Enterprise in a Global Context a report released by The National Science Foundation (NSF), a US federal agency overseeing research.
A select group of financial services technology (fintech) companies demonstrated their products and services to dozens of top banking, venture capital and technology executives today at Accenture’s (NYSE:ACN) fourth annual FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific Investor Day at Cyberport in Hong Kong.
Launched by Accenture in June 2014, the FinTech Innovation Lab is a 12-week mentoring program to enhance fintech innovation and drive high-tech job growth in Asia-Pacific by connecting startups with decision makers at some of the world’s leading financial institutions.
Cindy Chow, executive director of the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, a not-for-profit initiative launched in 2015 with a mandate to “inspire a community of entrepreneurial achievers,” spoke at the event about startups’ role in ensuring that Hong Kong remains a competitive business hub in the region.
“The FinTech Innovation Lab aligns with our efforts to support talented entrepreneurs in their pursuit of innovation and the advancement of technology,” Chow said. “Excellence begets excellence. Innovation spurs more innovation. Put a bunch of startups together and you can spark a fire of excitement for developing new solutions, tackling previously unanswerable challenges and seeking to make the world a better place. These are lofty goals worth pursuing.”
Piyush Singh, a managing director at Accenture and head of the company’s Financial Services practice in Asia-Pacific, said, “The financial institutions in Hong Kong are supportive of working with fintech startups to help address new challenges ranging from how best to adopt blockchain technology to how to fend off cybercrime, We’re also seeing increased interest from the investor community in the companies we select for the program.”
The 10 companies in this year’s Lab, selected by senior technology executives from participating financial institutions, spent the past 12 weeks receiving intensive mentoring, product- and business-development advice and exposure to senior executives in the financial, technology and venture capital industries. The principal financial institutions that supported the Lab include: Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, J.P. Morgan, Macquarie Group, Morgan Stanley, Nomura, Societe Generale and Sun Life Financial. In addition, other participating financial institutions and investment firms include: China CITIC Bank International, China Construction Bank (Asia), Manulife, Maybank, Point72 Ventures, Siam Commercial Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG).
“Fintech is one of the key technology clusters of Cyberport; indeed, we now have a critical mass of more than 200 fintech companies and start-ups in our community, and we are impressed by the fast development of fintech in the region,” said Herman Lam, Cyberport’s CEO. “This is our fourth year collaborating with Accenture on the FinTech Innovation Lab, and I am very pleased about our long and trusted partnership to nurture talent and entrepreneurs and spearhead the growth of fintech innovation in the region.”
The startups have developed a range of innovations – from wealth management solutions that are precisely oriented to customers’ investment intents, know-your-customer (KYC) services that leverage blockchain technology, and a fraud-prevention program using algorithms based in Chinese characters to help financial institutions flag risk. The 10 startups are:
Blocko – a blockchain infrastructure provider in South Korea, offering customers digital identity, digital signatures and smart contracts. Its product, Coinstack, enables clients to share data with third parties in a cyber-security safe, efficient manner. Blocko is aiming to work with multinational financial institutions across the globe to fulfill their technical needs with its blockchain technology.
CoverGo – a tech platform that consolidates insurance policies from different providers in one place for customers and automatically analyzes them to highlight gaps in coverage. This Hong Kong startup’s app helps connect policyholders with their insurance advisors who manage their clients’ policies. CoverGo automates manual insurance processes to help improve the quality of customer experience and engagement.
FutureFlow – a U.S. based company that enables financial institutions and regulators to collaborate, while protecting customer confidentiality. Its software compiles the topology of the movement of money in the system that extends beyond each individual institution’s immediate field of visibility, with applications into electronic financial crime prevention, economic policymaking and related fields.
KapitalWise – a U.S.-based startup that has built a cost-effective micro-investment platform, delivering personal investing literacy, rule-based micro investing empowered by machine learning and predictive analytics to retail users of financial institutions. It also offers financial institutions an automated investment process to help them attract, engage and convert retail clients to buy investment products.
microUmbrella.com – a Singapore-based micro-insurance buying, managing and claiming platform that offers on-demand protection for the digital economy. Its mobile app enables customers to buy bite-sized protection plans, as well as make a claim, all within minutes. MicroUmbrella.com is introducing an artificial intelligence-powered chat-bot that provides a seamless user experience for buying, managing and claiming insurance.
Red Pulse – a Hong Kong-based market intelligence platform covering China’s economy and capital markets and aimed at reducing information overload. The firm employs machine learning and natural-language processing to automate and scale basic data collection, while incorporating cryptocurrency to create an open and transparent sharing economy for research.
Sherlock Garden – an Israel-based startup that provides software with cognitive capabilities to help financial services companies automatically detect compliance, ethics and confidentiality breaches. The software is designed to scan the customer’s computer systems, regardless of file formats, and search for textual information that holds risks or indicates negative situations of ethics and business conduct.
Starling – a U.S.-based applied behavioral sciences RegTech startup that offers augmented risk intelligence tools to help financial services firms manage culture- and conduct-related risks, and also identify areas for performance improvement. Starling’s predictive behavioral analytics technology combines machine learning, organizational network analytics and behavioral science to uncover invisible systemic risk; identify opportunities for proactive risk mitigation; and gauge the efficacy of management intervention in real time.
Stash – a healthcare and insurtech startup that provides a single health claims platform for patients, health care providers and insurance companies. The Singapore-based company analyzes claims data to help health providers and insurance companies prevent fraud risk in claims processing and management, while also reducing administrative costs.
Tymbals – an Australia-based insurtech startup that has created a probability network to calculate enterprise risk. It substitutes expensive, time-consuming man hours with inexpensive, unlimited machine minutes. By using machine learning to populate and maintain a distributed ledger of enterprise risk, it aims to provide a secure, efficient and cost-effective service to help C-suite executives manage their businesses.
The FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific is modelled on a similar program that Accenture co-founded in 2010 with the Partnership Fund for New York City, the US$150 million investment arm of the Partnership for New York City. In 2012, Accenture and a dozen major banks in London launched the FinTech Innovation Lab London, with support from the city’s mayor and other government bodies. In 2014, Accenture launched the FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific, in Hong Kong, as well as a Lab in Dublin. Alumni companies of the FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific have raised more than US$277 million in financing after participating in the program.
Northwestern Mutual, Rockwell Automation, Kohl’s, Baird And Milwaukee Institute Join To Support Milwaukee-Based Entrepreneurs
Northwestern Mutual, a leading financial security company, announced today a partnership to support early stage startup companies based in Milwaukee. Lead sponsor Northwestern Mutual and supporting sponsors, Rockwell Automation, Kohl’s, Baird and Milwaukee Institute, will provide funding and other services to launch an accelerator program for early stage startup companies with local roots in the community.
The partnership between the organizations is centered on driving innovation and technology forward in Milwaukee. The new program was announced today at a Technology Summit hosted by Northwestern Mutual, which convened leaders in the local business, academic, government, civic and technology communities to discuss building and supporting a vibrant tech ecosystem in southeastern Wisconsin.
“Milwaukee’s entrepreneurial spirit is fueling a vibrant startup community, which needs capital and support at the earliest stages of ideation,” said John E. Schlifske, chairman and CEO, Northwestern Mutual. “We’re proud to partner with Rockwell Automation, Kohl’s, Baird and Milwaukee Institute on this program. By working together, we will make a greater impact to strengthen our tech community.”
The seven-week accelerator program, gBETA Milwaukee, will run multiple times throughout the year and be led by gener8tor, a nationally ranked startup accelerator. gBETA Milwaukee will be held at the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which is run by Brian Thompson, director of the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center. It will provide early stage companies with access to a community of entrepreneurs, mentors, angel investors, venture capitalists, technologists and co-working space. All operating costs for the 2018 and 2019 programs will be provided by the members of the partnership, with no fee or equity requirements for the participants. To learn more about gBETA, visit www.gbetaaccelerator.com.
About Northwestern Mutual
The principle of separating content from design goes long way, from web development to information retrieval. As Wikipedia wraps it nicely “it is a specific instance of the more general philosophy, separation of concerns”. I have full heartedly embraced “separation of concerns” principle in my working habits. All my data (about 1TB of documents, spreadsheets, presentations and photos) are stored at the external hard drive, never at the desktop, laptop, smartphone. I do regular backups from my primary external hard drive to a couple of spare hard drives and cloud. The separation solves the problem of data loss with desktop/laptop/smartphone gone sore. The separation makes it a breath to switch from one computing device to another, with one exception – smartphone as a replacement of desktop which brings me to another topic.
Two the most influential mobile companies in the world, Google and Apple, want to keep us locked forever in their infrastructure. They want us to use their clouds with all their associated services. Gone are days when early smartphones had their own micro USB data access, extractable memory card, micro HDMI. Not any more, mobile companies send a message, actually quite a few of them:
- cloud is the only hard drive you need;
- if you need more memory on your device, buy more expensive model. Slot for extractable flash memory card violates holistic purity of mobile device;
- if you need to connect your smartphone to a larger display, figure out something on your own – we are not ready, it’s a small ripple in the sea of IoT.
Well, that leaves me three options:
- OTG cable, not an easy way that requires root access;
- cloud which brings me to the problem of asymmetric access (fast downstream, slow upstream);
- and finally wireless hard drive which seems the most obvious solution, preserving the same convenient “separation of concerns” mode of work.
How much cost the regular wired portable external hard drives? Seagate Expansion 1TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0 (STEA1000400) or WD 1TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive – USB 3.0 – WDBUZG0010BBK-EESN, selling at about $50 at Amazon.
How much cost their wireless brethren? Seagate Wireless Plus 1TB Portable Hard Drive with Built-in WiFi (STCK1000100) – $141 and WD 1TB My Passport Wireless Portable External Hard Drive – WIFI USB 3.0 – WDBK8Z0010BBK-NESN – $145. About three times more. Both wireless hard drives in my example are WiFi devices only, no Bluetooth. Either WiFi or Bluetooth chip (including integration) should not cost more than $5-$10 in mass production. Why three times? It’s easy, to rob us blind because we allow it. We lost ability to see simple small truths behind the smoke wall of glorifying tech terms: cloud, IoT, connected world. It’s not about connected world, it’s about charging three times more for the same essential commodity.