The financial sector, tied as it is to unpredictable markets, is always in flux. Meet three entrepreneurs who are reinventing our relationship with the almighty dollar.
Ben Katz is CEO and co-founder of CARD.com, a three-year-old company providing low-fee, prepaid, personalized debit cards. Katz and his team have raised more than $10mm. The company has established partnerships with more than 150 brands; fans can customize cards with their favorite pop figures, favorite sports teams, organizations, or charitable causes. “We find that consumers have a lot of affinity for great brands and are willing to make a behavioral switch from their traditional bank to Card.com since we work with these great partners,” says Katz. “Any consumer with some money and a mobile phone is able to use Card.com as we don’t require high balances or charge heavy fees.” Users can add cash through Western Union or through direct deposit from paychecks or federal benefits. Usable anywhere that accepts Mastercard, it has no fees for check-cashing, over-drafting or latenesses, while still providing access to ATMs worldwide. “We’re providing a better, faster, and cheaper alternative to checking for those 8 out of 10 Americans without high bank balances.”
As CEO of Santa Monica based startup Tether, Reeve Collins believes his company will change the world. A serial entrepreneur and founder of several successful ventures, Collins began his career as the first employee of online advertising firm aQuantive, acquired by Microsoft for $6.6B. He later raised $70mm to develop a legal online poker site. Now, he has created a way to add physical currency to the Bitcoin “blockchain” infrastructure, by backing transactions to simplify international commerce. “Uber came from nowhere; it is a better, cheaper ride and worth billions. Bitcoin is basically the better, cheaper financial services, but no one realizes it yet.” Collins believes the first application will disrupt the financial services space, as other functions, such as contracts, escrows, title services, and auditing will soon after be implemented. Tether provides a secure, low-cost option, allowing Bitcoin companies and consumers to make digital transactions with real-world currency; “Fifty percent of the world is under-banked with less access to financial services due to the lack of government or private infrastructure,” says Collins. “Now, everyone will be able to transfer money, get credit cards, and assume loans because the infrastructure will be available on their cell phones.” Fully backed by financial assets in a reserve account, Tether currency is available commission free, offering competitive exchange rates with almost no conversion fees.
Paul Fiore, founder and CEO of CU Wallet, has tailored a white-label mobile wallet application to help credit unions win against big banks and conglomerate alternatives. By building a collaborative organization, co-owned by credit-unions themselves, CU Wallet provides competitive mobile payment technology for nearly all mobile devices and merchant point-of-sale terminals. Credit unions participating in the venture already represent more than 10 million consumers and over $140B in total assets. Future Banker Magazine honored Fiore as one of the Top 25 Most Influential Personalities in the financial services industry after he founded Digital Insight, which was acquired by Intuit for more than $1.35B. “Our competitors were Microsoft, with Microsoft money, Intuit that made Quicken, Visa Interactive, and a plethora of the biggest banking and technology companies in the world. The magic was that we didn’t really need to compete with them as we provided a tool for individual financial institutions to compete more easily by themselves.” Fiore now predicts the market for mobile wallets to parallel the environment in which he founded Digital Insight. With technology leaders like Google and Apple disrupting traditional payment processes, CU Wallet supplies credit unions with necessary tools to save direct relationships with consumers; like Digital Insight, CU Wallet’s strategy will deal credit unions the winning hand.