Sorry for that, but most fintech startups are boring. They just try to take the role of a bank, without changing anything fundamentally. But our economy has reached a point, where fundamental change is necessary. But luckily, there are signs of a new cooperative movement trying to match the technological heart of online platforms with the economic model of the commons. Still better: There is a new technology called Blockchain which could be the foundation of a new decentral and distributed economy.
Moneycircles is a uk Startup using blockchain to build a digital cooperative Business case. Ben Breen (Cofunder and CEO) and Adrian Davies (Cofunder and Commercial Officer) answered my finterview questions and they both will hold a speech at the Genorpeneursummit in Cologne on 1st of June
Please describe your company and product
MoneyCircles is an earlystage UKbased tech startup. MoneyCircles brings savers and borrowers together, securely and affordably, on the basis of shared and trusted social bonds. A ‚money circle’ enables a group of savers and borrowers who share common bonds, to easily save and borrow together. A ‚money circle’ is backed by a financial institution like a cooperative bank or credit union. To ensure consumer relevance and reduce friction when applying for savings or loans, members discover financial service providers through social media.The data this provides assists with credit assessment and anti money laundering checks for those (especially younger) applicants who may not otherwise qualify for products because they have ‘thin’ credit bureau files.
Why did you start your Business?
As founders, we have all experienced the hassle & expense of personal borrowing as well as the lack of incentive to save. Applying for savings and loans should be easier, but as consumers we are often overburdened with paperwork in a mobile Age. One of our cofounders, Adrian, is the UK’s foremost expert in credit unions and is wellplaced to understand the opportunities and challenges; in particular that the sector needs to be more concerned about its irrelevancy than its insolvency. So our passion for MoneyCircles is as much about helping consumers as it is about supporting the institutions they rely on.
What customer Problem d0 you solve? Your main USP?
I like to illustrate the problem with an example: my retired mother in law is constantly frustrated that she cannot get a secure & reasonable (above 0% in real terms) return on her hardearned savings. At the same time, there are others in her social group (IndianBritish professionals in the Londonarea) like graduate Doctors who cannot get an affordable loan and have lost hope of ever being able to save. There is a chasm between millions of people with savings that are sat doing nothing (£164 billionin the UK, alone) and millions of others who cannot get an affordable loan (approximately 50% of the UK adult population). We see variations of this problem everywhere we look, across the UK, Europe, the Americas and Asia. Money Circles simply taps into a natural human instinct for people to band together around shared social bonds in order to save and borrow. It’s about trust. This has been happening for generations and continues to this day in many parts of the world, often through credit unions and financial cooperatives.
Unlike traditional and ‘challenger’ banks and the P2P (marketplace) lenders we will apply sensible credit assessment that reflects 21st century realities and social standing using a unique trust score made up of traditional and nontraditional data sets. Unlike marketplace lenders we are not securitising and selling on loans. We work with Partner institutions (like credit unions and financial cooperatives) on behalf of members who then benefit from deposit protections and other consumer safeguards. We offer a genuinely enhanced ‚peertopeer’ social model.
Unlike credit unions and financial cooperatives today, we are creating a 21st century customer experience based on the mobile and social expectations of today’s consumers. We anticipate this approach to result in more, younger members and better loans to savings ratios for our institutional Partners.
How is your startup financed? In what funding phase are you?
We are selffunded with supplementary preseed funding from UKbased blockchain incubator, Outlier Ventures.
Please describe your business model!
Customer segments: individual savers and borrowers, credit unions and financial cooperatives (initially in selected European countries; UK, Germany and Ireland)
● for savers: safe savings, reasonable rates plus sense of community & social connection
● for borrowers: frictionfree, more widely available and affordable loans plus incentives to ’saveasyouborrow‘
● for credit unions & financial cooperatives: more younger members plus better savings to loans ratios
● Revenue: subscriptionbased pricing
● Solution: mobilefirst platform built on blockchain technology, seamlessly integrated with social networks at the frontend, and institutional systems at the backend.
Please tell us some facts about your team? Who are the founders and what are their skills?
Ben Breen (cofounder and CEO) has been at the forefront of digital tech for 30 years: having started 3 companies, built 150person teams, shipped products to 1,000s of users & led multiple $10m+ digital transformation programmes. A fintech leader, consultant & advisor for 20 years at dozens of banks including JPMorgan, Barclays Capital, ABN Amro & UBS. Recently he’s advised startups on growth marketing & lea strategies.
Adrian Davies (cofounderand commercial officer) is the UK’s foremost credit union expert having setupseveral of thefinancial cooperatives and raised more than £10m for their development. Over the last three years Adrian has provided subject matter expertise to the Credit Union Expansion Project helping identify a new IT platform to enable credit unions to offer their unique services in a better and more accessible way. This included agreeing critical business requirements, establishing a common Target Operating Model and developing the rules engine for automated savings and loans decision engines.
Aron van Ammers (cofounder and CTO) is a seasoned information technologist and manager. 10 years in building and consulting on SaaS solutions for healthcare and finance. Now a recognized blockchain technology expert with applied experience since early 2014.
Short answer: Disrupting banks or enabling Banks?
Our focus is on enabling consumers. In order to do that we will partner with forwardlooking financial cooperatives, credit unions, challenger & incumbent banks. As a sideeffect, we’re likely to disrupt 19th century business models, 20th century customer experiences, and even some 21st century pretenders!
In what ways are you better than Banks?
We genuinely put the interests of the consumer first. We are not weigheddown by legacy systems, processes, culture and 20th century risk appetites. For example, we are embracing blockchain technology from day one to enable our vision for the consumer. At the same time, we are working with banks and other institutions who share our vision for more inclusive, socially connected saving and borrowing.
What are the biggest future challenges for banks and for your Company?
For institutions, it’s the deadweight of legacy systems, processes and culture, outdated credit scoring, poor savings to loans ratios and an ageing customerbase. For us as a startup, the biggest challenge is earning the trust of customers on both the consumer and institutional sides
Are you satisfied with the progress of your startup? Are you on target?
We are taking a lean startup approach, talking with lots of people, and are encouraged by the very positive reaction to our value proposition so far
Any tips for people who likes to start a fintech Startup?
Make sure you are solving a real problem, for enough people who care. Understand who they are, how to reach them, and why they care.
What are your plans and milestones for 2016?
Our focus for 2016 is to talk with lots of potential customers and financial institutions. This will ensure that we build effective partnerships and build the right product for the market. These discussions are already providing us with traction in the UK and German marketplaces.
Additional Question: For what more private thing you would leave everything behind?
More about Moneycircles and Digital Comons Economy
Handelsblatt: Die neue Ära der Monopole