Finovate – Tech companies and financial services

Laptop computer with a credit card, online payment concept

Do you really need a bank? Or should you just let Google handle it all? Or PayPal? Or Square? This is the big question that most established banks ask themselves these days. How will the relationship with customers change in the future and how will technology change this? How will the consumer bank segment develop and what about the small and larger enterprise customers?

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MakerFaire 2015 – Let the future begin

Silicon Valley is famous for its software companies, of being home to hundreds of high branded social media companies and cloud based software giants…..but a new dawn has emerged. The focus on Hardware as the new Software and the rise of the Maker Culture. The physical manifestation of this huge culture on the rise became evident when most of us gathered at the MakerFaire a few weeks ago here in the Bay Area on the San Francisco Peninsula in California. I brought along 2 of my 3 kids, Emil, 17 and Carl 11 for a full Sunday of inspiration and fun….we were not alone, we had some 30,000 other Makers who showed up. Let the future begin!

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The future of banking payments

Today’s banking is undergoing a transformation so rapid, that most players still lack to see the full potential impact from this disruption taking place! And to spice that up even more, the threat or as I tend to call it – the opportunities are coming from various angles….

Banking payments

Deep down banking, or rather transaction management, is driven by a few and important statements around:

  • a secure environment
  • a high level of trust
  • a known set of regulations are in place
  • long term customer relationships is custom

… and still today, a high level of face-to-face interaction to enhance most of the above mentioned is preferred by a majority of customers.

What drives user adoption forward?

Combining the above core needs with todays market place, the traditional view on banking is rapidly upgraded by the users for several good reasons. Which location, organization or even brand could take the lead on meeting the basic needs of transaction management? From what angle is the challenger coming from? A local or global player? As an example, Facebook released their latest version of Messenger this week in the US. Even with only a regional roll out in the US and Canada area, that suddenly enables 159 million daily active Facebook users to initiate a seamless peer to peer transaction, using the Messenger platform (which they already have a preference for, when potentially making calls, sending texts, etc.)

Another important issue when talking #FinTech etc. is to define what kind of banking we are talking about? In reality, several layers of “banking” are to be challenged going forward.

  • Peer to Peer payments
  • Online shopping
  • Mortgages
  • Loans
  • Retirement funds
  • Major life investments

Most Venture Capital companies in the Valley have their eyes on this industry, since ruling this space, means changing the game. One of the most recent articles I find really interesting and with a great overview of the market is from CB Insights

The world of personal finance is getting more personal

It is becoming evident that personal finance matters more in recent years, than ever before. A trend towards more personal transparency and data driven insight to your personal finances is clearly emerging as we speak. The smartphone and the related app world has had a major influence, and next up are areas like personal wearables etc. A company like Moven has introduced a “fitness tracker for your financial health” introducing a personalized and gamified world around tracking your expenses and link them to your own personal goals in life. A user scenario could be: I wanna travel to Rome in the fall of 2015, and I know the cost for that. If I keep up the current consumption of Cafe Lattes from Starbucks, Moven spending tracker will tell me by how much I will postpone this trip. As one out of many, the Moven app also resides in the latest Android wearable watches from Google and Motorola. Not a wallet, not a phone….but a personal financial companion around your wrist. We are only getting started, and a lot of research and development is put into this area, also in Silicon Valley.

Denmark, Silicon Valley and the rest of the world

In Denmark we have experienced a major impact from players like Danske Bank with MobilePay as well as the other banks with Swipp. What happened when easy to use services were introduced to the Danish market – we had a huge user adoption from day one, and it seems like sky is the limit. But where to go from here…..what is coming up next? It is always easy, for some of us, to be inspired by what technology might bring into the game, and from that angle alone, a lot is happening. Some of the latest in Silicon Valley is the strong focus on Hardware as well as Software. The focus of making a transition paper to paperless and to make the customer experience journey the best ever, simultaneously! Apple Pay has made the life easier for some, Facebook Messenger might be the solution for some and on top of that add PayPal, VISA, MasterCard and the 100’s of startups finding new ways to solve some of our daily challenges.

As a local in both Silicon Valley and Denmark, I tend to see some of the most important benefits as being; continuous innovation, curiosity, knowledge sharing and creating strategic partnerships. Given todays pace of innovation in the #FinTech world, no one has the time to invent everything yourself. The true competitive edge comes from staying on top of the both trends, major players as well as knowing where to look for up and coming startups which all bring major value into this space, every day.

What’s up in tech? – ICDK@SXSW

sxsw-logo

How do you sum up the experience of the incrediblly hyped tech-festival South by Southwest (SXSW) in one sentence?

Well, at first SXSW can be a bit overwhelming, if you don’t know your way around and how to attend all the secret events, but once that has been figured out, it can be a really good way to meet very different people and discuss business!

As a wrap up of the SCALEit week, 5 companies and the SCALEit team took the flight from Silicon Valley to Austin, Texas to participate in the events.

The Mecca of Tech

SXSW is a festival in a broad term within three main categories: Interactive, Music and Film. It includes high profile speakers, presentations, product launches, panels, showcases, meet-ups, parties, and networking bringing together thousands of engineers, entrepreneurs, investors, journalists and a whole lot more. Basically, I would say that it is a huge melting pot of people coming together in Austin.

The festival has an official and an unofficial program. The official program had 76 parallel sessions going on at the same time Saturday morning! Even for experienced SXSW’ers that would be a bit too much to wrap your head around.

And then the unofficial program is even more difficult to get a hold of. There is a lot of semi secret events that one need to RSVP for, but all of them do one way of the other include free beers at a bar, if you can get in. These events symbolize want it all comes down to in the end: Networking!

Danes in Texas

As a first timer participant it was very confusion to get an overview of the activities going on. Many companies launched new products, startups were trying to get their new products to go viral by having new crazy marketing ideas: I saw 4 people dressed up as Bunnies, reading a book on a bench for the entire festival, and the Meerkat was all over social media.

As mentioned, the SCALEit companies were in Austin to pitch their ideas and present their companies to the many people present at the festival (and of course to network!). This was done through a main presence in the heart of the festival – the exhibitor show – at the convention center and through a co-hosted event with the other nordic countries Sunday evening. “The Nordic Pitch Night”.

The pitch night included 11 pitches from different Nordic companies in front of a panel of different investors that asked poignant questions. The two best pitches were invited to join journalist Henrik Føhns from the Danish Broadcasting Corporation radio program “Harddisken” in a discussion. Finally, to close off the night spectacularly, the Danish band Rangleklods gave a show.

Experience the SXSW-feel on Friday

All of the 5 companies were also interviewed to “Harddisken” and will featured in the episode Friday March 27 (in Danish).

Christian Vinther (chrvje(at)um.dk) represented ICDK at SXSW.

The Future of Robotics

human radiography scan

The ambitious headline was the theme of a recent seminar held at Stanford University, where industry and researchers gathered to discuss the future of robotics.

A number of important and interesting questions were raised, with many different opinions on the future of robotics and the direction development will go in. However, one thing that everybody could agree upon is that robots will play an important part of our future.

Three speakers from international industry and research institution presented leading research and different parts of the industry.

Will robots take over our jobs?

This question seemed to reoccur, and the short answer is – yes! Robot technology is developing in an exponential pace, meaning that functionality improves all the time while the price is steadily decreasing, and thereby making robots more available. Therefore, robots will take over different functions that we used to do ourselves and the speakers at the event expect that we very soon will face robots in our everyday life when we go to the supermarket or do other everyday activities.

This can seem frightening to many people, but according to Roy Kornbluh from SRI International, the robots will only take over the jobs with the characteristics of the three “D”s –  Dirty, Dangerous, or Dull. This will free up labor for other jobs, in which humans have a cognitive advantage, such as jobs that involve creativity or have dynamic environments.

According to the panel, robots still have a long way before they can act in dynamic environments or they will be able to be social towards each other.

Robots you can wear

Another speaker of the night was Eimei Onaga, coming all the way from Muscle Robotics in Japan. According to him, we will see a growth in wearable robotic technics, meaning that we will have robots that can enhance physical capabilities. This is a technology that stems from military research, and now the research is so far in the process that the technology even can be built into a thin layer of underwear.

The target group of this kind of robotics is the aging population and people with muscular disease. Thereby, they will be able to do many more things than without the robotic wearables and thus be less dependent on help from others.

Especially in Japan, this will serve a great advantage, as Japan has one of the most rapidly aging populations in the world.

The next step for robotics

Other topics raised at the event included research on avatars. An avatar refers to a robot that is controlled by a human in another location than the robot. This technology will help us solve tasks that we could not do before, e.g. deep water diving or enabling people to be social without being actually present at a certain location – thereby saving the time spend on transportation.

Coca Cola has already started using this in their marketing, which can be seen in this video.

The further development of robotics will be exiting to follow, to discover what use can be made of the technology when robots will become increasingly autonomous. However, no matter what opinion one has of robots, it seems that they are here to stay.

And speaking of robotics, did you know that the Danish island of Funen has a RoboCluster – hosted at the University of Southern Denmark? The University has seen several robotic company spin offs, the most prominent one being Universal Robots. The company, poised to double their growth each year from 2014-2017 (and which so far have exceeded those goals) just launched the world’s most flexible, lightweight table-top robot to work alongside humans at the Automate show in Chicago this week.

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