What VCs are looking for in fintech

February 5, 2016 Stephane Dubois

Upstart Business Journal fintechThe fintech industry has experienced tremendous growth in the past five years, largely fueled by venture capital investment. Fintech venture investment grew from less than $1 billion in 2010 to more than $14 billion over 12 months in 2015, according to venture capital research firm CB Insights.

We gathered insights from a group of noted fintech venture capitalists to discuss key trends that they expect to play out within the sector in 2016.

Consumer-focused firms will expand their ecosystem

Among the most recognized and successful direct-to-consumer sectors in fintech, a sizable number of marketplace lenders, payment companies and robo-advisory firms have attracted a major proportion of VC startup and later-stage funding. These industries have begun to mature somewhat and have had early winners emerge, such as marketplace lenders Prosper Marketplace, Inc. and Lending Club, online payment processors Stripe, and robo-advisors Wealthfront Inc. and Betterment LLC.

Investment within these areas was one of the hottest trends over the past 12 months, according to Michael Walsh, general partner of San Francisco-based Green Visor Capital.

“We believe these groups probably garnered more attention and investment over a short period of time than made sense, relative to other fintech opportunities. Looking ahead to 2016, while we remain positive on these groups long term, we do believe they may take a back seat to some other areas, such as security, info services, and back and middle office automation,” Walsh says. “We expect to see some consolidation over the short- to medium-term.”

While these main categories may come under pressure in 2016, David Jegen, partner at Boston-based F-Prime Capital, believes there will still be options within the space and expects to see derivative opportunities created expanding their ecosystem.

“For one, companies are extending this business model into new areas, like real estate and insurance, but you will also get some interesting second-order plays,” Jegen offers. “For example, a company like Even Financial is addressing the lead generation problem for these platforms, and a company like Orchard Platform is helping investors access lending platforms. During 2016 and beyond we expect to see startups serving that ecosystem in a broader sense.”

Blockchain technology still poised to dominate

Venture investment is expected to continue to flow to companies engaged in blockchain technologies during this year and beyond. Two important segments sure to attract investment are capital markets and insurance.

“Blockchain tech will be applied to capital markets to enable improved clearing and settlement of various asset classes. Enhanced distribution channels and better decisioning via the application of advanced data analytics will help the insurance industry,” states Pascal Bouvier, fintech expert, venture partner with Santander InnoVentures and past general partner with Route 66 Ventures.

Enterprise companies to focus on leveraging big data Enterprise companies in the financial services space are looking more to automation and data to address costs, improve processes and open new areas of business. Many are focused on improving and leveraging their ability to handle large data sets utilizing Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, micro-targeting and micro-analysis.

This focus will continue to attract venture investment in 2016, according to Karl Antle, partner at New York-based ValueStream Labs.

“One of our favorite spaces is enterprise tech, and we love data and analytics. Not just tools, but proprietary sources of data,” Antle offers. “One emerging segment we're keeping a close eye on is marketplace lending infrastructure. Everyone is servicing in house and there are very few data companies in the space. There are no third parties doing processing or clearing – the infrastructure behind the industry just doesn’t exist, which we view as a tremendous opportunity.”

Beyond 2016

Facing the twin headwinds of possible consolidation and questions of valuation, coupled with the likelihood of increased regulation it won’t be surprising if 2016 fails to match the growth achieved in years recent — especially that seen over the past 12 months.

As for Xignite, we envision a few things; the Asian fintech gold rush has officially started and some major players will pop up in this space; the robo-advisor platforms will manage 25 percent of retail investable assets within five years; and large financial services companies will finally begin to adapt to technological innovation and invest in the cloud.

This is an exciting time for VC firms in the fintech space as the industry is facing incredible speed of innovation and change for years to come.

Stephane Dubois is the CEO and founder of Xignite. He founded Xignite as a wealth management software company but pivoted the company when he could not find any easy market data APIs to power his solution. Now, Xignite provides financial market data APIS to more than 1000 clients in 55 countries — many of them fintech startups in their own right. Before starting Xignite, Dubois was vice president of product management for Advent Software and product manager at Oracle. He has an MBA from the MIT Sloan School.

About the Author

Stephane Dubois

Stephane Dubois is a recognized software and market data industry executive and innovator, who founded Xignite to pioneer market data in the cloud. Stephane Dubois is a well-known fintech thought leader and is frequently quoted in publications, including Forbes, MarketsMedia, WallStreet & Technology, Financial News, Bob's Guide, Inside Reference Data, and Venture Capital Journal. He has spoken at numerous fintech events around the world, including Finovate, FinDEVr, DKF, WFIC and The Money Confe

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