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Readers of this blog hear a lot about fintech, and there are many discussions in the financial inclusion space about how technology-enhanced business models will lead to full financial inclusion. But beyond our circle fintech is hardly a household word. At least in the United States, for example, people talk a lot more passionately about their phones, their computers or their cars. Fintech, however, is coming to the fore. More and more we hear about P2P payments via outfits like Venmo, contactless merchant payments like Apple Pay, and online lenders like Lending Club. And in 2016, fintech is making its way onto a few big, relatively mainstream stages.

Next weekend, the film, music, and interactive media industries descend on Austin, Texas for the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Festivals. SXSW is a launch pad for new creative content, including film screenings, concerts, trade shows, networking opportunities, and emerging technology showcases. For the first time, the fintech industry will be part of the action.

SXSW is hosting an “accelerator competition” for start-ups in payments and fintech. Selected from hundreds of applicants, the participating early-stage start-ups will pitch their products to industry technology experts, media personnel, and venture capitalists or angel investors. Here are a few of the participating companies:

  • InSpirAVE: Users are empowered to fulfill their savings goals by choosing their savings aspirations, while their family and friends support them along the way. Family and friends participate in the aspiration-selection process, encourage users to save, and even contribute to the savings if they’d like. InSpirAVE links up with bank accounts as well as merchants.
  • Koho Financial: A low/no-fee “non-bank” banking alternative, which allows users via payment card and mobile app to perform many of the same functions as a traditional bank account – savings, merchant pay, bill pay, direct deposit, ATMs, e-transfers, etc. Koho also offers unique features including goal setting, automatic budgeting, and spending insights, among others.
  • SayPay: An authentication technology that uses voice biometrics to identify individuals. SayPay allows users to authorize ecommerce purchases, P2P transactions, and bill pay using a mobile phone and their unique “voice signature”.
  • Mobeewave: A P2P payment technology that allows individuals to pay others, even complete strangers, using mobile phone contactless payment-acceptance.
  • Moneythink: A mobile app that aims to build youth financial capability – teaching students how to save, spend mindfully, and use financial products safely.

SXSW is also hosting a panel discussion, Beyond Banks: The Future of a Fully Banked World, where the conversation will center on the benefits of unlocking finance for all.

Earlier this year in Davos at the World Economic Forum, fintech received substantial attention across several sessions – see here. From Davos’ cold European ski slopes to warm, weird Austin, fintech is becoming a hot topic everywhere in the world.

For more on everything fintech, check out Accion Venture Lab’s new podcast, Venture Kast.

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The Twelve Days of Fintech

Fintech for FI2020: A Conversation on Aligning Technology and Partnerships for Financial Inclusion