I spent a lot of time out of the office last week so this round up is as much for me than for the other handful of people who actually read it. Let’s have a butchers at what went on…
The ‘cryptocurrency that could’ continues to provide fascinating stories. Last week the California Legislator passed a money transmitter reform bill. The bill aims to make it easier for payments startups to navigate the regulatory burdens of the US’ strictest state but also the home to Silicon Valley. Will it pave the way for more disruption? Will the Governor sign it into law? Assembly member and author of the law, Roger Dickinson said,
“Technological innovation within the money-transmission and payments industry has skyrocketed in the last few years, yet California’s regulatory framework has lagged behind, […] Providing clarity to existing companies and new start-ups on licensing requirements will ensure a vibrant money transmission market place that is fair for business while protecting consumers.”
Meanwhile the UK there has been sightings of Bitcoins at Number 10 as the Government seeks to understand a bit more about this disruptive little 4 year old. It seems the main concern from the Government is the anonymity of the currency, which in turn is causing the banks to steer clear due to tough regulations especially around international remittances. Can Bitcoin be shoehorned into existing UK regulations?
And talking of anonymity this great article from MIT’s tech review look a the mapping of the Bitcoin economy and how it could actually reveal users identities.
“The Bitcoin protocol still has huge potential for anonymity,” says Sarah Meiklejohn, who led the research project, “but the way that people are using it is not achieving anonymity at all.”
Forbes tested the anonymity of Bitcoin by purchasing some illegal drugs (‘it’s for research man’) and promptly being busted, not by the police but by researcher Sarah Meiklejohn mentioned above. The Bitcoin client received an upgrade last week to 0.8.4 to improve security for users
GigaOm took a look a the opportunity that international remittances do present for Bitcoin startups as banks close their doors on many schemes, the present a massive need to be filled. The cost of sending money averages at 8.85% according to the article. How much can these new companies shave off that? And can they crack the regulatory requirements to make it happen? Classic innovators dilemma conditions, large organisation exit a risky business and smaller ones come in and make it work for less…then scale upwards. To be continued I am sure.
Payments as an API business pioneers Braintree are apparently hawking themselves round for sale. It seems their (own self inflated?) valuation of one billion dollars is putting off suitors. They are currently processing 10 billion dollars a year in payments and also own mobile payments company Venmo. Last week Braintree also announced new fraud prevention tools for merchants. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, does snap them up (PayPal seem to be the favourites). It will be even more interesting who would then buy Stripe in defence.
Talking of Stripe, their march across Europe continues as they went live in Ireland to add the recent full launch in the UK and beta trials in Belgium, The Netherlands and France. They took a cheeky swipe at the existing payments players in their press release / blog post announcing the launch;
“To date, online payments infrastructure in most of these countries, including Ireland, has been dominated by lumbering incumbent banks. Accepting internet payments involved weeks of setup, reams of paperwork, and bureaucratic approval processes.”
PayPal had a mixed week. It seem they still have some way to go on ‘Customer First: The PayPal Way‘ as it emerged they had frozen the accounts, containing 45,000 dollars of another project, this time it was privacy focused Icelandic email startup Mailpile. The company were pretty quick to unfreeze the accounts in this instance, maybe the PayPal way is almost here.
In better news PayPal launched a new app which had some very innovative features as well as redesigned experience throughout. Features such as order ahead i.e. submit an order while standing in line at a coffee shop, They have also built credit into the app allowing you to apply for finance for those bigger purchases. It all builds on their desire to be seen more as an instore payment provider rather than just an online one. A big challenge.
A new variant of evil looking and sounding banking malware is in the wild. HesperBot (HesterBot named after exRBS chairman would have been a more amusing name) is similar to the infamous Zeus malware and is starting to be seen across Europe. It does the usual awful things like stealing logon data but also seems to be targeting a number of mobile platforms i.e. Symbian, Blackberry and Android.
Trouble in Middle Earth as Kabam the makers of the mobile Hobbit game have warned of fraudulent activity around its virtual currency Mithril. Dodgy 3rd parties have been flooding the game with offers of cheap Mithril which maybe cheap for a reason i.e. it is fake. Only ever buy Elven manufactured Mithril.
‘A good heart these days is hard to find‘ sang Feargal Sharkey, which might point the reason that technology company Bionym have decided the harness the uniqueness of the heart beat to create a new product, Nymi. Nymi is a wrist band that can track the wearers ECG (ElctroCardioGram) and allows biometric to access all manner of systems including payments.
This week in New York it is Finovate Fall, which is one of the biggest Fintech conferences in the world. Snarky Bostonian Bank Blogger, Ron Shevlin takes a look at what he wants to see at the conference (hint: it is not slick UIs at the expensive of tangible business models). Jim Marous has taken at look back at the history of the event and it is interesting to see the patterns of companies demoing over the years coupled with how many of the innovations shown have actually made it into mainstream banking.
In the UK Next Bank Europe will take place on the 5th & 6th of November. Hopefully I will be speaking at the event but please do not let this put you off attending.
Jumble of Fintech Links
Lots of little stories from the Fintech world that I can’t be bothered to categorise.
- Barclays launched its rumoured foray into the data vault world, Cloud It (they are really going for the verb ‘it’ naming convention). Details are light at the moment but it looks like an interesting start from one fo the biggest banks in the UK.
- In more cloud storage news, Nintendo have announced the launch of a cloud bank for all your Pokemon that you have collected over the years. Will Pokemon become tradeable assets? I wonder if these are on the Cloud It roadmap? Any comment Barclays?
- In more examples of questionable naming, Yodlee has announced its new platform ACE (Active Commerce Exchange). The platform aims to be a one stop shop for financial applications that developers and institutions can integrate with and even sell on. Smart thinking from Yodlee who are billing it as a way for banks to innovate faster, “ACE means banks can iterate and innovate like Google.” whatever that means
- There have been a number of glitches recently in US trading systems causing problems with the NASDAQ. This article by Simone Foxman in Quartz asks whether the 13 exchanges in the US is too many (or is 13 just an unlucky number?)
- Sarajaval Technologies have built ATM style clean water dispensers in India. They have implemented 35 of the devices which sit in front of a system that handles the filtration and distribution of the water.
- In an unfortunate link to the above story, a scientific study has been published which claims poverty impedes cognitive function
- Dan Roosegaarde discusses technology prototypes for interactive road surfaces that display conditions such as freezing temperature or can charge electric vehicles, he also demonstrates fabric that reacts to excitement levels in humans, making it more transparent. He is working on a prototype for a bankers suit made of the material to demonstrate how ethically a banker is behaving. Transparency in action.
- In slightly related news I saw Tobias Revell speak last week and he talked of his 88.7 project which refers to the latitude his fictional ice trawler would circumnavigate the globe while remaining in constant link to the worlds trading networks. He also imagines a future where plugged in traders grow horns as their decisions within the systems actually affect their physical appearance.
And that was the week that was. Hope it was good for you. Follow my little @fintechbot for all the latest news first. Here is a big list of all the links used (and some not used) in this weeks post.
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