• Dec. 7, 2016, 2:37 am

Financial Solutions Lab celebrates successful debut

Financial Solutions Lab celebrated a successful first year at an event held earlier this month in San Francisco.

An initiative of the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) and funded by a $30 million, five-year grant from JPMorgan Chase, the Financial Solutions Lab was founded with the goal of fostering an ecosystem of fin-tech innovators who develop solutions to improve Americans’ financial health.

The Year One challenge was to develop ways to help solve consumer cash flow issues. Close to 300 companies and nonprofit organizations serving more than ten million people applied. Nine were accepted.

During their year in the lab, those nine companies improved their products and scaled their businesses. Each received $250,000 in capital, resources from CFSI and JPMorgan, and strategic guidance from an industry advisory council.

They also received support from two organizations devoted to helping those in need. IDEO.org is an interdisciplinary mix of business people, designers and others working to include vulnerable communities in formal financial systems. Ideas42 encourages the use of behavioral science to create scalable solutions to societal problems.

Ryan Falvey FinLab

Director Ryan Falvey

Financial Solutions Lab Director was pleased at the success of the Year One companies.

“They had phenomenal success in identifying real issues and creating solutions.”

Success can be seen in the results the nine have posted since their entry into the lab, Mr. Falvey added. They have attracted nearly $100 million of investment and increased staff. User growth has multiplied several times over.

Jimmy Chen is CEO and Founder of Propel, one of the nine Year One companies. Propel’s goal is to simplify government processes into more user-friendly experiences. Their first target is the food stamp application process (read my profile of Mr. Chen here).

The collaboration with Financial Solutions Lab clearly paid off, he said.

“The lab was instrumental in helping us grow our business and providing the expert insights we needed to expand our solution to more underserved consumers. In fact, the newest iteration of our product was inspired by collaboration we developed through FinLab, and this rethinking has made our product attractive for Silicon Valley-style investors as a result.”

Access to keep people was key for Digit CEO Ethan Bloch. Digit analyzes a person’s income and spending patterns and places safe amounts into a savings account.

“FinLab and CFSI have given us an unparalleled opportunity to work with executives from the largest banks in the country, along with government and regulatory bodies. This access has been phenomenal as it has allowed Digit to be involved in conversations directly impacting the future of fin-tech.”

Financial Solutions Lab is producing important results, JPMorgan Chase Vice Chairman Noah Wintroub said.

“Through technology and innovation, they’re tackling some of the biggest financial issues facing people today. The work of this and future FinLab classes will change the way Americans are managing their finances — allowing them to stabilize their finances, build resiliency and meet their long-term goals.”

In addition to Propel and Digit, the other seven Year One companies are:

Puddle takes the concept of lending groups online. Read a profile of Puddle here.

Ascend Consumer Finance provides loans which comes with rewards that can reduce interest rates.

Even smooths income by saving in good weeks.

LendStreet negotiates discounts on debt which they pass on to customers.

PayGoal is a free financial management app.

Prism is a bill payment and management app.

SupportPay helps manage, track and pay child support.

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