Financial Solutions Lab launches $3M competition in support financial underserved

Today the Financial Solutions Lab (FinLab) at the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) with founding FinLab partner JPMorgan Chase & Co. officially launched its fourth annual $3 Million Challenge to identify diverse fin-tech innovators and products that can help improve the financial health of underserved populations in the U.S.  Given the diversity of Americans who struggle with financial health, in this year’s challenge, FinLab is particularly interested in products developed by entrepreneurs of color, women and people with disabilities, and designed to meet the financial needs of often overlooked populations.

John Thompson

FinLab’s continued focus on financial health for another year reflects research from CFSI highlighting how financial insecurity remains a barrier to economic mobility for millions of Americans.  Research from the JPMorgan Chase Institute has deepened our understanding of these problems by highlighting that the majority of households face significant income and expense volatility and lack the buffer they need to manage these swings or unexpected shocks. Not only does this undermine their financial wellbeing, it can also adversely affect their health since research shows that households delay healthcare until they have the means to pay for it.

Applicants are encouraged to share how their products can help consumers improve their financial health, how their company or nonprofit will succeed in serving a diverse market and how their teams reflect this diversity. Despite improvements in recent years, all-women teams of entrepreneurs received just $1.9 billion of the $85 billion total invested by venture capitalists last year. Only an estimated 3 per cent of the venture capitalist workforce is black while only 4 per cent is Hispanic or Latino. The FinLab believes that diversity among leaders and teams also leads to more inclusive products and services with the potential to scale to millions of customers.

Each winning organization will receive $250,000 in capital, professional services assistance from industry leaders such as ideas42, and Google, strategic guidance from the FinLab’s industry-leading advisory council, and resources from founding partners CFSI and JPMorgan Chase, including the JPMorgan Chase employee mentorship program.

“We continue to be blown away by the impact that FinLab companies are having on consumers,” said John Thompson, chief program officer at CFSI. “The 26 organizations supported by the lab so far have cumulatively grown to help more than 2.5 million Americans improve their financial health — more than 15 times the consumer base they served before joining the lab.”

“Technology offers a tremendous opportunity to help us reach overlooked populations with financial products and services that can improve their long-term financial health,” said Colleen Briggs, head of community innovation, JPMorgan Chase. “We want to see more innovation designed to meet the needs of underserved populations and teams of entrepreneurs that reflect this diversity. We believe that the FinLab’s continued focus on inclusive fintech will help us unlock this potential.”

Applying for the $3 Million Challenge

Fin-tech innovators interested in joining FinLab’s fourth year class can now complete and submit an application here. The deadline to apply is Apr. 11, 2018. Winners will be announced on stage at the EMERGE Forum 2018, held June 6-8 in Los Angeles.

A History of Success

In January, the FinLab celebrated the culmination of its third cohort of eight fintech innovators. FinLab companies have represented a wide swath of consumer-focused financial technology companies, and inform the Lab’s perspective on the developments in, and state of, the overall market.

To date, the Financial Solutions Lab has supported 26 financial technology companies offering innovative financial products that reach more than 2.5 million Americans and have seen 15x growth since joining. Collectively, FinLab companies have raised more than $250 million in capital since joining the program.

The three FinLab classes to date have included startups rethinking how to address such issues as expense tracking (Everlance), savings (nonprofit EARN), planning (Albert), debt restructuring (Lendstreet), payments management (EarnUp), robo-advising (WiseBanyan), automatic savings (Digit), income volatility assistance (Even), access to credit (Nova), and SNAP benefits management (Propel). One early FinLab company, Prism, was acquired by PayNearMe, now Handle Financial. More information about the impact of the first three years of the FinLab can be found in its recently released Impact Report.

“We were excited to be part of the Financial Solutions Lab, and our experience in the program opened up many doors for us as we work to protect seniors and their families from financial fraud,” co-founder and CEO of FinLab member EverSafe said. “During our time in the Lab, we more than tripled our user base and as we move forward, we expect to significantly increase the number of older adults and families protected as a result of relationships derived from the Lab.”

“At Nova Credit, we’re committed to helping immigrants access the credit they deserve and be treated as equals,” said Nicky Goulimis, co-founder of Nova Credit, part of the 2017 class. “Our participation in the Lab vastly exceeded our expectations, by not only significantly accelerating our core business, but also providing us with invaluable access to the leaders of the financial services ecosystem.”

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