Today the Financial Solutions Lab (FinLab) at the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), with founding partner JPMorgan Chase & Co., announced eight fintech innovators as winners of its Fourth Annual $3 Million Challenge (Challenge). Each of the 2018 winners employs technology-based strategies like automation, underwriting and machine learning to help improve the financial health of underrepresented populations in the U.S.
The winning solutions, announced today on stage at EMERGE Forum 2018, help underserved and financially strapped consumers finance college, reduce debt, improve savings and access credit. Each winner will receive $250,000 in capital, strategic guidance and mentorship from CFSI and JPMorgan Chase, and additional resources to test, enhance and scale their products.
“We continue to be amazed by the entrepreneurial spirit exhibited by Challenge winners and the impact they seek to make in the everyday lives of overlooked populations,” said Jennifer Tescher, founder and CEO of CFSI. “This year’s Challenge winners leverage technology in profound ways – often informed by their own personal challenges and life experiences – to provide help for the 138 million people in America who struggle with their financial health.”
“We remain committed to promoting the financial health of underrepresented communities in the U.S. and are incredibly proud to mentor and support this talented pool of entrepreneurs,” said head of community innovation at JPMorgan Chase Colleen Briggs. “We are excited to welcome these companies to a community of fintechs that are improving and scaling solutions for millions of underserved Americans.”
The FinLab’s focus on financial health for another year reflects research from CFSI, which found approximately 57 per cent of consumers in the U.S. are financially unhealthy. This affects some segments of the population disproportionately. For instance, research from the JPMorgan Chase Institute identified a gap in financial outcomes, with women exhibiting roughly 20 per cent lower levels of income, spending and liquid assets.
The 2018 competition sought a broad range of solutions to improve the consumer financial health of diverse segments of people in America struggling with their finances. To this end, applicants were strongly encouraged to support diversity in solutions, customer focus and founding teams.
Together, the final Challenge winners offer solutions serving college students, young families, underserved populations and seniors. Many of these companies reflect the personal financial struggles faced by founders and are deeply rooted in real-life experiences.
Raised by a single mother, Goalsetter.co founder Tanya Van Court remembers knowing a lot about hard work, but not a lot about how to manage money.
“I had to learn about sound financial management on the fly and later in life,” Ms. Van Court said. “Because kids with saving accounts in their names are six times more likely to go to college, Goalsetter can teach them about financial planning at an early age and set them on a path towards a brighter future.”
“The Sixup team shares the DNA of the students we serve,” founder Sunwoo Hwang said. “We grew up in single-parent, low-income families. We were immigrants and the first in our families to go to college. We had no options but to hack our own financing and mobility within a system biased against us.
“We built Sixup to level the playing field for the next generation, so we can scale and lift undervalued, deserving human capital into education, workforce and upward mobility.”
Meet the winners:
Alice (New York, NY) is an employer-distributed benefit that allows employees to automate pre-tax spending on things like commuting, childcare, and healthcare; paychecks go up and paperwork goes away;
2. FutureFuel.io (Boston, MA) is student debt repayment, round up and refi made easy. FutureFuel.io exists to crush student debt via innovative technology, partnerships and data-driven solutions that empower the user to go beyond — beyond debt, into wellness and ultimately wealth;
Goalsetter (New York, NY) is a goal-based savings and gifting platform that lets kids and families redirect money typically spent on excess consumer goods towards saving for the future, sharing with others and spending on things or experiences that matter most to them;
4. Mason Finance Inc. (San Francisco, CA) offers the first online financial services platform exclusively serving older Americans. Its launch product enables people aged 65 and older to sell their life insurance before they surrender or lapse their policies;
Petal (New York, NY) pioneers cash flow underwriting to expand credit access for new-to-credit consumers and offer a safe, affordable, no-fee credit card that doesn’t require a credit score;
Resolve (Oakland, CA) is a free platform designed to guide financially distressed people back to financial health by creating a custom debt relief plan and connecting them with an integrated network of affordable debt relief partners;
7. Sixup (San Francisco, CA) provides high-achieving, low-income college students (a.k.a. Future-Prime™) with responsible, affordable gap loans and digital wrap-around support to de-risk and promote positive outcomes for upward mobility;
WinWin (New York, NY) helps young Americans save by providing fun, daily motivation. Users link their bank accounts, set up auto deposits into an FDIC-insured savings account and play a game once a day with chances to win instant cash prizes. The more they save, the bigger the prizes grow.
Each company will receive networking and advisory opportunities to grow and scale their business, $250,000 in capital, as well as the following benefits:
● Access to the CFSI Network and partnership opportunities that can help innovators increase product reach;
● 1:1 ongoing mentorship and expertise provided by CFSI and JPMorgan Chase executives and other industry leaders, such as ideas 42, IDEO.org, Paul Hastings, Promontory Financial and Google;
● Peer learning opportunities via in-person retreats throughout the year and regular virtual working sessions.
FinLab’s first three years
To date, FinLab has supported 26 financial technology companies from more than 1,300 total applicants. Winning companies are offering innovative financial products that reach more than 2.5 million Americans and have seen 20x growth since joining the FinLab. Collectively, FinLab companies have raised more than $300 million in capital since joining the program and have helped Americans save more than $1 billion.
The three FinLab classes to date have included startups rethinking how to address such issues as expense tracking (Everlance), savings (nonprofit EARN; Digit), planning (Albert), debt restructuring (Lendstreet), payments management (EarnUp), income volatility assistance (Even; Dave.com), access to credit (Nova), protecting Aging Americans against elder fraud (EverSafe) and SNAP benefits management (Propel).