Fintech Startups Disrupt Market Leaders with AI

Artificial intelligence is fundamentally changing the way that the consumer and small business financial system works. In the last few years, large investment banks have hired artificial intelligence specialists from the world of academia and put them in charge of their AI divisions. Fintech start-ups have begun using machine-learning algorithms to model credit ratings and detect fraud, and hedge funds and high-frequency traders are using AI to make investment decisions.

Most legacy banks have a fixed model of providing a free basic consumer banking service to their customers, and then charging disproportionately for additional services. Many services were developed pre-digital, and bank customers had to accept a slow pace and high costs. Digital technology has been introduced where it can be to improve efficiency, but they essentially remain analogue-designed processes.

Against this backdrop, Fintech startups tend to focus on one specific financial facility and develop a better and faster service at lower cost to the user. With better and automated examination of more databases they are able to accept more people as customers, maintain a lower default rate, and achieve a higher repeat rate. 

Several fintech startups were pitching to potential investors at the recent NOAH Conference in London UK, and a cross-section of them demonstrate the array of services they hope to steal away from the traditional providers.

Vetting for Home Tenancy Agreements

Virtually anyone who has rented a home has gone through the process of being vetted by a credit rating agency. In the UK, banks reject 50% of loan applications simply because there is not enough data available on the applicant to make a robust decision. And a refusal is itself a black mark on a person’s already weak credit rating, generally leading to higher interest rates charged by future lenders. So the process helps no-one.

The team at the Risk42 startup based in Hamburg, Germany, is led by founder Roberto Valerio. They previously specialised in fraud prevention and detection, and analysed over 700,000 loan applications. Using many additional data sources that the ‘regular’ credit agencies don’t think to consider they have been able to give a valid appraisal of 90% of applicants.

Risk42 raised seed funding in September 2018 and is currently raising a second round of investment finance.

Turnover-based Business Lending

After the financial crash of 2008, banks everywhere became more selective over who they lend to. Startups were starved of cash, and the growth of equity crowdfunding since then has been a market response. Though company founders are not always happy or willing to dilute their own shareholding.

Berlin-based ConsciousGrowth started just seven months ago under founder Sebastien Nienbaber. Startups that are already trading can apply to share a percentage of their future revenue in exchange for up-front working capital.

ConsciousGrowth uses AI to consider a wider range of variables in deciding to make business loans. By providing marketing and revenue data alongside basic business information, a business can receive funding in as little as two days.

Unlike equity crowdfunding it doesn’t cost business owners any equity; they do not have to give personal guarantees that a bank would require; and unlike VC funding they are not obliged to accept a stranger on their board of directors. Monthly cash flows can fluctuate, which is why repayments scale up or down from one month to the next in line with net revenue.

Small Business Loans

Led by Founder and CEO Jens Woloszczak who was previously a Senior Consultant at McKinsey & Co., Spotcap developed an in-house credit risk algorithm to provide flexible and accessible loans to small businesses.

It launched in Spain in September 2014 before expanding to the Netherlands and Australia in 2015, the UK in 2016 and New Zealand in 2017.

They are beginning to find that numerous banks and other lending institutions want to work with them to provide their own SME clients with an efficient and straightforward lending experience. Research shows 81% of banks believe the way to adopt digitisation is to partner with new generation providers like Spotcap and many other fintech startups.

Three More In Brief…………..

London-based Fluency is a startup crypto bank. Mainstream banks won’t hold cryptocurrencies and cash transfers from them to buy a cryptocurrency can take 3-8 days and cost up to 15% in fees, says Co-Founder Inga Mullins. Fluency’s cash transfers to buy crypto are instant, deposits are free, and there’s zero withdrawal cost. Crypto-fiat exchange is free up to £5,000 month. Like many fintech startups, Fluency provides a better service faster and cheaper than legacy providers. Fluency has just started a round of seed funding in U.S. and U.K.

Nemuru is a Barcelona-based startup in Spain that provides on-the-spot personal loans in three minutes at the point-of-sale for buyers of high ticket items costing up to €20,000. Their AI-based credit checking is faster and more accurate, and can accept more shoppers than traditional credit agencies can assess. They have over 300 store-owner users. Nemuru initially partnered with BBVA and BancoSabadell (two of the biggest Spanish banks) for funding operations and have so far raised €2 million from local VCs. Nemuru is enjoying an average 70% monthly growth and plans to expand to Colombia and Mexico.

flatfair is a fintech/proptech startup based in London. There is a vast level of distrust between landlords and tenants over deposits – and getting them back at the end of a property rental. Tenants join flatfair as a member for a cost equivalent to one week of their rental agreement, and can use a card rather than cash to pay a deposit. flatfair also runs credit checks for the landlord that are better at determining risk levels through using AI to assess additional data collection points. Clients include several major UK letting companies. 

BOLD Awards 2020

Any of these startups are BOLD enough to enter the Fintech category, which is one of 12 categories in the BOLD Awards 2020. Other categories include AI, Robotics, Science, Advertising and Marketplaces. The full list, and the place to submit an entry, is here. After a round of public voting and assessment by a panel of international judges, category winners will receive their award at a prestigious black-tie ceremony on March 27th 2020 in Venice, Italy.

Being BOLD to Save the Planet

Being BOLD to Save the Planet

There’s a new generation of BOLD entrepreneurs stepping forward. They see themselves as change-makers, activists building businesses to save the planet. Like Greta Thunberg, they recognise that time is running out. Annoyed by what they see as ‘corporate inertia’, they’re creating breakthrough ‘change-maker business’.

These change-makers are part of the Sharing Economy, but not the Sharing Economy as we know it.  Until now, the phenomenon which has garnered much media attention since its birth a decade ago has focussed on peer-to-peer, technology driven, VC backed start-ups, but this new breed of ‘changepreneurs’ are not only commercially savvy, but hell bent on delivering social and environmental value too. They know that the companies of the future are those who can become activists and change-makers themselves.

Take Ruth Anslow, co-founder of Brighton-based rebel supermarket HISBE (How It Should Be) in the UK.  Together with her sister Amy and Jack Simmonds they’re reinventing the supermarket experience. “We’ve built an alternative supermarket model through collaboration and caring. We got fed up with the way supermarkets do business, it has a negative effect on people, communities and local economies. We’re about keeping profits in communities and in the hands of the producers”.

Being BOLD to Save the Planet
Ruth and Amy Anslow, founders of HISBE rebel supermarket

For these changepreneneurs, commercial success only follows social and environmental wins. HISBE broke even in a record-breaking twelve months, six months ahead of their targets. The founders believe this financial success is down to their values and approach.

“We help a lot of small suppliers get going, we share the profit with them, so out of every pound that gets spent in HISBE, 68p goes to suppliers. The equivalent figure in supermarkets is 9p. If they’re given the right price and the right conditions, they can make the products that contribute to a better food system.”

The real key to their success is the philosophy that lies at the heart of changepreneurship – the contribution they make to the industry as a whole. ‘Our big vision is to transform the food industry by reinventing the way supermarkets do business”. This, they believe is the biggest lesson for corporations: focus on creating value for the wider sector and society at large and you’ll win.

Ruth Anslow is one of 200 change-makers I interviewed for my ground-breaking visual book Generation Share. Generation Share is the world’s largest collection of stories of change-makers building a caring, sharing economy; it’s the result of a three-year collaboration with photographer with purpose, Sophie Sheinwald, to bring these positive stories of change-makers to worldwide attention. It comes from a realisation that to change the world, we need to change the narrative and give life and prominence to these positive stories of breakthroughs.

Being BOLD to Save the Planet
Malik Yakitini, founder of Detroit Black Food Security Network and D-Town Farm (US)

29-year-old Daan Wedderpohl from Amsterdam embodies what it means to be a breakthrough change-maker. When his house burned to the ground, he lost his home, his belongings and his job, which proved to be the catalyst for creating goods-sharing platform Peerby, because, he says “the stuff we consume is the biggest contributor to our environmental footprint.”

His bold approach permeates his business approach. “The ultimate goal is that consumer goods will never be designed for one person, but for a community and if goods can be passed from person to person, then the manufacturers will have to create a business model for sustainability, reparability and reuse.”

Being BOLD to Save the Planet
Digital equality campaigner, Nanjira Sambuli (Kenya)

So how can you unleash the change-maker in your business and help power breakthroughs for people and planet?’ First, answer these three all important questions.

  1. What actions are you as a company taking to immediately and directly address climate change?
  2. How are you as a company currently contributing to the wider sustainability of your sector?
  3. What can you do now to put the sharing of resources at the heart of your business model?

With over £3.5 trillion worth of idle resources and enough surplus food to feed 10 billion people worldwide, the true power of the Sharing Economy is becoming evident with activist entrepreneurs like Dan Wedderpohl and Ruth Anslow demonstrating how positive changepreneurship can make a difference.  And, with time not on our side, it’s time to unleash the change-maker in all businesses.

About the author: Benita Matofska is an international speaker, working with businesses to become change-makers. She’s the founder of charity The People Who Share, a global Sharing Economy expert and author of Generation Share: The change-makers building the Sharing Economy, published by Policy Press for Global Sharing Week, June 2019.

Image credits: Sophie Sheinwald

BOLD Awards 2020

These changepreneurs are definitely BOLD. Are you? Have you been working on a BOLD challenge or a project that represents a real breakthrough with potential to transform a sector or a market? Let us know, entries for the BOLD Awards are open now until December 31 in 12 categories, just click here. You could find yourself at the black-tie awards ceremony in Venice, Italy, on March 27, 2020.

BOLD Developments in Agritech

BOLD Developments in Agritech

Projections show that feeding an estimated world population of 9.1 billion people in 2050 will require raising overall food production by some 70% from 2005/07 levels, reported the High Level Expert Forum – How to Feed the World in 2050

This prompts an imminent need to maximize the food supply through both traditional field production and new farming techniques. Many farmers use a high degree of hard-earned individual experience on which to make judgement calls on how to grow adequate amounts of crops in a financially viable manner. New technology is improving this by collecting the sum total of farmers’ decisions; matching them to a database of their unique climate, soil, crop and topography circumstances; and making the end results generally available to other farmers, government agencies and commercial suppliers.

Here are insights into three different ways in which technology is being used for the benefit of food production, and thus for the benefit of all of us.

A government-led initiative

In South America, Colombian farmers in the mainly maize-growing region of Cordoba increasingly found their livelihoods at risk due to the growing unpredictability of weather patterns. The government collaborated with the National Cereals and Legumes Federation (FENALCE) and big data scientists at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to use data crowdsourced from many farmers. Across a four year period those farmers became more efficient and productive.

BOLD Developments in Agritech
A weather station used to capture information for data-driven farming in Colombia

The farmers who had immediately started to follow new guidelines found their maize yields  increased from 3.5 tons to 6.0 tons per hectare. They were also able to reduce their fertilizer costs and the negative impact of heavy rainfall, including valuable topsoil being washed away.

The livelihoods of farmers’ families, and food security for the wider population,  were improved without major infrastructure expenditures. Wider data collection through apps used by the farmers, ground-level sensors and drone and satellite technology can continue to support further improvements.

Now that the government has led the way, Daniel Jiménez, a data scientist at CIAT at the time, looks forward to when the private sector gets more involved to develop sustainable systems to capture, analyse and distribute information to help farmers manage their crops and resources better. A full case study is here.

An expanding commercial venture

An example where commercial enterprise is involved is the Greek agritech startup Augmenta, which earlier this month received €2.5m backing from two VC funds. It has developed smart robotic hardware that can provide the information to ultimately deliver significant cost savings and performance improvements for farmers.

Augmenta’s hardware can be mounted to a tractor, spreader or sprayer and collects vital data as each farmer goes about their normal work. There’s little extra for them to do other than plug it in and switch it on.

BOLD Developments in Agritech
An Augmenta data capture unit mounted on a tractor

After two years of testing prototypes, Augmenta’s co-founders George Varvarelis and Dimitri Evangelopoulos received seed funding in July 2018 from Athens-based Marathon Venture Capital. With it, they built their first 20 units with a camera to collect visual information and sensors that detect fungus in the crops and monitor fertilizer levels. All the data for each individual field is stored on a web platform to which participating farmers have unlimited access.

They have shown that access to their data can increase crop yields by up to 12%, reduce fertilizer costs up to 15%, and improve product quality by up to 20%. The latest investment in October 2019 from a San Francisco-based VC fund will fund expansion in North and South America beyond the eight countries where Augmenta is already being used.

Alternative farming technology is developing globally

Vertical farming involves food production in indoor facilities where crops are grown in a controlled environment on a series of levels. It is at an exciting stage of development that is attracting entrepreneur startups and investment from major corporates. 

Bloomberg estimates the sector will be globally worth $5.8bn by 2022, with Asia-Pacific (APAC) expected to have the largest share of the vertical farming market by then owing to population growth and limited fertile agriculture land. There are numerous farms in Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and other such technologically-advanced countries which is driving the market in the region. Japan is one of the key countries in which over 150 plant factories are equipped in operational form with artificial lights.

Ocado is a market-leading online grocer and food home-delivery company in the UK. It has invested £17m in a joint Venture called Infinite Acres with a Dutch industrial systems provider and US vertical farming firm 80 Acres. It also has a 58% stake in Europe’s largest vertical farming operation, Jones Food Company based in Scunthorpe, UK.

BOLD Developments in Agritech
Basil growing in a vertical farm in a polytunnel

Still at a startup stage, Shockingly Fresh in Scotland, UK, is currently seeking funding to develop five vertical farming centres using special hydroponic towers to grow multiple crop cycles. A key point of difference is that they will grow their produce in semi-climate-controlled polytunnels rather than inside buildings under expensive lighting. Ultimately they plan to have dozens of sites, capable of growing up to five times the volume of vegetables as a traditional farm. Their aim is to compete for business at regular wholesale prices, director Garth Bryans told us, rather than target the premium grocery sector.

BOLD Awards 2020 has a new Agritech category, and you can take part in a number of ways.

  • Entries in any of the 12 categories can be can be submitted here.
  • In January there will be a round of online public voting that you can take part in, followed by an assessment by a panel of international judges to determine the winners.
  • There will be a black-tie award ceremony on 27th March 2020 in Venice, Italy, and you can apply here to request an invitation to attend. 

The Next BOLD Step in Business Audio? Ask the Crowd!

The Next Step in Business Audio? Ask the Crowd!

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, co-founders of Barefoot Wines and co-authors of the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand.

When humans listen to a story something amazing happens. Each individual in a crowd reaches into their own personal memories to create and complete the scenes in which the action takes place. In other words, they source the props from their own mental inventory. When this happens, they tag the story to be more easily recalled. Why? Because they had something to do with its telling. They were interacting by embellishing the scenes with their imagination, they were involved in a process of co-creation.

Pre-literate indigenous people would hand down their history and the principles they had learned  about survival, the environment, medicine, and even virtues through story. Fast forward 8,000 years, we are rediscovering the power of story to convey principles. We, the audience, hear the story and draw out the take-aways, principles, and lessons. Through using our imagination to complete the scenes, and even identify with the characters, we can recall and use the lessons in our own businesses and life! This is a type of experiential learning.

Prescriptive Text

Without story, business books, especially, can seem one dimensional, prescriptive, and even patronizing. The principles are all laid out for you in a logical construct-like outline. “Here are the 3 things to do, the 5 things never to do, and the 15 things your customer wants from you.” Even if the points are made using examples, the mind glazes over by the end of chapter two. And the retention and application of the principles being shared is questionable.

With the renaissance of story, we are reconnecting with what our ancient ancestors instinctively knew all along: if you want your listeners to remember and use the message, wrap a convincing story around it with compelling characters overcoming challenges using the principles you wish to convey.

Audio Tech History

Forty years ago, all the cars came with audio cassette players. So did most portable radios. It seemed like everybody had a Walkman. You see, back then people appreciated the freedom of audio recordings. They could drive or jog and still listen to a book or a lecture on their favorite topics. We would listen and learn on our way to another city, hoping that some of the lessons learned along the way would stick. We hoped to employ them at the upcoming business meeting. The cassettes were very helpful in our business.

So, fast forward again to the present and we are enjoying the evolution of audio to MP3 as a learning tool. Unlike video, it does not immobilize our mobile devices. Radio-like interviews for iPods evolved into podcasts. Podcasts became wildly popular. What’s not to like? They are informative, in relative short formats, and they are almost always free!  At the same time, paper books became eBooks, and eBooks became audiobooks, all conveniently downloadable and digital.

Now What?

About a year ago, we asked our crowd, “What’s the next step in business audio books?” The answers we got were surprising.  They wanted more story and less prescription. They wanted to be able to draw their own conclusions. They wanted several short stories all linked together with principles demonstrated by action. Due to the increasing popularity of dramatized fiction, they wanted to hear non-fiction dramatized as well.

The Next Step in Business Audio? Ask the Crowd!And so we thought about the radio theater of the 1940’s with actors playing roles in skits. We thought about NPR’s “Theater of the Mind,” and we even thought about A Prairie Home Companion, all dramatized audio productions presented in a theatrical format. Why couldn’t we do this with a business audio book? And why couldn’t we use our own book as a guinea pig?

Next thing you know, we’re off to Hollywood! We partnered with an acting ensemble, converted our New York Times bestseller, The Barefoot Spirit, into audio script, and invested in some serious studio time and a whole lot of editing. We wanted to produce what we think is the BOLD next step in business audio books. We call it, “Business Audio Theater.” After a year of hard work, we are happy to announce our true story of how we built America’s #1 wine brand was released in this new business theater audiobook format on September 12th at the CSW Global 2019 conference in San Francisco!

Open Innovation Helps Power Business Breakthroughs and Identify Bold Talent

Open Innovation Helps Power Business Breakthroughs and Identify Bold Talent

Agorize began as a French-based open innovation challenge platform that connects businesses and innovators from all over the world. Since it started in 2010 it has hosted over 200 challenges, connected with five million innovators from 185 countries, and earlier this year it attracted €13 million in VC funding. We thought it was time to take a closer look at them.

Company background

Open Innovation Helps Power Business Breakthroughs and Identify Bold TalentThe platform already has an international presence with offices in Paris, Stuttgart in Germany, Montreal (in French-speaking Canada) and San Francisco in North America, and Hong Kong and Tokyo in Asia. The new funding will allow Agorize to expand in these markets through plans to hire between 75 and 120 employees by the end of the year in sales, marketing, customer support, as well as developers and community managers. Charles Thou, co-founder and CEO, predicts that “In the next 5 years, we will only make around 10 or 20% of our turnover in France.”

Agorize works with a roster of many global corporations who have identified open innovation challenges as both a very effective way to keep their fingers on the pulse of innovation and breakthroughs, and to effect introductions to tomorrow’s top talent. The impressive list includes Microsoft, AWS, Google, L’Oréal, PepsiCo, LVMH, Publicis, HSBC, CBC/Radio-Canada, TD Insurance, Oxford Properties, National Bank of Canada, Desjardins, Bank of America, Citi Group, HP, IBM, Bank of the West, and Capgemini.

Newcomers are regularly surprised by the high quality of the challenges. The range of ideas and innovations they find are way beyond the possible scope of in-house R&D teams, who can sometimes develop a restrictive ‘corporate mindset’ of “I know what was well received last time, I won’t go too far from that again this time.”

Benefits for challenge sponsors

Multinational corporations often have little contact with student and startup innovators. These types of people are also increasingly keen to develop their own businesses in order to make their individual mark on the world rather than join the ranks of corporate employees.

Open Innovation Helps Power Business Breakthroughs and Identify Bold Talent
Managing Partner of Agorize North America, Aurelie Wen

Through the process of sponsoring open innovation challenges, Agorize introduces corporate businesses to students in any particular fields of study to identify and potentially recruit self-identifying top talent; to cutting-edge startups who have already decided where to look for niche opportunities to make a breakthrough; and to digital native app designers who can accelerate the creation of innovative concepts.

Agorize can also create challenges for a company’s existing employees. Working in multi-disciplinary project teams cuts through silo barriers, boosts morale, and unlocks latent enthusiasm and creativity, generating positive commitment with all its associated benefits.

Sponsoring a challenge on Agorize can also be considered as Marketing and HR activity. For example, the French firms Descartes Development, Air Liquide and Michelin combined to set a challenge related to sustainable cities. It highlighted to students and startups that these companies are active and have positive credentials in this sector, and through taking part, potential future recruits identified themselves to these three companies.

More details on this project and many others are available in Agorize’s Case Studies.

Benefits for students and startups

Agorize provides a full project ‘eco-system’ to tap in to and develop student and startup talent. Importantly, as a first stage, students and startup entrepreneurs can actually meet each other through the “matchmaker algorithm.” Each problem-solver registered in their network completes a profile so that they can be identified and notified about relevant challenges. On receiving notification, each individual can apply to join an existing team or create their own and recruit other problem-solvers to join them in addressing a particular challenge.

They work together in a dedicated online workspace provided by Agorize. This enables their collaboration to take place simply and in one location, accelerating iterations and breaking down geographical barriers.

Challenge sponsors can insert their own employees in to teams as a mentor to provide factual information and keep projects going in the right direction, whilst still allowing the free flow of ideas and creative innovation which are prerequisites to achieve breakthroughs.

Companies that set the challenges also contribute to a program of workshops, and help would-be problem-solvers with technical issues, legal matters, general business coaching and advice on how to navigate a development pathway.

At the tail end of challenges, an online voting system allows people in the network to see the proposals that were submitted and deliver their own verdict on which one they think is the winner. This openness encourages the spread and adoption of best practices, and also delivers peer group prestige.

Digital natives teach the C-Suite

As the first generation that has grown up with digital technology since they were young teenagers, Generation Z workers (born 1997-2000) have new perspectives on applying that technology – or even creating their own new tech – to tackle everything around them. It’s a mindset that’s alien to the generation that currently holds the reins of corporate control. Agorize organises hackathons for aspiring tech developers to bounce off each other and truly enlighten the C-Suite.

Prepare to Salute and Celebrate the BOLDest

Prepare to Salute and Celebrate the BOLDest

The 2020 BOLD Awards, created by Crowdsourcing Week, will build on 2019’s inaugural event to bring together the cream of the crowd economy sector to celebrate the achievements of some of its finest exponents and champions.

About the event

The black-tie Gala Dinner award ceremony represents the Oscars for industries such as the crowdsourcing, open innovation and related tech communities.  

As well as celebrating the breakthrough winners of 12 diverse categories it will be an evening of unparalleled top class industry networking.

If you’re here you will be alongside the industry’s finest.

2020’s glittering event will be held once again at the campus of H-Farm, the innovation platform that supports the creation of new business models and the digital transformation and education of young people and Italian companies. They are just outside Venice, Italy.

Prepare to Salute and Celebrate the BOLDestThe date to put in your diary is Friday March 27th when the evening will begin with a drinks reception, followed by a three-course meal and the annual BOLD Awards 2020 ceremony.

The Official Drink of BOLD Awards 2020 is Valdo Prosecco.

Entering the BOLD Awards

Entry submissions for the BOLD Awards 2020 are now open and the closing deadline for all entries is December 31, 2019. Entry is fee-based, currently it is just €7 though will rise in stages as we near the closing deadline.

After this deadline, a period of public voting will commence January 6th, 2020, followed by an assessment of the resulting shortlist of entries by an international panel of judges.

Entry in any of the 12 categories can be made here. In 2020 there are some new categories, including Boldest Travel Blogger/Influencer, Boldest Augmented & Virtual Reality, Boldest Marketplace and Boldest AgroTech.

How You Can Be Involved

Seats at BOLD Awards 2020 are going to be evenly divided between Nominees, Event Partners and Sponsors, Special Guests, and people who are BOLD enough to request an invitation to attend this unique event.

To start the process of attending as a Nominee, select a category here (though you may enter more than one) and begin your submission. Please ensure you check here the key criteria that will be used to assess each one.

Prepare to Salute and Celebrate the BOLDest

Prepare to Salute and Celebrate the BOLDest

If you’re bold enough to want a place at the crowdsourcing industry’s Oscars evening in the company of global sector leaders, then request an invitation. The attendance fee is €875.

BOLD Awards is aiming to engage more than 3,000 submissions from the public and private sector, with only the Top 50 being selected to join us in Venice, Italy, on March 27th 2020. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be BOLD, you can complete your details here -> http://bold-awards.com/submit-your-project.

Tipalti Launch NetNow Service to Incentivise Invoice Early Payment – What Does This Mean for Marketplace Platforms?

Tipalti Launch NetNow Service to Incentivise Invoice Early Payment – What Does This Mean for Marketplace Platforms?

The banking and financial services sector is becoming more strategically focused and technologically advanced. It has to respond to growing consumer expectations while trying to defend market share against an increasing array of competitors who are each trying to eat their lunch through targeting a single specialist area of the wide banking services.

Tipalti Launch NetNow Service to Incentivise Invoice Early Payment - What Does This Mean for Marketplace Platforms?One such specialist service provider in the automated payments sector is Tipalti. Their service is particularly well recognized as an efficient method for organizations of all sizes to pay a growing crowd of freelance and gig-economy workers, including providers of open innovation challenge solutions, on time, with the right amount, and in the right currency without onerous exchange fees for either party.

Tipalti’s streamlined and automated payables process helps clients of all sizes increase profit by reducing payment errors and automating the process of large transactions; it prevents fraud; and helps to meet international regulatory compliances effectively.

Cash flow issues for startups and small businesses

And now they have introduced a new faster payment service called NetNow. Smaller and new businesses are particularly prone to cash flow issues, simply due to the money coming in and the bills that need to be paid not yet stabilizing in to any sort of a regular pattern. Slow payment from clients or unexpected bills may require a sudden and short-term cash injection. Or maybe an unforeseen business opportunity looks too good to miss, or let be snapped up by a rival.

Either way, a new startup business is unlikely to have built up a satisfactory track record and credit rating to qualify for support from a bank.

Late payment is a particularly big problem for smaller businesses. According to The Entrepreneur in 2017, US small businesses were owed $825 billion in unpaid invoices. It stated: “If SMBs were paid on time, they could hire an additional 2.1 million employees — and reduce U.S. unemployment by 27%.” Alternatively, startup entrepreneurs could  invest more in plant and equipment; take on more speculative business; boost their marketing; build up a larger stock of inventory; or even pay themselves a bit more as a reward for their risk-taking.

In the UK late payments by large businesses are also a major issue for SMEs (small and medium enterprises). Recent research by Dun and Bradstreet revealed that “nearly half (48%) say late payments put their business at risk of failure” according to its recent report: ‘UK SMEs: Brexit and Beyond.’ The SMEs questioned in the research had seen the average amount owed to them rise by almost a quarter from £64,000 in 2017 to £80,000 in 2018, impacting cash flow and future growth. 

Tipalti’s NetNow service enables any client to accelerate payment of an invoice, to receive some needed cash quickly, through rewarding the payee with a reduction off the amount. The example given by Tipalti is for a supplier invoice of $2000, the supplier can receive $1950 if they choose to be paid early.

What makes NetNow unique

This in itself is not new, but usually requires the payer and the payee to agree a long-term arrangement that will apply to every invoice. NetNow is flexible enough, and so seamlessly built in to Tipalti’s systems, to apply to individual invoices, one at a time.

Tipalti Launch NetNow Service to Incentivise Invoice Early Payment – What Does This Mean for Marketplace Platforms?Chen Amit, Tipalti CEO and co-founder commented: “At Tipalti, we understand that supply chain health is incredibly important for companies to maintain competitiveness, as it impacts their ability to execute on business plans. Supply chain financing is not a new concept. However, the frictionless way we have enabled it is. We are proud to be the only accounts payables automation vendor who offers this program embedded directly within its platform for easy payer and payee adoption.”

What it means for marketplace platforms

Marketplace platforms are two-sided networks where the supply chain (vendors contributing content, for example) are also revenue drivers, said Todd McGuire, general manager of supplier success at Tipalti. Many of the smaller firms – if able to receive payments 40 days earlier (while accepting a small discount on net amounts paid out) than might be seen with, say, 45-day terms – could take that accelerated funding and re-invest it into their operations to fund growth. It gives them a new funding source, he added.

Crowdsourcing Engineering Solutions Through Open Innovation Challenges

Crowdsourcing Engineering Solutions Through Open Innovation Challenges

Surcle.io is a global crowd-engineering platform enabling corporations, SMEs, and start-ups to scale resources and tackle engineering and hardware challenges within their organizations and product life cycle. It was launched by the online electrical hardware components supply chain provider Sourceability in 2018. It gives their existing clients, plus other new users, opportunities to source not only components but to also crowdsource engineering-related ideas and solutions from either an open or a curated network of sector specialists.

The democratic basis of crowdsourcing through open innovation means that as well as established professionals and businesses, freelance engineers and newcomer engineering students or recent engineering graduates who are looking for projects that will help them hone their skills can enter a range of incentivized challenges. This could definitely give their career a boost if they can contribute to an appropriate breakthrough.

Surcle has a short video that shows both sides of the benefits for anyone either setting a challenge or working to resolve one.

If you’re majoring in engineering or have recently graduated, and you’re looking for a novel way to launch a career in engineering, then you can sign up here as a Solution Provider in Surcle’s crowd-engineering network and start entering incentivized engineering-based competitions. If you’re an existing business, think of this as an addititon to your new business pipeline.

If you want to launch a challenge, which can also put you in touch with some manufacturers to speed up bringing your product to market as well as with solution providers, you can register here.

What sort of competitions?
Here are two that have recently closed.

Crowdsourcing Engineering Solutions Through ChallengesUkaton was seeking help to shrink a PCB layout to fit inside a shoe to help millions of people improve their posture. SmartShoe Insoles will have three primary functions: a) provide posture analysis and input for VR/AR/XR, b) function as a real-time gait analyzer, and c) serve as a passive and continuous body-weight scale. Submissions needed to be field tested by the deadline for entries of 15 August 2019, though a prize amount had not been set as the startup Ukaton was seeking support from a more-established partner.

Zollner Elektronik AG has launched The Protocol Converter Challenge. It seeks an IoT software solution for a messaging server to deliver seamless communication between any industrial machine and software interface. The goal is to create a middleware IoT device that enables interoperability of various industrial machines, equipment, and workstations on a manufacturing shop floor to support industry’s move towards a “smart factory.”

After consulting its network of solution providers, Surcle received bids from three reputable engineering firms to take on the project. Furthermore, the competitors estimated they could complete the challenge for anywhere between $20,000 to $35,000.

After an initial two-week software programming phase, the three engineering firms developed 13 software solutions. Surcle ensured they developed their IT protocol converter software with the appropriate discretion via non-disclosure agreements.

The three competitors then spent three weeks developing working prototypes of their machine interoperability systems, and presented the results to Surcle. One didn’t make it further, and Surcle presented Zollner with two IoT protocol converter designs to review.

Challenge Outcome

Zollner Elektronik naturally selected the system that best suited the needs of its 19 international worksites. Although it was also the highest priced solution, it was $10,000 under the budget Zollner had initially allocated and it still represented a saving.

Through partnering with Surcle, the German EMS Zollner no longer has to waste valuable time translating data between its equipment. Also, because it is now using a customized solution, it doesn’t have to pay licensing fees for a generic third-party product.

New development

In the meantime, Surcle continues to innovate with further developments. One is the launch of its Engineer Matchmaking Feature. This matchmaking service matches Design and Engineering projects with a curated network of firms and professionals possessing appropriate levels of expertise, financial backup, and other key resources required to deliver the envisioned solution within a specified time frame.

Larger projects may be broken down and compartmentalized in an effort to maintain efficiency, while simultaneously decreasing the risk of complications that may prolong delivery time.

Milestones within this service include at least engineering specifications, product wireframes, functional and engineering prototypes, and firmware. Firms and professionals matched to these projects include the expected engineering firms, original design manufacturers, design firms and electronic manufacturing services, though operators in other sectors could also be considered.

You Can Count on Mathesia to Improve Innovation

You Can Count on Mathesia to Improve Innovation

Mathesia is a global crowdsourcing-based innovation platform based in Italy, that brings together a highly specialised crowd of around 3,000 vetted mathematicians and data scientists from around the world. Since it launched in 2014, Mathesia’s focus has been to help clients solve problems through generating prize challenges to tackle from a mathematical perspective. This doesn’t mean they solve mathematical problems, their crowd of solution providers solve real-life problems using math.

It is a great example of the type of highly curated on-demand talent network that is available through a variety of crowdsourced open innovation platforms, and represents the future development of how innovative startups will increasingly work: access to specialist and expert skills and knowledge when any business may have need of it without the burden of an expensive payroll to fund a fulltime team.

The benefits for the network  of experts (dubbed ‘Brainies’) who subscribe to Mathesia include opportunities to gain and enhance a personal reputation, grow in rank and earn money through their effort spent on Mathesia projects.

You Can Count on Mathesia to Improve InnovationA New Development
The original, or ‘standard format’ of such platforms is to act as an interface between the challenge providers and the platform’s network of would-be solution providers. Though through launching its Connected Innovation Hub, Mathesia has taken this to a next stage. In effect it is a white-label service within their platform which can be fully branded in the corporate image of any challenge provider who is then able to interact directly with selected members of Mathesia’s crowd of solution providers, the ‘Brainies.’ And while this goes on, Mathesia’s team remains available as trusted partners to advise and provide help at any stage of the process.

The Idea Garden is a forum to interact with Brainies to raise questions, topics and touch points to source feedback at an early stage of ideation before innovation projects are more fully formed. As much as this can be very useful to short-list the ideas to take forward, it can also swiftly identify the ones that are not going to excite the crowd.

Through a Co-Lab Tech Scouting feature it’s possible for challenge providers to identify both new startups and more established organisations operating in any particular field as potential longer-term collaborators, if that’s what they wish.

The final stage of refining a project through ideation to execution, and identifying collaborators, is then for a challenge provider to launch it in their self-branded environment in the Project Centre to provide the Brainies with a unique and stimulating environment.

Targeting the US Market
A second development at Mathesia since we last updated you about them is they have become a Member of The Collective, a wide member-based community of platforms and innovators, both corporate and academic, dedicated to advancing the dynamic You Can Count on Mathesia to Improve Innovationof open work strategies, crowd-based innovation and practical collaboration. It was launched by Open Assembly, an organization created in 2017 with the purpose of thinking on the future and the significant changes of the working-world. Its members include some of the most relevant key-players in the USA, like NASA, Deloitte, General Electric and Microsoft.

A key aim of Matehsia’s collaboration within The Collective is to extend their expertise to the best organisations and firms on the US market, and make real partnerships with companies, influencers and academic institutions working on the concept of innovation. Mathesia will actively contribute by developing new open innovation solutions, and work with fellow members to define best practices in the world of advanced crowdsourcing.

Prominent Challenge Partners
I’ll close with a mention of a couple of Mathesia’s current and recent challenge partners. The platform is working with Eni, an Italian multinational oil and gas company, in the Safety Pre-sense project where their network of experts has been tasked with the creation of a data-driven framework capable of identifying the most relevant and repeating causes and factors of incidence concerning safety. Eni’s ultimate goal is to build a system able to support and guide their Health, Safety and Environment experts in making faster, more aware and more focused decisions.”

A recently completed Mathesia project was with Assicurazioni Generali S.p.A., commonly known more simply as Generali, an Italian insurance company which is the largest in Italy and third in the world. The project goal was to assess what is the best methodology, and the most promising variable among all the possible external factors, to build a prediction model for foreign exchange rates. 63 “Brainies” worked on the project, aiming to earn a prize of up to €60,000, and Generali received six submissions. Needless to say, their content remains confidential.

Crowdsourcing the Diagnosis of Incurable Diseases Through AI

Crowdsourcing the Diagnosis of Incurable Diseases Through AI

We are now quite used to seeing the disruption that’s taking place in many marketplaces due to the combination of new technology and mass connectivity in the hands of visionary startups, unencumbered by the ‘rules’ of established business models. Though how about when a global corporation is bold enough to disrupt itself? This is what some think the Philip Morris International tobacco company did when it set out to create a smoke-free future through the development of Reduced Risk Products (RRPs). And the organization they founded to do this now brings together scientists from all over the world to address some of humanity’s greatest challenges, including irritable bowel disease.

As part of their process to develop smoke-free products in a way that would be robust enough to withstand intense scientific scrutiny, PMI launched sbv IMPROVER as an industry initiative to harness the wisdom of the crowd in global science. The purpose was to provide a measure of quality control through gaining external third-party validation of the methodologies used. sbv IMPROVER stands for Systems Biology Verification combined with Industrial Methodology for Process Verification in Research.

It’s a platform that’s available to engage global scientists in non-PMI challenges, and 2019’s major challenge is “Metagenomics for Inflammatory Bowel Disease Diagnosis.”  Inflammatory bowel disease(IBD) is a term mainly used to describe two conditions: Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Harnessing AI to Crowdsource the Diagnosis of Incurable Diseases

Image source: World IBD Day

An estimated 1.3m IBD sufferers in the US alone, and approximately 5 million worldwide, are divided equally by gender. There is no available cure, and treatment for the many varied symptoms includes specific diets, lifestyle changes, medicines and surgery. The aim of the challenge is to design AI tools for more accurate and faster diagnosis.

Opening in August and lasting until November, the new sbv IMPROVER challenge will address fundamental questions regarding the function and composition of the microbiome, and aims at investigating the diagnostic potential of metagenomics data to discriminate patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) – including Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease – from non-IBD subjects.

Harnessing AI to Crowdsource the Diagnosis of Incurable Diseases

Image source: sbv IMPROVER

The challenge brings together two large, publicly available datasets, which participants will use to train their machine learning algorithms, and a third PMI dataset, obtained from an independent study, which will be used for testing the algorithms. The participants will evaluate whether metagenomics data collected from stool samples are sufficiently informative to be leveraged as a diagnostic tool for IBD, and determine which computational methods are best suited for this task.

The outcome of the challenge will represent a step forward to providing healthcare professionals with tools based on Artificial Intelligence intended to speed up the diagnosis, replace invasive medical procedures, and lower the costs in the healthcare system.

There are numerous benefits of developing crowd-based solutions as opposed to smaller teams of scientists working ‘behind closed doors.’ Groups of established scientists have reputations to maintain, and are more likely to want to make public only what they perceive to be their best and most soundly based solution.  This can lead to incremental improvements, but seldomly a major transformative breakthrough.

Whereas people making up a larger crowd, communicating through channels visible to rest of the crowd, are often more likely to mentally prod and poke each other with a wider scope of considerations and “what ifs?” to prompt contributions from participants.

Larger challenges can be broken down and different experts can tackle different parts of it. Participants can use different methods and submit different solutions from starting with the same data, and a combination of submissions often outperforms the best individual ones. This is the phenomenon referred to as the “Wisdom of the Crowds” that can establish state-of-the-art technology in a field, and identify complementary methods to solve a problem.

At the conclusion of sbv IMPROVER challenges, results are made public through publishing papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Crowd-related breakthroughs and the positive disruption they can cause will be the subject of sector-leading speaker sessions and panel discussions at our next international conference, CSW Global 2019, running September 12-13 in San Francisco. Registration is open, you can reserve your place now.