Fintech is changing the way financial services are packaged and delivered. Tasks associated with everyday banking are becoming increasingly customer-centric and engaging. But these advancements are not being coupled with improvements in financial literacy.
Based on a study conducted by lowestrates.ca in partnership with IPSOS, 34% of Canadian are unaware of the fact that free chequing accounts exist, which allows banks to get away with high fees. When it comes to mortgages, most are confused about the meaning of terms such as amortization, term, etc.
This problem is further exacerbated to levels that can be dangerous when consumers enter the areas of investing. Uneducated and uninformed decisions in investing can cause individuals to lose their entire life savings or suffer due to crippling debt for the rest of their lives.
An ideal situation, therefore, would include improvements in not only the way financial services are delivered, but also in tools that educate and help the general population to make better financial decisions.
FormFintech was fortunate to have two startups in its first Ascension Cohort (a Fintech Incubator Program) that are trying to do exactly that. Details of these two startups, the accompanying market environment and their value proposition are mentioned below.
Apps like Robinhood have made it easier and cheaper for the average consumer to invest in stocks, but nothing has been done to improve their skills and knowledge - a big obstacle that keeps people from investing. Those who do make investments without the right data usually end up not making any gains, and it is common that most retail investors consistently underperform the stock market.
Julien Brault, understands the magnitude of this problem, and is doing something about it through his startup - Hardbacon - aimed at those between the ages of 25-45 and less than 100K to invest.
Simple Wall St and Morningstar premium can be considered the closest competitors to Hardbacon, and have been successful in raising money (Simply Wall St. closed $1.8 million round in 2017) pointing towards the fact there is an appetite for such startups in the market. Hardbacon aims to differentiate itself from these competitors by allowing individuals to effortlessly sync the Hardbacon app with their Questrade account and analyze their own portfolio.
Who’s behind Hardbacon?
A journalist who used to interview startup entrepreneurs, and in the process gained inspiration, prompting him to build his own startup. His expertise with writing and journalism gives him an advantage over other startups when it comes to marketing and sales on a bootstrapped budget. Yazan Khayyat, CTO at Hardbacon, is the brains behind the app and has worked with Julien since the beginning.
Pina Marra, one of the co-founders at BlockRewards, usually starts her pitch by talking about how she was among the many who started accumulating debt as an adult. She goes further and rightly mentions that many of these unhealthy spending and savings patterns stemmed from habits (or lack thereof) inculcated during childhood.
That realization led her to an epiphany. What if we can teach kids the advantages of wise spending? They might make favorable decisions further down the line.
BlockRewards wants to do exactly that through an app based on tenets of gamification aimed at children between the ages of 6 and 12.For those who feel that this sounds like a wishy-washy concept, Classcraft that is based on similar principles has close to 7000 teachers across 50 different countries as its users (July 2014). According to the newspaper L'actualite, 1000 classes all over the world used that product. In terms of funding, Classcraft has successfully raised $2.8M from Whitecap Venture Partners, BrightSpark and MaRS Catalyst Funds.
What differentiates Blockrewards from Classcraft is its focus on financial literacy. However, BlockRewards does have other close competitors such as HighSchoolInveting, Bankaroo and Yuby. But most are in very specific niches not directly related to Blockrewards. For instance, Highschoolinvesting is about stock market simulation, whereas Bankaroon is about allowance management for children from financially well-off families.
Who’s behind BlockRewards?
A team that came out of Desjardins' Coopérathon. All three co-founders - Pina Marra, Onorio Marra and Ottavio Rosada - are a family in real-life, which makes them a cohesive and well-functioning unit. In terms of expertise, they provide the right mix of background in banking, engineering and project management.
Where Are They Now?
Off-late, Hardbacon has been making waves in the Montreal Fintech ecosystem, by being among the few that have successfully raised funds through a crowdfunding campaign. Julien’s resilience and consistency allowed him to hit the $250,000 mark in a matter of days, Now, his goal will be to further develop the app and its features. If you are interested in using the app, click here.
BlockRewards’ team, on the other hand, has been busy refining the details of their prototype through District 3’s Testing Tactics Program. This team is consistent, coachable and motivated - the holy trinity for a great startup team. And we expect them to turn into a full-fledged startup in the coming years.