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Why FinTech is exploding

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Financial institutions are paying attention to startups playing in the FinTech space as this is where potential disruption of their business model is going to come from, writes CAROL ATKINSON, Managing Partner of Integration at Exponential Ventures, MMI Holdings.

FinTech or Financial Technology has grown with the advent of new technology applications such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), wearables, and others. Application of these software technologies into the financial sector promises to transform the way in which consumers interact with the financial services industry as well as the solutions offered by the industry.

Financial institutions are paying attention to startups playing in this FinTech space as this is where potential disruption of their business model is going to come from. Disruptive innovation is defined by Christensen, Raynor and McDonald, in their paper “What is Disruptive Innovation” for the Harvard Business Review, as “a process where a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses.” These disruptive companies target market segments that are ignored by incumbents with products that have more suitable functionality at a lower price. In some instances, these new companies then progress to capture the traditional market that incumbents are playing in at a lower cost and with a more suitable solution. When mainstream customers start adopting the new company’s offerings in volume, disruption has occurred.

According to Christensen, Raynor and McDonald, incumbent companies do need to respond to disruption if it’s occurring, but they should not overreact by dismantling a still-profitable business. Instead, they should continue to strengthen relationships with core customers by investing in sustaining innovations whilst creating a new division that can focus on the disruptive innovation and take advantage of that as well.  Financial institutions, rather than be disrupted by a new entrant, are future proofing themselves by creating disruptive innovation capabilities within their organisations and supporting external startups in return for equity or partnering with the larger organisation.

According to Accenture research on the evolving space of FinTech, players with a vested interest in the FinTech space have poured an unprecedented amount of money into global FinTech startups. More than $50 billion has been invested in almost 2,500 companies since 2010. And this continues to grow.

Within the South African landscape, the lack of funding has been a barrier to entry for many, often relying on self-funding or being funded by friends and family. This lack of funding is changing in South Africa. There is a focus of activity taking place in this space as corporates start paying more attention.

From ideation stage to playing with the big boys, support structures are being put in place by corporates, universities, non-governmental organisations and other institutions to assist startups reach the next level in their progression. Critical in this process is to fail fast and fail cheaply. Timeframes have shrunk with regards to start-ups progressing to scaled commercial models. The burgeoning incubation and acceleration programmes in South Africa and across the world are based on this understanding. Given that the majority of startups fail for various reasons, investors and funders are creating many opportunities for startups to take their startups from ideation stage to a point where they acquire their first client as quickly as possible. With access to mentors and resources to fully explore their business model, the process is engineered to remove barriers that may hinder the startup achieving its potential.  The below diagram is an illustration of the process many of these start-ups go through:

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The South African FinTech space is growing rapidly and it is good news not only for the pedestrian economy but also for improved employment levels. Traditional industries that previously fuelled the South African economy are stagnant or in decline. Recent third-quarter numbers released by Stats SA showed a decline in the trade, manufacturing and agriculture industries. The finance, real estate and business services industry are becoming increasingly vital to the SA economy having recorded positive growth every quarter since the fourth quarter of 2010.

As Exponential Ventures we are passionate about the FinTech startup space and look forward to nurturing and seeing these innovative companies like Tax Tim and LifeQ grow to make a meaningful difference in the lives of consumers locally and globally and making a significant contribution to our economy.

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Kenya tool to help companies prepare for emergencies

After its team members survived last week’s Nairobi terror attack, Ushahidi decided to release a new preparedness tool for free, writes its CEO, NAT MANNING

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On Tuesday I woke up a bit before 7am in Berkeley, California where I live. I made some coffee and went over to my computer to start my work day. I checked my Slack and the news and quickly found out that there was an ongoing terrorist attack at 14 Riverside Complex in Nairobi, Kenya. The Ushahidi office is in Nairobi and about a third of our team is based there (the rest of us are spread across 10 other countries).

As I read the news, my heart plummeted, and I immediately asked the question, “is everyone on my team okay?”

Five years ago Al-Shabaab committed a similar attack at the Westgate Mall. We spent several tense hours figuring out if any of our team had been in the mall, and verifying that everyone was safe. We found out that one of our team member’s family was caught up in the attack. Luckily they made it out.

At Ushahidi we make software for crisis response, including tools to map disasters and election violence, and yet we felt helpless in the face of this attack. In the days following the Westgate attack, our team huddled and thought about what we could build that would help our team — and other teams — if we found ourselves in a similar situation to this attack again. We identified that when we first learned of the attack, nearly everyone at Ushahidi had spent that first precious few hours trying to answer the basic questions, “Is everyone okay?”, and if not, “Who needs help?” 

People had ad-hoc used multiple channels such as WhatsApp, called, emailed, or texted. We had done this for each person at Ushahidi (their job), in our families, and important people in our community. Our process was unorganised, inefficient, repetitive, and frustrating.

And from this problem we created TenFour, a check in tool that makes it easier for teams to reach one another during times of crisis. It is a simple application that lets people send a message to their team via SMS, Slack, Voice, email, and in-app, and get a response. It also works for educational institutions, companies with distributed staff, as well as part of neighbourhood networks like neighbourhood watches.

This week when I woke up to the news of the attack at Riverside, I immediately opened up the TenFour app.

Click here to read how Nat quickly confirmed the safety of his team.

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Kia multi-collision airbags

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The world’s first multi-collision airbag system has been unveiled by Hyundai Motor Group subsidiary KIA Motors, with the aim of improving airbag performance in multi-collision accidents.

Multi-collision accidents are those in which the primary impact is followed by collisions with secondary objects, such as other vehicles, trees, or electrical posts, which occur in three out of every 10 accidents. Current airbag systems do not offer secondary protection when the initial impact is insufficient to cause them to deploy. 

However, the multi-collision airbag system allows airbags to deploy effectively upon a secondary impact, by calibrating the status of the vehicle and the occupants.

The new technology detects occupants’ positions in the cabin following an initial collision. When occupants are forced into unusual positions, the effectiveness of existing safety technology may be compromised. Multi-collision airbag systems are designed to deploy even faster when initial safety systems may not be effective, providing additional safety when drivers and passengers are most vulnerable. By recalibrating the collision intensity required for deployment, the airbag system responds more promptly during the secondary impact, thereby improving the safety of multi-collision vehicle occupants.

“By improving airbag performance in multi-collision scenarios, we expect to significantly improve the safety of our drivers and passengers,” said Taesoo Chi, head of the Hyundai Motor Group’s Chassis Technology Centre. “We will continue our research on more diverse crash situations as part of our commitment to producing even safer vehicles that protect occupants and prevent injuries.”

According to statistics by the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS), an office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in USA, about 30% of 56,000 vehicle accidents from 2000 to 2012 in the North American region involved multi-collisions. The leading type of multi-collision accidents involved cars crossing over the centre line (30.8%), followed by collisions caused by a sudden stop at highway tollgates (13.5%), highway median strip collisions (8.0%), and sideswiping and collision with trees and electric poles (4.0%). 

These multi-collision scenarios were analysed in multilateral ways to improve airbag performance and precision in secondary collisions. Once commercialised, the system will be implemented in future new KIA vehicles. 

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