Finovate Fall 2012 Best of Show Winners

Another Finovate conference is in the books. The Best of Show winners included MoneyDesktop, one of the companies on my watch list for accelerating the convergence of high tech and high touch, and one that should have been on my list, but had eluded my foresight (Learnvest).

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New York welcomed the Finovate road show to town with weather was so perfect that it faded into the background like a perfect picture frame. For the most part, the show graced the perfect frame beautifully, with attractive and engaging interfaces being the rule. So much so that Aite analyst and Snarketing 2.0 blogger Ron Shevlin mused about the attendees being “SedUIced”  by interfaces over business impact.

It’s a shame that intermittent WiFi and cell coverage inside the hall occasionally defaced the exhibition with digital graffiti. If I hadn’t known that Javits Convention Center has distanced itself from its early reputation as a patronage mill for the mob, I would have thought that a few of the exhibitors had spurned pre-show shakedowns behind the dumpsters. (“It would be a real shame if that pretty app of yours somehow couldn’t connect to the network right in the middle of your demo…”)

Making the Complex Simple

A wise CFO I once worked with proclaimed that were two kinds of people in the world, those that make the complex simple, and those that make the simple complex.

There weren’t too many in the latter camp, the Finovate team screens and coaches demonstrators well. Still, a few seemed to have slapped technology onto a convoluted process and/or addressed an irrelevant problem; or as someone tweeted– solved problems no one has with technology no one wants. There were (only) a few moments that felt like SharkTank, and I secretly wished for the schadenfreude of a venture capitalist throwing a cold glass of reality on the smoldering embers of a bad idea.

But the majority of the demos addressed relevant problems and simplified the complex with good design, and most appropriately recognized mobile as a significant front in the fintech wars.

All of the Best of Show winners (in alphabetic order):

  • Credit SesameMint and LendingTree had a very good looking baby. Credit-centric PFM with recommendations for managing debt.
  • Dashlane addressed the sometimes laborious process of filling out multiple fields for e-commerce checkout with a single solution for any vendor on any platform.
  • Dynamics showed a payment card with a built-in switch that enables customers to choose multiple payment sources. (Parenthetically, I “invented” this a few years ago in an ideation session. I also “invented” BetaMax when I was nine. And flying suits.)
  • eToro had an impressive demo of a pretty product that I happen to categorically reject. Their CopyTrader technology enables stock traders to harness the “wisdom” of the crowds in their own gambling, er, trading. It was a definite crowd favorite, but I have seen the prequels “Internet Stocks” (1999) and “Real Estate” (2007). They were both gripping thrillers with horrible endings.
  • LearnVest was a glaring omission from my pre-show list of three firms to watch. The firm and it’s founder and CEO Alexa von Tobel have been getting much well-deserved press, and their latest contribution to the convergence of high-tech and high-touch includes the ability to collaborate with a financial planner.
  • MoneyDesktop repeated as a back to back winner. Their patent-pending “bubble budgets” provide a nice graphical representation of budget items and they continue to refine their ecosystem with synching iPad, smartphone and desktop apps.
  • PayTap offered a slick and apparently effective solution for paying shared bills via multiple payment sources and social networks. They also pitched it as a way to make it easier when you are asked to help pay someone else’s bill. I’m looking for the blacklist feature on that one…
  • ShopKeep POS enables merchants to run a store from an iPad. Another great example of making the complex simple, with a great interface.

All in all, another great show full of smart people and innovative ideas, and another reminder that we are still in the early stages of disruptive technology in financial services.

This is really starting to get good.

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