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How Entrepreneurs Can Get a Piece of the Fintech Pie Fintech doesn't just impact how we manage our money. That's why entrepreneurs should be determining where they fit into this lucrative landscape.

By Tx Zhuo Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Innovative fintech startups are ready to disrupt the financial services industry, and they're getting plenty of capital to do it -- more than $9 billion in the first three months of 2016 alone.

Related: Speaking In Code: 22 Fintech Ideas Pitched In 36-hour Hackathon

The rise of smartphones and the abundance of consumer data are driving this revolution. And, this charge is gaining steam, as consumers become more comfortable with their data being collected, aggregated and shared. Nearly 60 percent of smartphone owners say they've used their phones for online banking, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

In short, the innovative fintech sector isn't putting on the brakes anytime soon. And the growing number of businesses interested in this sector -- from companies involved in money transfer to those in savings, lending and insurance -- is growing.

No industry left behind

Fintech innovations present a huge opportunity for countless stakeholders across many sectors to save time and money. Our portfolio company, Policy Genius, for example, provides an intuitive, transparent search process for consumer insurance products.

Legacy providers are also partnering with technology startups to improve their customer experience. Wells Fargo, for example, has formed innovation labs and a startup accelerator in hopes of innovating its processes. Participants have worked on everything from wealth management to mortgages to wearable technologies.

Opportunity is waiting to be dished out

If you're an entrepreneur looking to get your own piece of the fintech pie, here are some new ways to think about the changing financial services landscape:

1. Expand your (credit) horizons.

In the United States alone, up to 70 million consumers have little-to-no credit history. Traditional lenders rely on credit scores such as FICO to determine a consumer's borrowing power. And peer-to-peer lending takes things a step further, factoring in social data. Today's entrepreneurs, however, see these metrics as merely a fraction of the full picture.

German startup Kreditech uses 20,000 data points -- including Facebook posts, geographic location and even a consumer's behavior when he or she fills out the loan application (typing in all caps, for example) -- to determine risk. Such moves are changing the definition of "credit worthiness."

By using big data to get a fuller picture of these potential borrowers, fintech entrepreneurs can open the door for these consumers to better plan their spending and use banking products as never before.

Related: Fintech, The Wake-Up Call For Banks

2. Get to know consumers really well.

No two customers are the same, and their behaviors aren't staying the same, either. Fewer people are carrying cash. Mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay have some shoppers abandoning their credit cards, too. So, how can businesses engage and keep loyal customers? One idea: Make rewards programs customized to each consumer.

Rewards platform Belly is an example. It allows its 12,000 member merchants to view data about how their customers shop. Merchants can then target those shoppers for return visits, with personalized offers based on their buying history. And although it's true that all customers are different, Belly says it's seeing some similarities: Up to 60 percent of first-time customers return.

The market is wide open for entrepreneurs to create hyperpersonalized loyalty programs and financial products tailored to each consumer's habits and lifestyle.

3. Follow the workforce's lead.

Fintech disruptors should also pay attention to another disruptive business model: the on-demand economy. They might consider creating tools that address the unique challenges of 1099 workers by tracking those workers' personal spending habits and work expenses.

Tools such as Harvest already track freelance workers' time and budgets, create and automate invoices and allow users to snap pictures of their receipts to track expenses from gig to gig. Financial products -- from tax-preparation tools to insurance marketplaces -- are also addressing the new needs of our evolving workforce.

4. Help build healthy habits.

More than 60 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 saved -- if they have savings accounts at all. Financial technologies can help consumers seamlessly build a nest egg.

Many tools can track users' money coming and going. But apps such as Digit use algorithms to monitor that spending and make smart decisions behind the scenes. Digit analyzes users' spending habits and income, then determines how much they can safely set aside in a savings account.

Automating and optimizing personal savings is a powerful financial tool that consumers (and fintech entrepreneurs themselves) can benefit from for years to come.

5. Cut out the middlemen.

Digital currencies such as Bitcoin are making money transfer more affordable and seamless. This opens up opportunities to transact in lower values at much higher volumes and create new micromarkets.

Fluent is a blockchain technology that allows users to cut out inefficiencies (i.e., third parties and the fees owed to them) to make peer-to-peer transactions. This technology could fundamentally transform, if not overhaul, banks' business models.

Related: What Is All The Fuss About Blockchain?

Smartphones and data analysis are driving the fintech revolution, and its impact will be felt by every industry and by millions of consumers. By applying innovative approaches to traditional banking needs, entrepreneurs can set consumers on the path to financial health.

Tx Zhuo

Managing partner at Karlin Ventures

 TX Zhuo is a managing partner of Karlin Ventures, an L.A.-based venture capital firm that focuses on early-stage enterprise software, e-commerce, and marketplaces. Follow the company on Twitter.

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