Financial startups are hot these days, and for a good reason. The traditional software applications in financial environments are like dinosaurs that are on the verge of extinction.
You can walk into a bank and easily spot a Microsoft .NET 1.1 software application running on an 15 years old Windows XP machine , and most CEOs don't seem to care the technology they are using is outdated.
It might seem too risky to change things that work, but the cost of not innovating might be even higher, especially in a connected world that is heading toward robots, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Chronic Lack of innovation
The lack of innovation in Financial environments is a well-known problem in the startup community, and that is a reason why Y-Combinator, the richest startup incubator in the world, included financial services in it's famous requests for startups:
Investors are desperately waiting for a good idea in the financial domain, and very few software companies try to build something more complex than a personal cost-tracking app.
"Its simply too hard to find good ways to save or to invest. This seems to us like something software should help solve. We’d like to see teams tackling each of the component issues around saving and investing, along with ones tackling the entire package." - Y Combinator
Building a startup means risking a lot and innovating with technology, and the average financial environment is not built to innovate, but there is also a lack of technical knowledge, and business vision.
The right ingredients for a startup
To build a startup you need a great team. An idea and technical knowledge will not take you anywhere if you don't have the right team.
We know that startups can succeed only when the ability to develop quality software is married with a business team with great vision.
At Ministry of Programming we decided to endeavor in building Financial startups in an exclusive partnership with The Naga Group (http://thenagagroup.com/). The naga group is the right business team we need to build the next generation of financial startups.
Together with the Naga Group we have the right combination of technical experience and business knowledge/vision to disrupt the financial system with innovative technologies in the years to come.
Domain knowledge and Complexity
Domain knowledge in financial startups is extremely important, since the complexity of the economic system is excrutiating, and not understanding the rules involved in a specific context can be fatal for any startup in this domain.
The economic system of the modern world is much more complex than the system described 200 years ago in the masterpiece "Wealth of nations" by Adam Smith. The complexity of the modern economy makes it harder to grasp knowledge required to build a financial startup.
To demonstrate the domain complexity, I always remember a fact from the book "Economics: The User's Guide" by Ha-Joon Chang, when Andy Haldane, the executive director of financial stability at the Bank of England, pointed out that in order to fully understand a CDO financial product a prospective investor needs to absorb more than one billion pages of information.
The complexity is pervasive in all financial systems, and not only the savings and investments areas mentioned in the RFS by Y-Combinator.
This complexity is also one of the biggest risks for efficient execution of startup development in the financial domain.
Having domain experts on-board is a huge benefit, and with our partnership we ensured that we have strong domain knowledge to build startups.
The best way to tackle complexity in any software is to make it simpler. We choose to make it simpler for the user, and hide the inherent complexity under the hood of our financial software.
For example, Traditional stock/forex trading systems are complex, and they are usually based on older desktop technologies or old-fashioned web applications, and usually are hard to use and require deep knowledge. That is why we decided to innovate in that area.
To tackle the complexity of traditional trading systems we have built Swipestox (https://www.swipestox.com/) as an iOS/Android mobile app for social trading. In Swipestox users can follow and copy other user's trades, and make money in different ways. The simplicity is key.
However, Swipestox is much more than the usual trading app, since it is a social network, and a place to run trading contests and have fun.
We want to evolve the traditional ways of trading, so we baked-in some new User Experience concepts in the application, and we innovate in every single aspect of the application, from the User Interface to the Infrastructure.
Unlike the vanilla financial app, Swipestox is built with cutting-edge open-source technologies like Node.js and Scala, and it runs backed by a set of micro-services in the most scalable and secure cloud infrastructure in the world: Amazon Web Services. The goal is to have maximum efficiency and cut the costs of operating the software, while using modern technologies.
We built Swipestox for a fraction of the price that a traditional financial system would cost to develop and mantain, and very quickly, since we had an MVP prototype in 3 months.
Swipestox is just one of the startups we are building, but a good example of our approach to innovate and reduce complexity.
Building financial startups is not simple, but with the right team, technology and an innovative approach it can be an extremely interesting domain to disrupt with new startups.
The timing is right for financial startups, and the market is craving for new ideas.