FiBD: The FinTech Bullshit Detector

  • Chris Skinner, Chairman at The Financial Services Club

  • 19.01.2017 06:45 am
  • Fintech

I’ve been wondering for a while how so many companies can be starting up something in the same space, and how are they surviving?  The reason for mentioning it is that we keep hearing these numbers around how many billions are being invested in FinTech, bitcoin, blockchain and such like, and yet I cannot see the unicorns.  Well, not many anyway.  How many can you name?

A couple of years ago there were 84, according to Jim Bruene on the Finovate blog, and yet now?  OK, so there’s a raft of them in China, but then China is reinventing the game.  In the States, there’s Stripe and Square … there was and is Lending Club, but some say it has lost its way.  There are a few more, sure, but it’s not a big list.

Then there’s the blockchain bit, and not a single unicorn there yet, unless you count bitcoin the currency.

This slightly concerns me as you would imagine there would be more breakout firms by now.   After all, it’s over a decade since the FinTech revolution began – I personally place my first FinTech firm as Zopa, which launched in April 2005 – and the market is still nascent.  Equally, for every firm that has broken out, there are dozens that have not.

How many FinTech failures are there?

Again, there was the notable implosion of Powa Technologies due to bad management, but how many others are there that you don’t hear about?   And am I just finding this question rising because I meet so, so, so, so many new start-ups with bright ideas and big ambitions?

Now don’t get me wrong. I haven’t turned into a bear on the FinTech scene.  No, I’m still bullish, but I am getting to the point that if anyone else comes up to me and says we’ve got this great solution for KYC or we’re doing things the banks cannot even imagine or this is going to be the most disruptive software you’ve seen yet or this is the next bitcoin, I’m going to scream.

That is why I’ve invented the FinTech Bullshit Detector, FiBD for short.1

It works the same as buzzword bingo, and sits in the back of my mind whenever I hear a pitch.  The buzzword bingo terms in the pitch must include at least three of the following:

  • Disruption
  • Open
  • Breakthrough
  • Gamechanger
  • Innovative
  • Millennial
  • Leverage
  • Next Generation
  • Platform
  • Legacy
  • Digital
  • Democratisation
  • Anything … as-a-service
  • Marketplace

I’m sure there’s more, but I’ll leave it at that.  Now you know that if you pitch to be me and I say: you’ve been FiBD, that you just reached my point of least interest.

OK, let’s get on with the day.

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