Raj Date on NPR's All Things Considered

Hear Raj Date on NPR's All Things Considered with Lakshmi Singh talking about the ChoiceACT's impact on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Last week, the House passed a Republican bill rolling back large parts of Dodd-Frank. While that bill isn't expected to go far in the Senate, the move could build momentum for other changes. To find out more, we reached Raj Date. He's a former deputy director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and, now, runs a small investment firm called Fenway Summer. I began by asking him to remind us what Dodd-Frank does.

RAJ DATE: Let me just clear up the first confusion that people might have. Like, what is a Dodd, and what is a Frank? It's the name of the big Wall Street reform package, named after the head of the Senate Banking Committee at the time and the head of the House Financial Services Committee at the time, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank. If you think back - and, hopefully, people can still remember - the sort of calamitous financial crisis that faced the United States - and, indeed, the world - back in 2007, 2008, 2009. Unemployment doubled. Millions of people lost their homes.

It was bad on pretty much every way in which you would evaluate the performance of the financial system. We had terrible decisions that were made. We had firms that were close to bankruptcy and insolvency as a result. We had a system that allowed one firm's problems to metastasize and affect other firms. And then, finally, we had regulators that seemed to be one or two steps behind every step of the way. And so what Dodd-Frank essentially tried to do is take a universal approach to changing Wall Street and banking regulation that would fix each of those problems.

Go here to listen to the segment and read the full transcript

Advizr adds industry vets to challenge eMoney, MoneyGuide Pro

Read more about how Advizr is scaling its team to take on incumbents in the financial planning space in this article in Financial Planning by Suleman Din:

Now its fourth year and closing in on another round of funding, the firm has attracted over 400 planning firms whose clients have $10 billion in assets.

Still, Advizr CEO and co-founder Hussain Zaidi likes to use the scrappy dialect of fintech startups.

"We have a completely unfair advantage compared to incumbents," Zaidi says. "For them, coming to the Internet in the 90s and 2000s was their objective. We started with the online user experience, and are quickly working to get to the same level of sophistication."

That spirit offered a sense of nostalgia for Chad Blythe, former head of sales at Money Guide Pro, and ultimately convinced him to join Advizr as president and chief revenue officer.

"I was impressed at how the team was culturally and passionate for innovation," Blythe says. "That culture made me want to join the team."

Another veteran recently joining Advizr is Rachel Sanborn, formerly head of User acceptance testing and SME at Learnvest, now director of financial planning at the software provider.

Read the whole article here

Merlon Intelligence raises $7.65 million in seed financing to combat money laundering

FSV's newest portfolio company, Merlon Intelligence, closed a $7.65 million series seed financing. Check out John Mannes' interview with founder, Bradford Cross, in TechCrunch.

The Merlon Intelligence platform flags and ranks risky transactions for banks. This requires both a top level prediction model and a robust data extraction and enhancement pipeline. Merlon crawls PDFs and other unstructured text to create a graph of financial and contextual knowledge.

A natural language processing system enriches this information and allows separate predictive models to make connections between events and people. That predictive model outputs a rank of suspicious activity that can then be analyzed by a human. Traditional banking analysts can provide feedback and improve the functioning of the entire system.

With a pedigree consisting of both finance and machine learning experience, Cross hopes to best legacy players like Oracle and Lexus Nexus that rely on outdated technology while getting the jump on newer entrants like Palantir that are bogged down by clunky consulting operations.

See the full article here

Thousands are flocking to a credit card that helps people repair their bad FICO scores and avoid payday loans

Check out this feature on FS Card by Alex Morrell in Business Insider:

Marla Blow thinks she can help. A card industry veteran who spent nearly a decade at Capital One and helped run the credit card and payments division at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Blow recently helped launch a startup called FS Card, whose sole product at the moment is a credit card targeted toward those with tarnished credit histories.

The card, which is called "Build" and has MasterCard branding, enables customers to avoid the local payday lender's sky-high rates and gradually mend their standing in the eyes of the almighty FICO.

FS Card's strategy is to target "deep subprime customers" in the 550 to 600 credit score range, a group that's largely been overlooked and forgotten by the big banks, according to Blow, the company's CEO. By offering transparent rates and fees and low spending limits to start, Blow thinks she can carve out a profitable business that also helps people repair their financial bedrock. 

It's off to a good start: Some 50,000 people have signed on in about a year and a half. 

Go here for the full article. 

Sheri Atwood Makes Fast Company's List of Most Creative People in Business

We are thrilled to see Sheri Atwood, CEO of SupportPay, included in Fast Company's list of Most Creative People in Business. 

The Problem: Parents who’ve split up often struggle to manage child care expenses.

The Epiphany: In 2011, divorced mom Sheri Atwood, then an executive at Symantec, was filling out an expense report, and she wondered if a similar system could simplify her own life. So she quit her job and sold her house to raise startup funds.

The Execution: SupportPay, which Atwood launched in 2013, is an online tool that lets parents track costs, send payments to each other, and avoid disputes by making the whole process transparent. Especially useful is a shared log of receipts, which helps ensure that money is going where it’s supposed to go.

The Result: SupportPay now has 42,000 users and landed $4.1 million in Series A funding last December. “The ultimate goal,” Atwood says, “is taking the kid out of the middle and looking for a way to keep both parents involved.”

Go here to see the full list.

What If Your Credit Score Measured Your Financial Potential–Not Past Mistakes?

Read more about RevolutionCredit in Fast Company by Ben Schiller:

Zaydoon Munir emigrated to the U.S. from Baghdad, Iraq, so he knows the difference between an authoritarian regime and a free country. But, despite loving our free-market economic system, he criticizes one major aspect of it: credit scoring.

Credit scoring is a system orchestrated by three national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) that track our payment histories–whether we pay our utility or credit cards bills on time (as well as our taxes, car loans, and so on) and, if not, how badly we’re late. They mostly use the FICO system (developed by the company Fair Isaac in 1989), and their numbers are highly determinative, in some cases life-changing. Whether we’re in the 500s, 600s, or 700s makes the difference between buying a house and renting for the rest of our lives, or, perhaps, going to college or not. And it certainly dictates if we can buy a $50,000 BMW 20 minutes after walking into a showroom, and what interest we’ll pay.

Make no mistake, credit scoring is one of the privileges of living in America, Munir says. Lots of other countries don’t keep efficient records and accessing a loan (and selling products and services) is thus all the harder. But, there’s one aspect of the credit scoring system that’s unfair–even un-American, Munir says. It looks only at our past financial history (24 months of it) not at our fundamental creditworthiness. It’s a measure of our past failings, not our potential; of what we’ve become, not what we could be, if we worked at it.

Go here for the full article.

XOR Data Exchange Combats Fraud For Online Retailers

Read about XOR Data Exchange in this story in PYMNTS:

The need for online retailers and brands to be vigilant in the face of fraud becomes more pressing by the day — but additional authentication measures can create friction on the consumer’s end, which has a nasty habit of reducing conversion rates.

The trouble is, the global implementation of EMV authentication has led to a major uptick in instances of card-not-present (CNP) fraud in the eCommerce space. Fueled by account takeovers facilitated by major data breaches, reports suggest that one out of every 86 CNP transactions today is deemed fraudulent, said Greg Bonin, COO of data-as-a-service company XOR Data Exchange.

For its part, XOR recently released a preventative, data-driven resource to enable online retailers to combat CNP fraud and account takeover attempts on the back-end. The platform, called Compromised Identity Exchange Basic (CIEB), allows online retailers to identify account takeover attempts by providing theft risk insight on the level of the individual consumer.

Check here for the whole story.

Assisting the Commercial Solar Market: An Interview with Bryan Birsic, CEO of Wunder Capital

Check out this interview with Bryan Birsic, CEO of Wunder Capital in Renewable Energy Magazine by Robin Whitlock:

Tell me about Wunder Capital and what it does

Wunder has partnered with over 100 solar developers and installers in 27 states. The developers and installers bring the customer in, sign them on, check the roof, get them to a quote, pull us in when they reach the point of trying to figure out the economics. We have three funds that we have raised over the last two years that allow us to provide those commercial solar financings. Our capital is provided by individual investors (through our website) family offices, banks and institutions.

How are things in the US solar market at the moment?

Things are very good. The 2016 industry reports show 95 percent growth in the industry during the year, nearly a doubling, on the back of 30-40 percent growth in previous years. When you see that kind of growth, and it’s a $15 billion market, it is pretty meaningful.

Go here for the full interview.

Click and Go: This Startup Wants to Make #Donate the Future of Online Fundraising

Read more about Goodworld and #Donate at Inside Philanthropy by Philip Rojc:

These days, most people of all ages spend at least a part of their day on social media. That’s doubly the case for us younger folks. For better or worse, social media has become the way many of us find out what’s going on. It’s also one way we connect with the things we care about, like politics (seen Facebook lately?), friends and family, and causes we’re interested in.

That last one, causes, is the focus of Goodworld, a tech startup at the forefront of “hashtag donations.” Forget all those cumbersome donor signup pages and lengthy forms: with a Goodworld account, simply type #donate in the comments field of a charity’s post and confirm an amount. The donation process goes through automatically from there. There’s no need to leave your social feed. 

According to founder Dale Nirvani Pfeifer, ease of use is Goodworld’s main calling card. Citing a younger donor demographic, Pfeifer says navigating away from a newsfeed and through a complicated giving page can cut deeply into the potential of online fundraising. Situating the entire act of donation in a single social media framework makes it easier for donors to give—and charities to receive. 

Go here for the full article. 

How One Female Fintech Founder Beat the Odds - And Raised Millions For Child Support App

Read more about Sheri Atwood and SupportPay in Fast Company by Ainsley O'Connell:

When former Silicon Valley exec Sheri Atwood landed $4 million in crucial Series A venture capital funding for SupportPay, an app designed to streamline child care payments, a lot of attention was focused on her personal story. She was a divorced mom and child of a painful broken marriage—so the show-me-the-money skirmishes were familiar territory.
But there was a second storyline at play that made SupportPay's December VC win all the more significant: Atwood's gender.
Last year in the U.S. just a handful of fintech companies founded by women raised Series A or Series B funding. In New York, there were two investment platforms—Sallie Krawcheck’s Ellevest ($9 million) and Wise Banyan ($3.5 million), and insurance broker PolicyGenius ($15 million). And in California there was online lender ApplePie Capital ($16.5 million), along with SupportPay ($4.1 million). Overall, billions poured into the sector.

Go here for the full article.

SupportPay Raises $4.1M Series A

We're happy to announce our lead of SupportPay's Series A financing. As reported by PR Newswire: 

SupportPay by Ittavi the first-ever platform to automate child support payments and enable parents to share related expenses, today announced a Series A investment of $4.1 million, bringing its total raised to over $7 million since 2014. The most recent funding round was led by Fenway Summer Ventures with participation from Moneta VenturesContinental Advisors, and previous investors. With this investment, Javier Saade, Managing Director at Fenway Summer Ventures and Paul Purcell, co-Founder and Partner at Continental Advisors LLC have joined SupportPay's Board of Directors.
SupportPay will use the money to expand its team as well as ramp up marketing efforts to further its reach to parents, family law professionals, and government agencies across the country. SupportPay recently recruited Jyoti Das as Chief Technology and Operations Officer who will play a key role in these efforts. Das, a former Intel executive, was instrumental in building the early child support systems for several states. 

Go here to read the full press release.