By Tricia Martinez, Managing Director of Techstars Payments and Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerators
I am incredibly excited to announce the opening of applications for the first class of our Techstars Payments Accelerator powered by Stellar and MoneyGram. Applications are open from July 5th, 2022 through September 28th, 2022, and our hybrid program will run from January 3rd, 2023 through March 30th, 2023. We are looking for bold founders in the fintech space that recognize the massive opportunity across emerging markets, specifically Latin America, and who are already using or are interested in using blockchain to scale their technology.
There are over 3.5B people globally who are not adequately served by current financial solutions. Over 2B people do not have bank accounts and another 1.5B only have basic savings accounts, which are not transactional. These underserved consumers are primarily based in Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Africa. Across these emerging markets, the two key barriers to financial services are access and cost. Yet at the same time, emerging markets are some of the most advanced markets in regards to financial innovation.
Emerging markets leapfrog technology because legacy systems do not exist making it easier to innovate and drive change. However, the lack of legacy systems and infrastructure in these markets leads to more significant problems including consumer adoption, inability to scale, outdated systems, uneducated regulators, etc. In developed markets we have a competitive and overcrowded fintech ecosystem leaving consumers/businesses crippled by choices. On the other end, emerging markets have limited choices. This makes the potential for innovation much higher because consumers/businesses are actively looking for solutions that just don’t exist.
For our 2023 investment thesis, the Techstars Payments team is focusing on 10 key themes within the fintech space that address the gaps across payments infrastructure throughout Latin America.
Consumers send money cross-border in large and small amounts every day. In many cases,these payments are used to fund the essentials of life for people around the world. Solutions that further streamline moving money around the world by lowering cost and expanding access.
There is no better use case for blockchain than creating financially inclusive payments solutions in emerging markets. The potential for DeFi is massive here. Solutions utilizing various protocols and blockchains within the financial technology ecosystem and/or enabling businesses to build on top of Stellar blockchain technology further driving inclusion.
Half of the global population is considered unbanked or underbanked and while many consumers are unable to open bank accounts, nor do they want to, there is a growing opportunity to digitize their finances via digital wallets. From incentives to cross border payments to employer driven solutions, digital wallets can take different shapes and forms but ultimately drive inclusion.
Digital Identity & Know Your Customer
Access to financial services by regulated financial institutions requires identity and KYC systems driving away many consumers who do not have this information. Solutions and standards for identifying people and wallets that work in a digital setting while not exposing personal identifying information of end users.
Financial Infrastructure as a Service
Across emerging markets, infrastructure is limited or non-existent making the opportunity to build the rails and tools for businesses massive. Also known as banking as a service, infrastructure solutions that enable B2B businesses to build on top of Stellar blockchain technology further driving inclusion.
Large businesses and corporations across emerging markets, especially LatAm, have a massive network of KYCd employees who are looking for more advanced financial products and services. Solutions that enable businesses to more efficiently pay employees and drive participation in the financial system while fulfilling local tax and compliance obligations.
Cash on and off ramps are one of the biggest problems across emerging markets when it comes to financial inclusion. Moving fiat to digital currency is costly, time consuming, and creates safety/security problems for consumers. Solutions to create more efficiency like agent networks that act as human ATMs are growing across LatAm and introduce many opportunities for Fintechs.
Transactions & Ecommerce
Enabling consumers to move from transacting in cash to transacting digitally is a top priority for fintechs. It unlocks endless economic opportunity for consumers including fast, easy, and low-cost transactions as well as accessing products and services otherwise unavailable. Solutions that drive ecommerce growth and value added services including bill pay, top up, and remittances.
Micropayments/Credit & Debt
Providing more facilities for consumers to utilize credit and debt instruments will not only help consumers participate in their economies, but it will drive their financial well-being and create more opportunities for them.
No matter what country or region of the world, financial literacy is still one of the greatest challenges for driving financial inclusion. Many consumers struggle with understanding all the nuances of the financial sector as well as how to save, budget, and prepare for the future. Designing incentives and solutions that drive literacy within the payments ecosystem for children, low income families, college students, or anyone is a growing opportunity.
The payments space has endless opportunities for innovation. Consumers are waiting for disruptive solutions that solve their problems - high fees, inefficient systems, broken infrastructure, and unstable currencies. If you or someone you know is building the future of payments we would love to meet you!