I hadn’t considered this angle, but it seems as if this will be an interesting development in the near-future. As an aside, I had to go to my bank recently to get a check reissued, and needed to get my form letter notarized by a banker. The banker had to stamp the document, and then scribble a handwritten record of it in some ancient log book. I joked with the guy that this procedure probably hadn’t changed in 200 years, he smirked agreement. Amusingly, there was an advertisement on the banker’s desk touting their smartphone payment options. Yet the notarization process was slow, and analog. Ripe for change, just like financial transactions. Have you ever looked at a mortgage document for instance? Pages and pages of crap that nobody reads, or comprehends. Anyway…
Over the next decade, the familiar 20th-century modes of banking and investing will give way to something very different. We are on the verge of the Uberization of finance, which will bring multiple new opportunities but also a range of new risks.
The ubiquitous ride-sharing company uses a simple device—the smartphone—to connect people who want rides with people who want to drive them. Uber is a high-tech middleman that is making the intermediaries of the past obsolete. The financial world is one of the most mediated industries on the planet, and that is precisely what is about to change. Uberization also means using vast amounts of data to make those connections feasible.…
Technology is one source of this shift, but so is legislation. The JOBS Act of 2012 contained a seemingly innocuous provision making it easier for startups to raise money from investors previously deemed too poor to dabble in such ventures. At the end of October, the Securities and Exchange Commission finally approved the rules, which will go into full effect early next year. As a result, any company or person with an idea can solicit and raise up to $1 million without most of the onerous regulatory and reporting requirements of the past.
So what lies ahead? Retail banking is the one area of the financial world that has undergone tremendous change over the past decade. Bank tellers are now scarce, and many consumers use smartphones for payments and deposits. It also has become much easier to trade shares online.
But core services such as lending money, raising capital and investing for clients still depend on a firm to act as a conduit—and as a choke point. With many promising startups already launched and with venture capital funding new ones every day, here’s a glimpse of what we can expect in the years ahead.
Loans to large companies are up over the past decade, but lending to small business has contracted, from more than $700 billion in 2008 to less than $600 billion today, according to the Small Business Administration. As for the Silicon Valley ecosystem of venture capital, it certainly doles out funds to dreamers, but it excludes many types of businesses, especially brick-and-mortar ones.
All of this explains why new funding ventures have received such a boost from the JOBS Act. Kickstarter is the most familiar, with Indiegogo close behind. These crowdfunding platforms let almost anyone announce an idea and solicit money for it, usually in chunks of $1,000 or less. No established venture-capital firm or large bank would dole out such small amounts. Their overhead alone, for due diligence and compliance, would mean steep losses on investments that size.
But the new crowdfunding sites remove those layers, and for now they have few of the regulatory burdens or scrutiny. It is the Wild West of fundraising. The most recent success was Oculus Rift, a maker of virtual reality headsets that raised $2.4 million on Kickstarter and then was bought by Facebook a little more than a year later for $2 billion.
The big hitch? A Kickstarter contribution is a donation. When people fund projects on the site, it is out of passion for the product, not any hope for a financial return.
The next wave of crowdfunding, through sites such as SeedInvest and Fundable, will offer equity ownership to those who throw money into the ring. This new model could upend the insular world of venture capital and business loans while at the same time providing new opportunities for small investors. As for a would-be innovator, if you can post an idea online, raise a million dollars for it and (most important) choose how much equity you want to part with at what valuation, why go through the gauntlet of a commercial loan application or make the rounds at the VC firms on Sand Hill Road?
The result is likely to be billions of dollars of new funding, which would spur lots of good ideas—and lots of bad ones, too. The prospect of unconventional new funding sources has already prompted comparisons to 1999, when millions of individual investors joined the IPO craze only to see their shares of Pets.com become worthless. Such risks are very real, but either way, much more money will be in motion.
(click here to continue reading The Uberization of Money – WSJ.)
I better start polishing up our business plans so we can tap into some of this pending sweet, sweet funding…