Blockchain 101

On the 14th of November HippoCorn hosted an event, where friends of the house were invited to come along and and learn everything about blockchain they were too afraid to ask. The speakers sought to give the audience a decent understanding of the technology, its potential and some of the players involved, including:

  • How it works

  • Why is it important

  • Why it is the next big thing

  • Application and usage

  • Smart contracts

  • Brief introduction to Ethereum

  • Blockchain variants like Ripple, R3, Hyperledger, etc.

About the speakers:

Faisal Khan

Faisal Khan is a passionate fintech expert, cross-border money transfer specialist and certified speaker & moderator. He is the CEO of Faisal Khan & Company, a boutique firm specializing in banking and payments consultancy. He also serves as the co-host of a weekly podcast called Around The Coin.

He has received extensive acclaim for his achievements and has been #1 on the Top 38 Fintech Blogs and even is one of the 38 Most Influential People to Follow in Fintech in Asia. In addition to financial technology, Faisal Khan loves to help people and does this through volunteering his time and writing on the popular Q&A website, Quora. His efforts have earned him the title of Quora Top Writer 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Simon Ousager

Simon Ousager Is The European Account Executive at the leading Bitcoin compliance and AML platform provider Chainalysis.

With his untraditional background in molecular biology, Simon entered the financial sector three years ago when he discovered blockchain technology. Upon realising the disruptive potential of the technology as well as the apparent lack of local subject matter experts he decided to become an independant blockchain consultant. During the last 3 years Simon have frequently been giving presentations and facilitated conferences and workshops for several large organisations including The Danish Parliament, The Danish Financial services Union and the Danish bankers association.

One year ago Simon was also one of the first fintech entrepreneurs to move into the Copenhagen Fintech lab which had its official opening earlier this month. Copenhagen Fintech Lab is a co-working space and community aimed at establishing strong ties between danish startups, banks, The Danish Financial Services Union, the Municipal of Copenhagen and financial IT infrastructure providers.

 

HIPPOCORN HELPS START-UPS AND ESTABLISHED FIRMS MOVE IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, BY CONNECTING THEM WITH INVESTORS AND SPECIALIST ADVISORS FROM AROUND THE WORLD.

THE TEAM HAS FACILITATED MORE THAN 430 COMPANY CHANGING TRANSACTIONS BETWEEN THEM, RANGING FROM US$50K TO US$3 BILLION. IN ADDITION, EACH OF THE CORE TEAM MEMBERS HAS HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE LAUNCHING OR WORKING ON A START-UP PREVIOUSLY.

 

Introducing our new Co-Chairman: Sameer Chishty.

Sameer Chishty joined forces with HippoCorn, as a Co-Chairman, Head of Asia and Lead FinTech advisor. With over 20 years of experience in top-tier consulting, senior management and FinTech advisory, Sameer is a business force to reckon with. 

He previously served as the Co-Head of Bain & Company’s Greater China financial services practice and Global Head of Bain’s Wealth Management and Private Banking practices. Sameer has served multi-national and local clients in Greater China, South-East Asia, Middle East, the US, and Europe across all financial services sub-sectors. His experience includes growth strategy, development and execution, performance improvement, organisational design and effectiveness, product development, sales force effectiveness, acquisition due diligence, post-merger integration and transformation management. Prior to his consulting experience with Bain, Sameer worked in senior roles for Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore and Pakistan (Global Product Head, Country Consumer CEO) , Merrill Lynch in New York (Managing Director, Global Wealth Management), and McKinsey & Company in London and New York (Partner, Financial Services practice). He currently serves on the Boards of several FinTech startups in Asia and US.

State of play in FinTech

 

Sameer Chishty is Hippocorn's Co-Chairman, Head of Asia and Lead FinTech advisor. He has over 20 years of experience in top-tier consulting, financial services executive roles, and FinTech advisory & investing.

Sameer Chishty recently spent 4 days at the world's largest payments and financial services innovation event Money 20/20 and 1 day at IBM World of Watson in Las Vegas, attending over 14 cocktail parties and over 50 meetings over the course of the week. Based on his participation and discussions Sameer came up with the following insights on the plane back home:
 

  1. This is the greatest time in the history of mankind to launch a startup. Capital, talent, toolkits etc are abundant and accessible.
     

  2. FinTech is ripe w opportunity! Ultimately successful FinTechs will solve customer problems. And financial services customers have way too many problems. Still! Despite 50 years and hundreds of billions of dollars of tech spend and people’s salaries.
     

  3. Most FinTechs are nonsense and won't survive because they ignore realities of customer inertia and financial regulators, and because Founders have way too much optimism in the power of technology delivering marginal benefits. 
     

  4. These FinTechs deserve to die, but are alive because costs of starting a company are at 5,000 year lows and because there is a tidal wave of stupid money.
     

  5. At the same time, there are many many many impressive FinTech innovations. To be successful at creating & monetizing value, these companies need to be refocused for value capture. Refocused in terms of customer proposition, growth strategy, customer experience, business development capability, product focus, etc.
     

  6. Successful FinTechs who offer “BETTER” elements of financial services will partner with incumbent financial institutions to tap their regulatory expertise or capability, and installed customer base. (Incumbents: there is hope; partner wisely!)
     

  7. A small handful of FinTechs who are providing “DIFFERENT” will be successful by confronting the incumbents, receiving their own licenses, and creating new ecosystems.
     

  8. Most cities / countries that want to be FinTech hubs have severe challenges about capital and regulations; but the biggest problems are about talent pool and pipeline.
     

  9. There is so much damned money out there for Founders. It's unbelievable. 
     

  10. However very few VCs actually have original thoughts and clear views and strategic direction. The vast majority just mimic ("fast follow") the leaders, and pray they can exit before the music stops. So you've got this fear & greed dyspepsia going on. Some VCs get paralysed.
     

  11. Despite as a society our veneration for the innovators (people who go "from 0 to 1”, using Thiel’s framework), a LOT of money is to be made "going from 1 to n" in terms of taking good ideas to new product areas and geographic markets ("advanced copycats"). My issue is when investor copycats freeze up with indecision or when founder copycats don't sufficiently modify/customize for local success.
     

  12. Vast majority of banks are still stuck with customer experiences from the 80s or 90s. And are massively vulnerable. But theirs will be a slow painful public loud cringeworthy death.
     

  13. Incumbents’ huge advantage is their deep customer insight, trusted relationships, vast data troves, regulatory understanding, and installed operating platforms – it’s getting all these to work well together in a focused manner that is the major challenge. Senior bank executives who can solve deserve fat paychecks. The rest, well, you know.
     

  14. I'm stunned by the breadth and depth and low cost of white label turnkey solutions to almost everything in banking. This is helpful in getting attackers to market a lot faster and cheaper than banks realize, and some of these attackers will scale super fast.

  15. On a more micro note, many of my predictions from 18-24 months ago are coming true: Insurance, B2B payments, AI are sky rocketing. Robo WM has become a commodity. Lending has hit a wall and is restructuring. Blockchain may have passed the hype cycle and offers pockets of real value now. Less-shopped geographic markets around the world are now spinning out awesome companies and deserve deeper look by investors.
     

  16. China is amazingly large (as you know) and amazingly creative (you may not know) and amazingly competitive (brutally so).
     

  17. Despite China’s brutal competition, most US FinTech VCs are still trying to find a way into China; few will succeed. Winners in China will be smart and connected Chinese investors. (Also see my note on China FinTech)
     

  18. Chinese FinTech VCs are flooding into the US. Most are clueless. Few will succeed. But hunt for the ones that hold the keys to the Middle Kingdom; they can open up China for their portfolio companies.

  19. We desperately need more women in FinTech. Get the word out: Women may actually be better at solving problems than Men. And there are large dedicated pools of capital available just to Women Founders.
     

  20. The most under-appreciated stakeholders are regulators, with whom it’s too easy to complain. Reality is Financial Services regulators are smart, savvy, and can be a Founder’s and Investor’s best guide.

 

HIPPOCORN HELPS START-UPS AND ESTABLISHED FIRMS MOVE IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, BY CONNECTING THEM WITH INVESTORS AND SPECIALIST ADVISORS FROM AROUND THE WORLD.

The team has facilitated more than 430 company changing transactions between them, ranging from US$50K to US$3 billion. In addition, each of the core team members has hands-on experience launching or working on a start-up previously.

 

 

 

What Investors Look for in Startups & Founders

What exactly do investors look for in startups and founders?

WHEN YOU’RE LOOKING TO FUNDRAISE, THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION CAN SOMETIMES FEEL LIKE A MYSTERY. 

AT HIPPOCORN, WE GET ASKED THIS QUESTION A LOT. BECAUSE WE HAVE SUCCESSFULLY SOUGHT OUT INVESTMENT BEFORE, STARTUPS OFTEN APPROACH US, TO ASK US HOW BEST TO CONNECT WITH INVESTORS, PREPARE FOR MEETINGS, AND EMPHASIZE EXACTLY THE INFORMATION THE INVESTORS MOST WANT.

OVER THE PAST SEVERAL MONTHS, PRODUCT HUNT HAS SURVEYED DOZENS OF INVESTORS, AND ASKED THEM TO SHARE WHAT THEY LOOK FOR WHEN MAKING INVESTMENT DECISIONS. READ ON TO LEARN EXACTLY WHAT BLOWS THEM AWAY—AND WHAT ULTIMATELY MAKES THEM WANT TO INVEST IN YOU AND YOUR STARTUP.

4 Steps to Validate your Fintech Idea

The Empirical Praxis Approach.

Every week, a new startup entrepreneur surfaces to change the world in the banking and payments space; every week, another failed startup has to close its doors.

Identifying the gaping holes in their business model is so easy that you have to wonder what would make these would-be-entrepreneurs look outside their comfort zones.

It is extremely easy to get a high by drinking your own Kool-Aid, hence the need for a reality check.

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

Most entrepreneurs are trying to solve a problem. Somewhere in time, they had an epiphany - about not only a problem, but also a solution and a business model around it. This is all fine. Here are a couple of questions for them when they say they are trying to solve this problem.

  • How did you determine that this is a problem?

  • Removing yourself from the equation, did you go into the field and do a survey or talk to other subject matter experts &/or ordinary people and statistically validate that this is, indeed, a problem?

Unless you go out and talk to a decent number of people (200? 500? 1000?), your proposed problem remains questionable. Some problems are meant not to be solved today; some problems are not worth solving; while some are not even problems at all. That is all okay.

Action Item: Determine via surveys &/or focus groups that the problem is indeed a problem worth solving.

Solution in Search of a Problem?

Sometimes, entrepreneurs are slightly crafty. They have a product or a service, which they think is great, so they go into the market trying to build it. Tens of thousands of innovations are being defined in the world right now. These are great products or services, but sadly, they will never see the light of day, and that’s okay. To give an analogous example, look at Yanko Design – a large percentage of what you see on their website will never make it to market, despite the seemingly strong conviction that there is a market for it and the few that do make it to market, have an extremely limited scope. Maybe 1 in 10,000 designs featured on Yanko goes for mass production.

Just because you have a kick-ass solution to something, doesn’t necessarily imply that the problem is big-enough to pursue. Market size should be an extremely crucial element to consider. Always be thinking on a larger scale.

Action Item: A solution in search of a problem is a red-flag in most cases. If you forcefully try to juxtapose your solution to a problem, in all likelihood, your business case would be weak.

What is your solution edge?

Any time an entrepreneur tells me that their edge is pricing or technology, I immediately lose interest.

Pricing and Technology, are both temporary advantages. If your business model hinges on these two elements, then sadly, you’ve lost already but just don’t know it. In extremely rare cases do these two elements offer an advantage.

Within the banking & payments space, behavior is the differentiator. If you are able to build a product that disrupts behavior or speed, offers superior experience, etc. you may have an edge. Stellar banking/payment products usually end up being costlier, not cheaper.

The choice triangle can validate this for you:

Action Item: If a competitor matches price or lowers price, would you be able to sustain? If technology clones pop up, then what will you do? Validate your solution with more than just pricing and/or technology edge.

Despite having the best resources and talent, it is ultimately the market that will decide the fate of your project.

At any given time, you control two aspects of your startup:

  1. You must have the right ingredients (talent, team, money, domain knowledge, etc.) – this is something you control.

  2. You must have the time (time to research, time to develop, time to market, etc.) – again, this is something you control.

  3. It must be the right time (is the market ready for it) – this is something you do not control. Sometimes you could be too early, or too late, or just arrive at the right time, but the traction is taken away by someone else.

Keep in mind: 5Ps = Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance! Don’t you forget it. Companies that spend money (and time) on researching their problems thoroughly, divorcing themselves from the equation and paying close attention to what the market is saying have a higher probability of success versus those who don’t.

About the Author: Faisal Khan has nearly 20 years of experience in the payments and technology space. His specialty is cross-border money transfers. In this capacity, he helps clients think, strategize and execute plans that can have a direct positive impact on remittances. With an active interest in the industry, he has written extensively on all aspects of cross-border payments and remittances. He has also participated in various international payments conferences and seminars. Faisal Khan also co-hosts "Around the Coin", a weekly podcast on banking, money and payments. He is also a frequent contributor to popular Q&A site Quora.

His official website is at www.faisalkhan.com & the blog can be accessed at https://blog.faisalkhan.com