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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

On affinity-focused fintechs, the future of BNPL, and more •

An interview with the co-founders of VC firm Fiat Ventures and sister arm Fiat Growth

Of all the venture capital funding invested in 2021, around one in every five dollars went to fintech. But this boom now seems behind us, as global fintech funding activity returned to pre-2021 levels.

Worse, fintech didn’t escape the recent waves of tech layoffs, with high-profile companies like Brex, Chime and Stripe making headlines for this disheartening reason over the last few weeks.

And yet, fintech startups are still getting founded and funded this year. Of the 223 companies in Y Combinator’s summer 2022 batch, 79 fell more or less into the fintech category.

Why are founders and investors still placing bets in fintech, and where? To find out more, we reached out to fintech-focused VC firm Fiat Ventures.

Fiat co-founders Alex Harris, Drew Glover, and Marcos Fernandez also run its sister arm, Fiat Growth, a growth consultancy working with fintech and insurtech clients. This enables them to comment not only on sector trends from an investor perspective, but also to share practical advice.

One of their key recommendations is for fintech startups to lean into customer acquisition channels whose cost is less variable or seasonal than others, but our exchange covered a wider range of topics, from financial inclusion to offline channels and more. Read on:

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Many of the linked companies are portfolio companies of Fiat Ventures or clients of Fiat Growth.

TC: What makes you say that “fintech acquisition funnels are too complicated”?

Alex Harris: Fintech products by nature have complicated acquisition funnels and enrollment flows. Some complications are unavoidable in a highly regulated environment, but superfluous complications can arise when rigorous testing is not applied and funnels include unnecessary bloat.

Even the smallest detail can generate friction. For example, in the know-your-customer (KYC) process, many fintechs will ask a customer for their entire Social Security Number. In most cases, for non-credit products, only the last four digits of the SSN are needed for identification purposes. While only a five-digit difference, this can have a meaningful impact on conversion rates that can save large sums of money at scale.

Data is certainly king, but there is a time and place for data collection and personalization. Too often, a well-intentioned data team will ask personalization and demographics questions directly in an enrollment process. However, these questions can most often come in a post-enrollment survey or periodically throughout the lifecycle of a customer. Even post-enrollment, these questions need to be thought out. We regularly see data collected for the sake of collecting it, without actionable insights derived from them.

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