Transformative technology innovation is a key differentiator between industry disrupters and those that are disrupted. Innovation competitions are an efficient way for big enterprises to gain access to game changing technologies that are still in the early stages of development.
Quesnay Inc. is an innovation consultancy company that also coordinates innovation competitions. Quesnay’s Female Founders in FinTech competition (FFiT) focuses on female entrepreneurs who are pitching their early stage fintech solutions. Launched in 2017, FFiT identifies and evaluates innovative technology solutions and unique talent for corporations while also providing access to capital, mentorship, and partnership opportunities to startups.
According to Quesnay co-founder and President Jennifer Byrne, “Since launching FFiT, Quesnay has had leading companies participate as sponsors, over 600 startups register from 61 countries, 250 industry experts and investors participate as judges and mentors, and a larger ecosystem of innovators support the program.”
The final pitch event for this year’s FFiT competition was held February 5th at Nasdaq’s Times Square offices. “Providing resources for female tech entrepreneurs is a way to drive meaningful improvements in diversity and inclusion in the tech industry,” said Lauren Dillard, Executive Vice President and Head of Global Information Services at Nasdaq. “Nasdaq was proud to partner with Quesnay and provide a platform for women in the financial services industry.”
Five very talented women entrepreneurs pitched their technologies in front of a panel of judges for a chance to win cash prizes, mentorship, and the opportunity to collaborate with established financial services firms (including Wells Fargo, the lead sponsor of this year’s FFiT competition):
First Place Winner: HomeZada
Elizabeth Dodson wants homeowners to approach managing their most valuable asset—their house—as professionally as they would manage a business. HomeZada is an all-in-one suite of apps that enables users to administrate all aspects of home management in one place. It tracks routine maintenance schedules, expenses for remodeling projects, insurance inventories, operating expenses, market value and more. The tagline of her website reveals the mission of HomeZada: Save money. Improve Value. Get Organized.
According to Byrne, while all the finalists presented extremely compelling financial solutions, HomeZada was the first-place winner because the judges felt it brought clear strategic direction, a compelling value proposition, multiple sources of revenue, an interesting ecosystem, and a market-ready product.
"Congratulations to our winner, Elizabeth Dodson, Co-Founder of HomeZada,” said Byrne. “She won the judges over by presenting a user-friendly mobile solution that will help their customers better manage their entire home ownership journey.”
Dodson looks forward to building on the connections she made through the contest. “Quesnay and its sponsors offer a wide variety of benefits which are key to the growth of a successful startup. Each of these benefits will be used to scale HomeZada by securing more partner relationships, enhancing the HomeZada platform, and increasing investor connections to raise our Series A round of funding,” said Dodson. “Potential partners like Wells Fargo and Valley Bank can provide a co-branded version of HomeZada to retain and engage their customers. The Mastercard Start Path and Discover offer partnership opportunities to enhance the “perks” offered by these credit cards, which would enhance their customer experience and make it easy for their customers to manage their largest financial asset and biggest expense. Even sponsors like Shearman and Sterling have a network of investors who may consider investing in HomeZada. I’m very grateful for winning this forward thinking, female-focused event.”
Second Place Winner/People’s Choice Winner/Audience Choice Winner: Stratyfy
Stratyfy CEO Laura Kornhauser, along with her co-founders, developed Stratyfy for compliance, risk management and underwriting professionals. Stratyfy is unique in that it integrates AI models into the decision-making software that can detect and mitigate bias, helping banks and insurers make better risk-based decisions in areas such as credit card application approvals, insurance quotes, and loan underwriting.
“Stratyfy's AI solution resonated with the audience as it combines its engine with institutional knowledge in a way that also mitigates bias,” said Byrne.
Third Place Winner: clinicPesa
Sharon Anyango of Uganda believes no one should suffer without medical care for lack of income. She developed clinicPesa, a digital micro-loan and savings platform that helps users set aside dedicated healthcare funds to offset medical bills and purchase medications. The app provides access to the platform and funds via mobile phones. Sharon’s goal is to empower the uninsured citizens of Uganda and Kenya (and eventually all of East Africa) to save as little as $ 0.20 at a time to build up funds to offset medical bills. clinicPesa also provides loan top-ups at very minimal interest rate in case emergency medical expenses exceed savings.
Top Five Finalist: AgriLedger
Genevieve Leveille of London is on a mission to revolutionize agtech. She developed AgriLedger to bring blockchain technology to participants across the full spectrum of the agricultural supply chain. AgriLedger’s blockchain technology brings transparency and traceability to food sources, provides data to farmers so they can fully gauge and access market opportunities, and creates digital ledgers so agricultural providers can prove identity and income to gain better access to financial services.
Top Five Finalist: TomoCredit
TomoCredit founder Kristy Kim came to the U.S. from South Korea as a student to attend the University of California at Berkeley. Like many international students, her expenses were funded by her parents, so she never established credit history in the U.S. When she graduated and joined the workforce, she couldn’t get a car loan despite the fact that she had a very high-paying job and strong cash flow—because she had no credit history. Kim estimates there are more than 30 million students and graduates just like her who fall into the category of high purchasing power but little or no credit history. Her TomoCredit card is a Mastercard card that targets that niche, with cardholder approvals based on bank account transactions to understand spending and cash flow. The company also promises 20% rebates to credit card holders in the form of Bitcoin cryptocurrency.
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