CB Insights' flagship fintech conference is about to kick off this week. Over 1400 professionals from the finance and fintech industries are joining the research firm in New York City to talk business. A few major themes are emerging:
Unicorns ride strong: It's pretty amazing to see how many fintechs have assumed unicorn status. Senior executives from firms like Affirm, Palantir, Chime, and OakNorth are set to take the stage. It takes a miracle to get a new company off the ground and attendees want to hear how it's done. The adoration around startups with over $1 billion in valuation has a halo effect, too -- there's an entire track at the event dedicated to companies on their way to unicorn status.
Incumbents have fewer seats at the table: This is an event dedicated to the upstarts. Large multinational banks, though they'll be there in attendance, aren't participating vocally from the stage. While many business plans for fintech firms have pivoted from B2C to B2B, it's actually kind of disappointing that there aren't more big firms leading the pack. While certainly they still control the majority of assets and client accounts, the big boys aren't leading the discussion about the future of finance.
VCs as the new founders: Almost every venture capital firm actively investing in the financial industry is presenting at the Future of Fintech conference. It feels like we went full circle on the rock star status of fintech VCs. Their participation and leadership helped launch the first generation of financial industry competitors, but it turned out to be much harder to monetize these investments than people thought. VCs went into a bit of investment hibernation as valuations ramped. Now, investors are back talking about the future again.
Networking works: There's still lots of business and partnerships to be made. The FoF conference is focused on enabling 1:1 meetings for attendees using a nifty app called Brella. There's a lot of pre-scheduling of these meetings before the conference -- CB Insights claims over 6000 meetings have been scheduled --- pointing to the interest in networking among participants.