Meet Starlight — A Demo Day[s] 10 Presenting Startup

This year, FinTech Sandbox Demo Day[s] will take place across two days, April 9 & April 11. The presentations will be virtual and the event, as always, is free. Demo Days are exciting because we get to showcase startups that are on the very cutting edge of innovation and you get to see what they’re up to before they’re discovered.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll highlight a few of this year’s presenting entrepreneurs. Today, we’re talking to Catherine Xu, Co-Founder of Brooklyn-based Starlight, which is unlocking the $140 billion in government benefits left unclaimed each year for households in need by using AI-powered coaching. Starlight is presenting on Tuesday, April 9.

Catherine Xu, Co-Founder of Brooklyn-based Starlight, which is unlocking the $140 billion in government benefits left unclaimed each year for households in need by using AI-powered coaching.

Q. Cat, tell us a bit about Starlight. What problems are you solving?

A. Today, 41% of America is financially vulnerable. At the same time, there is over $140 billion unclaimed in government financial assistance programs that could provide households with a financial bridge in tough times. Starlight helps financial institutions connect their customers to government programs that give them the financial help they need. Our white-labeled technology platform proactively identifies and matches customers to relevant programs and provides personalized guidance through the application process.

Q. What is your company’s origin story?

A. My co-founder and I had left our jobs in big tech to focus on problems facing underserved communities. For six months, we were Fellows with the Robin Hood Foundation, doing on-the-ground research and running co-design sessions with different communities, e.g., gig/frontline workers, young parents. Starlight formed after we heard repeatedly from communities about the awareness and process challenges when it comes to government benefits.

Q. Can you describe what it’s been like to be part of the Fintech Sandbox community?

A. Being a part of Fintech Sandbox has allowed us to connect with like-minded financial innovation groups such as Commonwealth, a national nonprofit focused on financial security.

Q. Why is data access important to your startup?

A. Data access helps us to quickly test some of our key use cases, including the usability of data to proactively identify individuals who could qualify for benefits.

Q. What milestones has Starlight achieved so far?

A. Reaching 5000 workers, using financial data to match them to benefits they may be eligible for but not know about, and helping them save on average $1000/year. We also forged early pilot partnerships with fintechs and nonprofits like Steady and Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners.

Q. What trends in fintech are you most excited about?

A. Hyper-personalized digital experiences that effectively employ data and proactively meet the financial needs of each member/customer. New sources for non-interest revenue for financial institutions, in lieu of regulatory changes around fees, and more customer-centric products that address holistic financial health and recovery.

Q. How does Starlight think about leveraging AI in a differentiated way?

A. Using AI to more efficiently process unstructured data at scale, including inferring needs from user-permissioned financial data. Using AI to deliver hyper-personalized experiences, such as financial resources delivered at the right time and in the right format.

Q. What’s next for Starlight?

A. Expanding partnerships with credit unions and community banks, with Starlight providing an easy-to-integrate, value-added product that helps grow balances and reduce delinquencies.

To hear more about Starlight and 11 other exciting fintech startups, be sure to register for FinTech Sandbox Demo Day[s] 10!

Meet Moffin — A Demo Day[s] 10 Presenting Startup

This year, FinTech Sandbox Demo Day[s] will take place across two days, April 9 & April 11. The presentations will be virtual and the event, as always, is free. Demo Days are exciting because we get to showcase startups that are on the very cutting edge of innovation and you get to see what they’re up to before they’re discovered.

This week and next we’ll continue highlighting this year’s presenting entrepreneurs. Today, we’re talking to Nicholas Yepes, Co-Founder & COO of Moffin, which is based in the city of Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco in Mexico. Moffin is a data integration platform-as-a-service that helps companies digitize client screening in LatAm. Moffin is presenting on Tuesday, April 9.

Nicholas Yepes, Co-Founder & COO of Moffin, which is based in the city of Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco in Mexico. Moffin is a data integration platform-as-a-service that helps companies digitize client screening in LatAm.

Q. Nico, tell us a bit about Moffin. What problems are you solving?

A. We provide companies with access to data, technological infrastructure, and software tools to screen clients.

Q. What is your company’s origin story?

A. Moffin’s story begins when my two co-founders, Santiago and Victor, were working at a Mexican fintech that provided loans to refinance credit card debt. They spent most of their time developing from scratch the fintech’s core banking system, connections with data providers, client screening tools, and other pieces of technological infrastructure necessary prior to being able to provide digital credit products. They had a stronger interest in developing software and financial infrastructure than in operating a lending business.

They were offered a sponsorship to start Moffin by a Mexican non-bank financial institution (NBFI) to resolve similar data integration issues. That financial institution then entered into a sale process with the private equity firm I used to work for. I interviewed my co-founder, who was then the head of technology. Following the sale process, my co-founders lost their sponsorship at the NBFI, but they fortunately found their first angel investor that helped them get Moffin off the ground.

After working as an investor in financial institutions in LatAm for more than three years, I understood very well the need for what Santiago and Victor were building. I became an advisor to Moffin shortly afterwards and joined as their third co-founder in April 2023.

Q. Can you describe what it’s been like to be part of the Fintech Sandbox community?

A. I am relatively new to the Fintech Sandbox community, but I love its mission to aggregate financial data and make it available to fintech entrepreneurs to build applications and services. I am also excited for the opportunity to partake in Empire Startups’ New York Fintech Week this year with Fintech Sandbox.

Q. Why is data access important to your startup?

A. Data access is central to our product as we are a data integration platform as a service. We take care of the engineering work to connect with data providers, standardize the information, and create tooling to work with and analyze the data.

Q. What milestones has Moffin achieved so far?

A. Our first product was an API to access Mexico’s credit bureau data. Now we have 10 different data sources integrated via both API and our no-code platform and a suite of software tools to help work with and analyze the data. We’ve reached 73 active monthly corporate clients and sold more than 500,000 data reports in 2023.

Q. What trends in fintech are you most excited about?

A. We are excited about digital lending, buy-now-pay-later, embedded finance, biometrics, neobanking, and AI-based solutions. Moffin helps about 70 companies today access and power these types of solutions through its platform.

Q. How does Moffin think about leveraging AI in a differentiated way?

A. AI applications tend to require a lot of data and that data must be clean and easy to use. When our clients use Moffin, the data is available for consumption in multiple ways and is easy to integrate with AI applications.

Q. What’s next for Moffin?

A. We are consistently broadening our data offering and improving software tools to help our clients increase productivity. This year we are releasing tools for monitoring and fraud prevention.

To hear more about Moffin and 11 other exciting fintech startups, be sure to register for FinTech Sandbox Demo Day[s] 10!

Meet Nufi — A Demo Day[s] 10 Presenting Startup

This year, FinTech Sandbox Demo Day[s] will take place across two days, April 9 & April 11. The presentations will be virtual and the event, as always, is free. Demo Days are exciting because we get to showcase startups that are on the very cutting edge of innovation and you get to see what they’re up to before they’re discovered.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll highlight a few of this year’s presenting entrepreneurs. Today, we’re talking to Hans Villa, CEO of Nufi, which is based in the city of Monterrey in Mexico. Nufi empowers all companies in Mexico to make accurate and reliable decisions based on identity validation. Nufi is presenting on Tuesday, April 9.

Hans Villa is CEO of Nufi, which is based in the city of Monterrey in Mexico. Nufi empowers all companies in Mexico to make accurate and reliable decisions based on identity validation.

Q. Hans, tell us a bit about Nufi. What problems are you solving?

A. Nufi revolutionizes identity verification in Mexico, streamlining background checks to a single data point for quick, secure trust decisions. With unique data sources and a flexible platform, Nufi targets financial services, real estate, and hiring, enhancing digital trust and simplifying operations.

Q. What is your company’s origin story?

A. Nufi started when my co-founder Ilich Núñez and I saw a big problem: verifying someone’s identity in Latin America was slow and complicated. We decided to fix this by using technology to make it quick and safe. With just a photo of an ID, Nufi can tell businesses everything they need to know to trust someone. Ilich and I are deeply committed to building trust within the LatinX community around the world, making every transaction secure and straightforward.

Q. Can you describe what it’s been like to be part of the FinTech Sandbox community?

A. Being part of the Fintech Sandbox community has been transformative for Nufi. This engagement has provided us with invaluable resources, such as access to premium data feeds and APIs, which have been instrumental in refining our technology and scaling our services. The collaborative environment has fostered connections with industry leaders, offering mentorship opportunities and insights into fintech trends. It’s been a platform for growth, innovation, and networking, enhancing our capabilities and positioning us as a key player in the identity verification space.

Q. Why is data access important to your startup?

A. Data access is crucial for Nufi because it powers our identity verification service. The more data we can gather, the better and more accurate our background checks become. This helps us build stronger trust with our clients by offering them precise and current information. Simply put, having access to a wide range of data allows us to improve our services continuously and address our clients’ needs effectively, ensuring their transactions are safe and reliable.

Q. What milestones has Nufi achieved so far?

A. Nufi has achieved several significant milestones that showcase our journey towards enabling trust and transforming identity verification in Mexico and for the LatinX community worldwide:

1. Extensive Customer Base: We’ve built a strong foundation with over 190+ B2B customers, generating substantial revenue and demonstrating the market’s trust in our solutions.

2. Capital Raise: Successfully raised USD 450K in an angel round, highlighting investor confidence in our vision and execution capabilities.

3. Techstars and Google Accelerator Alumni: Participation in these prestigious accelerators, Techstars W21 and Google Accelerator W22, underscores our innovative approach and potential for scale.

4. Exclusive Data Sources: Nufi is the sole provider of certain crucial data sources in Mexico, offering unmatched depth and breadth of information for identity verification.

5. Comprehensive Background Checks: Developed the most exhaustive background check system in Mexico, ensuring our clients can make quick and safe trust decisions.

6. Flexible and Modular Solutions: Offering both a user-friendly platform for immediate checks and an API for seamless integration into clients’ workflows, showcasing our adaptability to diverse client needs.

7. Growth and Expansion: Focused on scaling, with goals to capture a significant share of the Serviceable Obtainable Market within the next three years, targeting approximately $22.5 million in annual revenue.

Each of these milestones represents a step forward in our commitment to providing a safer, more efficient, and trustworthy environment for transactions and interactions in the financial services sector and beyond. Ilich and I have a deep commitment to enabling trust in the LatinX community throughout the world, driving every innovation and decision at Nufi.

Q. What trends in fintech are you most excited about?

A. I’m really excited about a few fintech trends that I think are changing the game:

1. AI and Machine Learning: These are making our work faster and smarter, especially when it comes to checking someone’s identity. It helps us catch fraud better and make sure our clients can trust the people they’re dealing with.

2. Blockchain: This technology is all about making transactions super secure. It keeps records safe and unchangeable, which is great for protecting personal info and building trust online.

3. Digital Identity Verification: As more of our lives move online, it’s super important to have a safe way to prove who we are on the internet. We’re working on making this process really easy and secure for everyone, especially for the LatinX community around the world.

4. RegTech for Compliance: With all the rules and regulations out there, fintechs need to stay on top of them without slowing down. Technology that helps with this is really important for keeping things smooth and legal.

5. Financial Inclusion: Fintech is helping bring banking and financial services to people who haven’t had them before. By making it easier to verify identities, we’re helping open up these services to more people, which is something I’m really passionate about.

Each of these trends is helping us at Nufi do our job better and make the financial world a safer, more inclusive place.

Q. How does Nufi think about leveraging AI in a differentiated way?

A. At Nufi, we approach AI with a distinct perspective, focusing on enabling trust across financial interactions, especially within the LatinX community. Here’s how we differentiate our use of AI:

1. Custom AI Models for Identity Verification: Unlike generic solutions, we develop AI models specifically tailored to the unique challenges of verifying identities in Latin America. These models are trained on a wide range of data points, including those exclusive to Nufi, ensuring higher accuracy and reliability.

2. Real-time Data Analysis: We leverage AI to analyze vast amounts of data in real-time, providing immediate insights for decision-making. This capability is critical in environments where speed and accuracy are paramount, such as in fraud detection and customer verification processes.

3. AI-driven Compliance and Regulation Adherence: Given the complex regulatory landscape in Latin America, our AI systems are designed to adapt to and comply with local laws and international standards. This proactive approach to compliance is a key differentiator, ensuring our solutions meet the highest standards of legal integrity.

4. Enhanced Financial Inclusion: Our AI technologies are instrumental in extending financial services to traditionally underserved communities. By simplifying and securing the identity verification process, we make it easier for individuals and businesses to access essential financial services, fostering greater inclusivity.

5. Continuous Learning and Improvement: Our AI systems are built to learn from each interaction, constantly improving their accuracy and effectiveness. This commitment to ongoing learning ensures that our solutions evolve alongside our clients’ needs, maintaining our edge in innovation.

In essence, our differentiated approach to leveraging AI is deeply intertwined with our mission to build trust and enhance security in financial services, all while promoting greater inclusivity through technological innovation.

Q. What’s next for Nufi?

A. Looking ahead, Nufi is focused on expanding our reach and impact, particularly in serving the LatinX community across the Americas. Our roadmap includes several key initiatives:

1. Expansion into New Markets: We’re planning to extend our services beyond Mexico, targeting key markets in Latin America and the United States where the LatinX community significantly benefits from enhanced identity verification and financial inclusion services.

2. Product Innovation: Continuing to innovate our platform with the latest AI and machine learning advancements to offer more comprehensive and efficient identity verification solutions. This includes developing new features that cater to the specific needs of our expanding customer base.

3. Strategic Partnerships: Forming strategic partnerships with financial institutions, fintech startups, and community organizations to broaden our reach and impact. These collaborations will allow us to bring our services to underserved communities, furthering our mission of enabling trust and financial inclusion.

4. Regulatory Compliance: As we expand, we’ll continue to navigate the complex regulatory environment of each new market, ensuring that our services remain compliant while advocating for regulatory frameworks that support innovation and inclusivity in financial services.

5. Community Engagement: Deepening our engagement with the communities we serve through educational initiatives, financial literacy programs, and community-based projects. We believe that empowering individuals with knowledge and resources is key to fostering financial wellness and inclusion.

Our journey is driven by the belief that access to trustworthy financial services is foundational to economic empowerment. As we move forward, Nufi remains committed to being at the forefront of using technology to break down barriers to financial inclusion, making safe and equitable financial services accessible to all, especially the LatinX community.

To hear more about Nufi and 11 other exciting fintech startups, be sure to register for FinTech Sandbox Demo Day[s] 10!

The New Faces of Fintech — Featuring Tamsey

While we may not know exactly how fintech will impact our future, we have an idea as to who will be leading the charge. In the next installments of our ongoing blog series, “The New Faces of FinTech”, we will spotlight some of the emerging leaders in the fintech world to get their thoughts on what the future of the industry will look like.

Their origin stories are different, their paths to entrepreneurship are unique, but their impacts on their respective industries are significant. No one truly knows what the future of fintech holds, but these industry leaders may have an inkling as to what we can expect.

Our next guest is Grishka Bonlong, Founder and CEO of London-based Tamsey. Tamsey is creating innovative solutions that will transform how payments are made globally. The Tamsey team is enabling low-cost international money transfers and payments that are also fast, safe, and secure for both individuals and businesses.

Grishka Bonlong is Founder and CEO of London-based Tamsey. Tamsey is creating innovative solutions that will transform how payments are made globally.

Grishka, tell us a little bit about your background. What were you working on before founding this company?

After obtaining my Engineering degree, I spent the next decade in banking during which I qualified as an accountant. I started my career in systems management and reporting, but then evolved into finance, risk management, and later treasury management.

Tell us a bit about your company? What’s the problem you’re solving?

Tamsey is a cross-border payment solution that specialises in solving two problems: (1) simplifying the process for individuals to send money home to their loved ones; and (2) reducing bottlenecks for businesses who pay salaries and suppliers abroad. The undergoing next phase of our evolution is focused on the African market, where our solution will significantly reduce the number of adults without access to formal banking services.

We are reducing the cost of doing business internationally while increasing the percentage of adults with access to digital financial services in Africa. According to the World Bank’s Global Findex Database, only 55% of adults in Sub Saharan African have access to digital financial services, which is substantially lower than the global average of 76%.”

What’s the origin story behind your company? How and why did you come up with the idea? 

Being born and having lived in Africa has enabled me to experience how lack of access to reliable and convenient financial services can hinder economic prosperity. Tamsey was born out of the deep desire to contribute to the global democratisation of finance that has been enabled by technology.

Tamsey means “Together”, because we want to enable people to remain connected to what’s important to them, no matter where they are in the world. More importantly, we were motivated by contributing our efforts to the huge challenge of increasing financial inclusion in Africa. That is the reason why we started in remittance to get a detailed understanding of the global payment landscape, learning from what has worked and failed in other continents, to design practical solutions that sustainably democratise access to financial services in Africa.

What milestones has your company achieved so far?

We have registered more than five thousand users on our platform after having obtained licenses in the UK and Canada from the FCA and FINTRAC respectively. We have built a payment network that spans four continents. Our Tamsey For Business solution facilitates bulk payments to hundreds of recipients in just a few clicks. We are present in more than fifty countries in Africa, four countries in Asia. We have begun the pilot phase of our neobanking solution aimed at the African market.

Can you describe what it’s been like to be part of the Fintech Sandbox community?

Being part of the Fintech Sandbox community has been extremely rewarding first from a personal point of view because participating at events has enabled me to meet extremely talented and resourceful people that I continue to learn from. Access to timely and quality data is extremely important, especially due to the volatile nature of some fintech markets. I was able to connect with a Data Partner to discuss a potential partnership to access more accurate currency exchange rate data.

What’s next for your company?

In June 2023, McKinsey & Company published an economic research paper predicting that by 2050 Africa would add 796 million people to the global workforce and be home to the world’s largest and youngest population. Our existing payment network will help these workers receive their salaries on time regardless of where the employer is in the world. We are building a merchant payment solution that will make it easier for the rising African middle class to transact, consume, and travel.

What is some of the best advice you’ve received as a startup founder?

It doesn’t matter how many times you fall. The point is to get back up and keep going.

What fintech trends are you most excited about right now?

I’m very excited about the AI enabled liveness detection solution. They help reduce the cost of keeping the financial system safe, which is very positive.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read recently?

“Le Meilleur Médicamment, C’est Vous!” by Dr Frédéric Saldmann.

________________________

We’re thrilled to feature some of the incredible entrepreneurs who are participating in our Data Access Residency. If you are aware of any fintech entrepreneurs with an early stage company who could benefit from free access to data, cloud hosting, and a supportive community, please have them visit our website to learn more.