The “death sentence” mistakes that fintech startups need to avoid



Fintechs shouldn’t be treated like normal startups and founders need to pay special attention to regulations and the needs of their users, Santander InnoVentures venture partner Pascal Bouvier says.


In a post on CB Insights, Bouvier lists the top 10 biggest mistakes a fintech startup can make that often serve as a “death sentence”.


The top errors include disregarding compliance measures, attracting the wrong sort of VCs and focusing merely on cost as a differentiator from the host of competitors.


Here are some of the key mistakes to avoid if you want your fintech to stay ahead of the rising pack.


Treating it like a normal startup with normal customers

Fintechs are a different beast to a normal startup and need to be treated as such, Bouvier says, and this mainly revolves around the customers.


“Individuals care about their money and at the same time they are not as engaged with it as they are with their social networks, friends or the passionate causes they care about,” he says.


“Most startups that do not study these cautious behaviours closely end up being surprised by how slowly they gain traction.”


Bringing the wrong sort of investors on board


Attracting investors with a strong knowledge of the fintech sector is “invaluable”, Bouvier says.


“If there is one industry where experience matters – deep, granular experience – it is the financial services industry,” he says.


“Shun them [experienced investors] at your peril.”


Disregarding compliance

According to the venture partner, ignoring compliance with the many rules and regulations of the finance industry “may actually be your death sentence”.


“If you do not comply, if you cannot prove that you intend to comply, if you are late hiring a compliance officer or are late to develop a compliance rulebook that you abide and operate by, you may end up dead meat,” Bouvier says.


“Be smart – realise compliance can be your friend.”


Using cost as the sole differentiator

Fintechs need to find a wide range of aspects that can serve as differentiators from their competitors, especially an ability to scale rapidly.


“If you fail to understand that incumbents have massive scale advantages you will be wiped out when said incumbents finally move into action and race you to the bottom while undercutting you on cost,” Bouvier says.


“Be smart, find a real differentiator, one other than just cost enabled by ‘better’ technology.”


For the full list of mistakes to avoid and further analysis, read the original piece on CB Insights.

Denham Sadler is the editor of StartupSmart. He was previously a journalist at the publication and has worked as a freelancer for the Guardian, the Saturday Paper and the ABC. In his spare time he likes puns and jaffles.