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Money2020COnference roomThe #Money2020 conference is the largest #FinTech (Financial Technology) industry conference. With over 10,000 attendees, it was standing room only for many of the keynote speeches from thought leaders and innovators.

It was a wealth of information and inspiration covering many aspects of technology that are important to the success of small business owners. The industry offers tremendous support to #SmBiz on many levels. Here are 5 takeaways from the conference:

   1. Innovators & Brands Are Listening to Small Biz Owners

The floodgates are open, collaboration is the new eco-system in #FinTech. Innovations are being made utilizing data and input directly from small business owners. Your voice is being heard. In fact, it’s welcomed.

Capital One takes that to heart. Keri Gohman, EVP and Head of Small Business Bank at Capital One says, “Banks are solving banking problems, they aren’t developing solutions for small business owners. Enter Capital One; we are founder led and started as a challenger to the banking industry. We want to change the paradigm for business owners and banking.”

Capital One is providing a variety of solutions for small biz owners, both financial and non-financial, and putting them together in one online application. Gohman adds, “The underlying philosophy of Spark Business is to take relevant business tools; whether it be accounting, payroll, taxes, 401K, and bring those actions and data into the SmBiz financial and banking world with tools that can help them be more successful, such as inventory, expense management and marketing. We bring it together in a way that is simple and intuitive.”

Their next generation applications, which are currently in development and testing and will be available in early 2016, begin to build on their in-market Spark Business apps. For example, if you’re paying bills and want to send an invoice, you will have the ability to do it all from one location. They can sync with your other payroll or accounting apps so you don’t have to use manual intervention to go back and forth. They are aggregating the tools that you need where you need them.

Capital One Spark Pay’s newest iteration will help entrepreneurs build and host a website, assist with online shopping cart solutions and offer checkout options for social media platforms Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. You don’t have to own all of their products to take advantage of the Spark business solutions. Gohman stresses, “We are thinking about this through a small biz lens, not a banking lens. Nobody in our space is doing what we’re doing. We are blown away and inspired by the level of passion from entrepreneurs, their risk taking, commitment and zeal. When I look at the challenges that small business owners face, I know that we can help.” 

Bill McNulty, Entrepreneur in Residence at Capital One says, “We learn from every single business owner that we meet. The key is to iterate and validate. Keep it light before we build it into software to be sure we’re on the right track. We are design led, we show it to the business owner and then we develop it further. It’s a different way to develop and iterate in real time. It’s the only way we can continue to find the best solutions for small biz owners.”

From graphic designers to app developers, they are all creating products based on they what they see and hear from small and microbusiness owners. Another level of industry collaboration is with Capital One’s launch of their Growth Ventures division eighteen months ago to invest in #FinTech innovators.

They have since acquired seven companies. Lauren Connolley, Venture Partner at Capital One Ventures says, “The lines between a strategic and financial investor are now blurred. We thrive on joint product development. Capital One isn’t just a banking brand, we are more of a tech company within the banking space, whereas most of our competitors don’t feel that way.”  Jaidev Shergill, Head of Capital One Growth Ventures adds, “We need to get involved with a product when it’s still malleable for Capital One. We can add tremendous leverage at that stage.”


2. The Physical Wallet is Fading Fast; Welcome Mobile Phones, Wearables, & Biometrics 

  • Capital One did a survey at Money20/20 and found that more than half (56%) of respondents predict that the majority of payments in 2030 will be cashless, non-paper based. Half of respondents (52%) think by 2030, the fingerprint reader will be the dominant means of security protection for consumers making payments via mobile devices.
  • If you’re a retailer, you need to consider implementing new payment solutions as soon as possible. More and more customers want to use mobile wallets in store and merchants need to accommodate. Customers also want to have loyalty and promotion programs accessible via mobile apps.
  • Fashionable and functional wearables like dresses, rings and even gloves are debuting in 2016 from a Mastercard collaboration with designer Adam Selman.
  • With security being a key issue with mobile wallets, biometrics (using human characteristics as a form of identification) is another hot topic. Fingerprints, eye retinas and voice patterns are being used to keep fraud at bay.

3. Consumer Expectations Are Higher Than Ever Before:

Small business owners need to listen to their consumers and provide an uber-convenient, seamless customer experience. Consumers know there are myriad choices just a click away, so retailers need to have an awareness of the simplicity and convenience of their site’s experience.  Once consumers get used to easy payment solutions, it seems archaic to go back to the ‘old fashioned’ way with another brand. Don’t risk losing customers.

Computer keyboard rendered illustration with a Dollar Button Concept

4. There Are Many Alternative Lending & Financing Options:

It’s a great time to start a business and there’s hope in finding funding. Business conditions and confidence have been improving since the recession and interest rates are low. There are several options to consider:


There are crowdfunding platforms and one-offs like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo  and platforms like Krowdster to help boost your crowdfunding campaign efforts.

Online Lenders:

There are non-traditional online lending platforms such as On Deck and Funding Circle and for younger millennials with student loans who want to consider refinancing to further their financial success professionally, there’s SoFi.

Innovation Competitions:

Participating in competitions is also very worthwhile. Money2020 Hackathon had innovators compete to win a total of $125,000 in seed money. (5) $5,000 winners and (5) $20,000 winners. There were partnerships and mentorships formed. It was a real inspiration to see the collaboration of idea generators and bigger brands.

5. It’s time for a Tech Check-Up:

We are supported by the ease of technology from building a solid business foundation, to setting up a website, social channels, user friendly eCommerce, affordable marketing options, payment system apps and alternative lending options. Take a look at your systems and see where you may need to just fine tune or possibly do a major overhaul in order to take advantage of #FinTech solutions. Consider these questions: 

  • Is your website mobile friendly? (This is an absolute must!)
  • Are you utilizing an on-the-go mobile reader payment system like Capital One Spark Pay with the best transaction rates? Have you upgraded to real time cash flow management apps and software?
  • Are you syncing in loyalty programs with your eCommerce platforms?
  • Are you familiar with the ‘Buy Buttons’ on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest?
  • Are you offering your customers a convenient, user friendly experience that will keep them coming back?

SparkBusinessIQ provides a wealth of information to help you with all of the above. You can follow Capital One via LinkedIn as well. If you’ve been holding onto that great idea or working in a field that’s not your passion, now is a pretty great time to take the leap of faith. There is plenty of support.

We are connected 24/7/365 at the intersection of small biz and tech. It’s overwhelming but it’s also exciting and productive for small business owners. Technology has made our day to day operations so much more efficient and scalable and has made engagement with customers easy and consistent.

The #SmBiz playing field is more level than ever before…so it’s time to up your game and utilize technology to take your business to the next level.



Disclaimer: Thank you to Capital One for sponsoring my trip to Money20/20 and this post. All opinions are my own.