FIS Fintech Accelerator offers unique startup benefits

The FIS Fintech Accelerator 2024 sees 10 startups meeting with business leaders, scaling their products and developing a market-centric value proposition. April 30 is the application deadline for the ninth-annual accelerator. Eighty alumni from the first eight years of the FIS Fintech Accelerator have collectively raised more than $1.5 billion. More than 85% are still active or have been acquired.

Program leader Tatyana Kratunova said her business career has taught her the importance of building strong customer relationships – it’s central to success.

“That’s what I’m bringing into the accelerator – the ability to build strong relationships with startups but also strong relationships with the bank customers,” Kratunova said. “That match between the two is where the real impact is.”

How the FIS Fintech Accelerator’s design helps all stakeholders

The FIS Fintech Accelerator is purposely designed for maximum impact. FIS works with business leaders to identify priority problems that need solving. That dictates the types of startups to partner with.

Those conversations extend to customers. What are their priorities? What are their goals for the year?

“We ask those questions slightly differently,” Kratunova explained. “Then, we look to engage as part of the program to achieve those goals. We work with ecosystem partners, associations and partner communities to understand those priorities. Those three sets of internal needs, customer needs, and ecosystem partner needs inform the priorities of how we look at the different types of companies.”

The FIS Fintech Accelerator explained

Applicants are scheduled for progressive sets of interviews. They include the business leaders who have identified needs. Partnership seeds are sewn early. Potential fits are analyzed.

Then comes a two-week incubation period for assessing the founders’ strengths and weaknesses. Are they more technical or business-oriented? The program is curated based on the needs of the successful applicants. Target market alignment, product and pricing are among the factors assessed.

Tatyana Kratunova said the accelerator’s unique design brings critical benefits to all involved.

The September program begins with ideation workshops, where the key benefit is bringing customers, clients and entrepreneurs together to brainstorm and look for quick wins. Kratunova said the process can dramatically shift focus for some startups.

Startups’ underlying theses are pressure-tested through informal discussions with different executives. Is the proposed solution the right one for the market? If not, why not? Kratunova said an essential quality of these sessions is that the goal is not selling the product but improving it.

“They learn a lot about how banks think about their specific solution,” she explained. “And they, in some cases, come up with a completely different product market or a completely different strategy or maybe with a net new solution that comes out of the needs they hear from those banks.

“That experience is invaluable.”

Once the FIS Fintech Accelerator’s 12 weeks are finished, startups should have a valid proof of concept based on the discussions with business leaders and potential customers. Kratunova reiterated that those discussions with potential customers are invaluable. It’s hard to get in front of so many banks that quickly. That prepares them for the annual demo day in Jacksonville.

How startups benefit

The unique environment can bring quick benefits for startups. Because entrepreneurs are not in a pressurized, yes/no situation, they more easily work with stakeholders to build a better product. That time together fosters critical relationships with leaders who often become early adopters of those products and services.

That process also helps founders scale their technologies more quickly and safely, including proof of concept refinement, validation, due diligence and screening processes. If successful, how is the solution taken to market? How do the founders and stakeholders complement each other? How do they expand their range of customers?

The biggest needs, and where AI fits in

Kratunova said banks are looking for many types of solutions. Regtech and compliance are longstanding needs. Payments, especially across borders, are another priority. Fraud isn’t going away, and there’s keen interest in digital assets.

We’ve gone this far without mentioning AI. Looking beyond the hype, Kratunova said the focus must be on best use cases. Much like the discussions held throughout the FIS Fintech Accelerator process, the discussion returns to solving problems and distilling complex issues into more easily solved pieces.

Members of the FIS Fintech Accelerator benefit from the added support in what Kratunova said has become a more challenging capital-raising environment over the past two years.

“To be successful in this environment takes someone special to do that,” she said. “From there, it’s more about what the right fit is and what the right target customer is. How do you engage those customers to provide the right feedback so that you can scale from that perspective?”

Was it too easy to raise money a few years back? Is it too hard now?

“Companies have always been able to raise money,” Kratunova said. “There’s always been a known understanding because of the regulator of what banks must do; that process is longer than it would have been in different sectors.

“I think that’s a good thing because that pressure ensures that the right companies progress and can scale.”

  • Tony Zerucha

    Tony is a long-time contributor in the fintech and alt-fi spaces. A two-time LendIt Journalist of the Year nominee and winner in 2018, Tony has written more than 2,000 original articles on the blockchain, peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding, and emerging technologies over the past seven years. He has hosted panels at LendIt, the CfPA Summit, and DECENT's Unchained, a blockchain exposition in Hong Kong. Email Tony here.