2015 is when Fintech ventures spend big on consumer marketing to cross the chasm

This post was triggered by seeing the CEO of Motif on CNBC. Motifs were discussed as if they were a mainstream investing tool -which of course they are not – yet. The Motif PR team did good. This was a big step towards the mainstream.

Then I recalled big ads at London City Airport for Transferwise after seeing ads on the London Underground for Nutmeg.

This indicates that Fintech ventures are heading for the big time. They have the traction to raise a lot of capital and can use that capital on advertising and PR to cross to the mainstream. Lending Club was advertising in 2011 and did a successful IPO in 2014.

The curmudgeonly view is that attempting to cross the chasm too early means that you fall in the chasm. Without viral network effects, you cannot beat the incumbents at the ad $$$ spend game.

Banks can certainly outspend the startups. Banks and Fintech startups have different marketing challenges:

  • Startups: nobody knows about you and the assumption is that tech startups with funny names are a great way to buy stuff and be entertained, but they are not to be used for serious stuff like money.
  • Banks: everybody knows about you, but familiarity can breed contempt and since the Financial Crisis there has been a lot of distrust.

In both cases, it takes a lot of money to change those perceptions – good news for the media business. The Fintech Scale Ups (those startups raising huge rounds at massive valuations) are on a race against time. They get huge marketing value by being the first in their category to do an IPO. To do an IPO they need massive revenue growth and that requires a big marketing spend.

This big spend makes sense because the Third Fintech era has now moved into the Scale Phase. During the Scale Phase, it is less about fundamental innovation than about winning market share. This is all about execution (and enough capital is essential to that execution).

The Fintech Segments that are currently in the this Scale Phase are:

  • P2P Lending.
  • Crowdfunding
  • Robo Advisers (aka Low Cost Passive Beta).

The Fourth Fintech Era, using Blockchain technology, is still in the Incubation Phase. During this phase it is all about winning the hearts and minds of a few developers on subjects that are utterly meaningless to 99.999% of the population. Looking back in the past, some examples of this Incubation Phase imcluded:

  • P2P Lending c 2007 (when Lending Club was founded).
  • Internet c 1992 before the browser.
  • PCs c 1975 during the Homebrew Computer Club era .

You know you are in a Fintech incubation era meeting today when your hear subjects such as consensus algorithms, Sidechains and Bitcoin Maximalism being debated with the same passion that most people reserve to their favorite sports team, celebrity or music.

During the Incubation Phase the budget should look like:

90% development, 10% marketing (mostly community management).

During the Scale Phase, this does not completely reverse as these are still tech businesses. It becomes maybe 50/50 development/marketing but with a lot of the development spend focussed on Growth Hacking (which is really Marketing).

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