Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 31st 2014 Contents A 1 2014 www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | SBG5
NEW YORK---The latest banks are small
enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
Startups, such as Moven and Simple, offer
banking that s designed specifically for smart-
phones, enabling users to track their spending
on the go. Some things haven t changed. Like
traditional banks, customers open a checking
account, get a debit card and are able to make
check deposits and pay their bills. Like many
Internet banks before them, they have no main-
tenance or overdraft fees, there are no physical
branches and depositing cash is a challenge.
What makes Moven and Simple different is
their apps. Every time a debit card is swiped
at a store, a notification is sent to the phone
letting the user know how much was spent
and how much money is left in the account.
"It makes them mindful of what they spend,"
says Alex Sion, president and co-founder of
Moven, comparing it to fitness activity trackers.
"What Fitbit and Nike Fuel do for your
health, we do for your wallet."
Both services automatically categorize pur-
chases to provide an overview of what was
spent on groceries, dining out or other areas
over time. With Simple, users can set goals,
such as saving up for a new bike, and the app
will show how much needs to be saved every
day to meet that goal.
Moven and Simple say most of their users
are between the ages of 25 and 36, an age group
that is often ignored by bigger banks who are
more concerned with customers who have more
money in their accounts. Portland, Oregon-
based Simple, says it has more than 100,000
customers. Moven, which is based in New York,
declined to say how many customers it has.
The two companies make money from fees
merchants pay every time customers swipe
their debit card. The accounts are insured by
the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, but
Moven and Simple don t actually hold the
money that customers deposit. Moven, which
launched for public use in March, partners
with CBW Bank which holds the deposits. Sim-
ple, which was acquired by Spanish bank BBVA
earlier this year, partners with The Bancorp
Bank for its deposits.
The two services are not for everyone. Nei-
ther one of them offer savings accounts. But
both Moven and Simple say that they may be
offered in the future. Neither mobile bank lends
money, so those seeking personal loans or a
credit card need to look elsewhere.
But no-frills banking is enough for some.
John Carr opened a Simple account in 2012
when the service was still in being tested by
a small group of customers. He quickly closed
his accounts at Bank of America where he was
getting charged overdraft and ATM fees. He
keeps a savings account at a military bank in
Carr, 35, has his pay sent directly to his Sim-
ple account. To pay his rent, he uses Simple s
bill pay function to send a paper check to his
old-school landlord every month.
When he wanted to save US$1,600 for a new
laptop, he used the app to come up with a six-
The app also made him realise he was spend-
ing too much on fast food and gas. So he cut
down on eating out and now rides the subway
to get to his information technology job at a
Los Angeles movie studio.
"It s saved me so much," says Carr. AP
aren t online," said Maloney.
Even though local businesses may be behind their international
counterparts from developed countries, "they know how to use
technology so the opportunity is there," Maloney said.
Some of the local business the ICT entrepreneur said his company
is working with include: Digicel, Courts, Lucky Dollar, Optometrist
Today, Hyatt and Massy Automotive.
Reaching to the point where the entrepreneur and his business
partners could approach companies of this stature took a lot of
"With anything that is worth achieving it was pretty difficult,
but that comes with the territory of just trying to do anything big
or revolutionary. First you need to find a concept that you can
start without needing a huge capital investment. The innovation
comes in the actual business model.
"But it s tough, it s not easy at all," he said.
Funding a start-up
The founders of the company and their families funded the
initial start-up cost of F1rst Media s parent company Novustech
Ltd---a company that deals with energy efficiency in the Caribbean.
This, in turn, provided the capital to start F1rst.
Professor Unwin sees this as the true entrepreneurial approach.
"If I take the logic of what I see an entrepreneur to be, entre-
preneurs would fund their startups themselves," he said.
He also added there are a number of global initiatives "to try
and crack that nut."
One of the initiatives Unwin pointed to is the innovation hub.
He said that many innovation hubs focus on giving people tech-
nological skills but he thinks it is really important for them to do
"It s giving them business skills, financial skills, etc," he said.
That is not his only issue with innovation hubs.
He said: "In some countries there are business start-up funds
that governments and private sector make available. Some of the
big global corporations are funding innovation hubs and entre-
preneurial initiatives. I have some problems with that because
what tends to happen is you get a big global corporation putting
funding in and they then identify the bright people that work in
those innovation hubs and take them into their companies which
very often clamps down on their entrepreneurial spirit. Ideally,
going back to my definition, these people should be trained to go
out and build their own businesses."
And there is vast potential in the Caribbean to do just that,
according to Maloney.
"The thing about the ICT sector is that, when you hear about
things like Facebook and Twitter, those things started with one or
two people, there s very low initial costs but the long-term potential
is immense. It s all based on human capital and intellect, so there
isn t much difference between a software developer here and a
developer in the US.
"If the Caribbean can maximise the intellectual strength of its
people, we can definitely go into the ICT sector and leverage it to
do great things," Maloney said
Flashback: F1RST's directors and co-founders: Eesa Mohammed, from left, Kyle Maloney and Nicholas
About Tim Unwin
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From Page 4
At the heart of
for me, is
someone who will
develop their own
people and move
in the economy.
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