By Kevin Tweddle
The anticipation is mounting as the September 30 deadline nears for early-stage and startup fintechs to submit their applications to be a part of ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator 2.0, powered by The Venture Center. While the ICBA team and the Selection Committee eagerly await this new round of applicants, we’re also starting to prepare for the next step in the process: selecting the final cohort.
This process involves hours of interviews starting with an initial applicant assessment by The Venture Center team to identify prospects with product concepts that are gaining traction, align with the program’s goals, and have strong market viability. Then it’s time for the Selection Committee to help whittle down the remaining candidate pool and determine the final group joining us in Little Rock, Ark.
“At a high level, we’re looking for relevance to community banking,” said Jack Hartings, president and CEO of $550 million-asset The Peoples Bank Co. in Coldwater, Ohio. “The question is, ‘Will this work or not?’ The Venture Center is looking at it from the angle of: Can these fintechs get capital? While community bankers like me are looking at it from a solution standpoint and asking: is it workable for community banks?”
Community banks also are looking at the likelihood that these promising upstarts will be around for the long haul. To that point, the Selection Committee helps evaluate each company’s overall sustainability, including the strength of the team, product maturity and product-market fit.
“The ownership structure of each company is important,” said Mike Ewing, vice chairman and CEO of $250 million-asset Oak View National Bank in Warrenton, Va. “Some of these fintech companies will become critical providers of services to the community banking industry. With ICBA and community bankers putting a lot of effort into helping these companies get started, we don’t want them to sell out to someone right away.”
The Right Fit
ICBA is looking to address existing community banker pain points, which is why we’re targeting fintechs working in identified critical areas. We encourage community bankers who know of strong contenders to submit them for consideration.
“The pace of change in the creation of new technology is increasing all the time,” said Ewing. “ICBA’s leadership role allows us to leverage the collective power of the community banking industry in a new way.”
Hartings concurred. “I hope that when we look back at the ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator in five or 10 years, we say, ‘Look at that solution. Remember when we started that? Look how important it is to community banks.’ The ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator helps us to flourish. It’s a game-changer from where I’m standing.”
Fintech Solution Focus
In an informal ICBA NewsWatch Today Quick Poll, community banks ranked their interest in exploring the following fintech solution areas:
Kevin Tweddle is Chief Operating Officer of the ICBA Services Network.