Intuit Accelerator Combines Fintech For Good With AI


José V. Fernández first got interested in using technology to ramp up financial inclusion when he first arrived in New York City from Spain around 10 years ago. His job working as a trade officer for Spain didn’t impress numerous prospective landlords, none of whom would rent him an apartment because he lacked a U.S. credit score. Finally, one company agreed to sign a one-year lease, but only if Fernández paid six months of his pricey Manhattan rent ahead of time.

A few years after that,  Fernández co-founded a fintech firm to open up microloans to unbanked people in West Africa. Then, last year, he founded Bankuish, which aims to give gig workers and freelancers a way to access banking services they normally wouldn’t be able to tap. “I believe financial stability is the basis for leveling the playing field, so people can stop surviving and start planning and thriving,” he says. “We’re trying to create better systems for underserved communities.”

Fernández is also one of seven early-stage companies in the Intuit Prosperity Accelerator: AI, the latest version of the financial business and software company’s startup program. The five-month accelerator is for fledgling fintech companies that target consumers and small businesses in North America and want to use AI to build better platforms. Intuit Canada, which sells such financial products as TurboTax and QuickBooks, is running the accelerator with Highline Beta, a venture studio and venture capital firm focused on boosting growth at big companies through venture development and startup partnerships.

In September, Intuit also announced the launch of Intuit Ventures, a corporate venture capital program investing in series B and C-stage companies.

Branching Out

According to David Marquis, country manager of Intuit Canada, the idea for the accelerator—the first cohort, which focused on Canadian startups, took place last year—came in response to the pandemic. “We wanted to help startups that help small businesses and consumers suffering in the wake of Covid,” says Marquis.

This time around, the accelerator branched out to include North America, with an emphasis on AI. Intuit recently placed a major stake in the AI ground, with a strategy to incorporate the technology into its app development process.

The accelerator is also tapping the growing number of startups using fintech to accomplish larger societal goals. “We can help consumers and small businesses become more effective and improve their financial prosperity,” says Marquis. “I see this as a fintech for good initiative.” Some other startups in this sector include Self Financial, MAJORITY and Watson Living, to name just a few.

User Base Growth

As for Bankuish, it’s currently focused on Brazil and Mexico, where it’s formed partnerships with about eight banks. In those countries, according to Fernández, just 30% of people are fully banked, with access to loans. so, he says, financial institutions are eager to find credit-worthy borrowers among the other 70%. He’s planning to expand to the U.S. and Canada at some point in the future.

The platform analyzes data from a plethora of sources for gig workers and freelancers—from every transaction that, say, an Uber driver has engaged in to that person’s bank account—and then provides a recommendation to banks about whether the individual is a safe loan candidate, how much to lend and with what terms. Fernández says he started with that population thanks to the embarrassment of riches it has in terms of data that can be analyzed and assessed.

His goal for the accelerator: To incorporate AI into the platform, thereby allowing for a more-tailored experience for each user. According to Fernández, while his user base has been growing at a rate of 42% month over month, that increase has come with more complexity. “It means there are many more people from different economic backgrounds and lots of other situations,” he says. “We can’t statically program for all these situations and that’s where AI comes in.”

Aki Andersson



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