28 Jan How to create and implement a fintech sector strategy
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” goes the Chinese proverb. And it’s a truism when it comes to developing your own fintech strategy. After all, how many people allow fear and lack of experience to hold them back from kickstarting their idea.
Here’s an 8-step guide to developing a solid fintech sector strategy from your initial idea. Think of it as a roadmap to take you from your idea to a realistic starting point.
Developing a fintech sector strategy
Step 1 – clearly define a problem that only you can solve.
A successful idea must solve a problem. So, your first step is to clearly define the problem. For example, an opportunity exists in assisting new fintech companies entering the market to onboard clients. This opportunity could translate into a company dedicated to providing these services using new API technologies to allow seamless integration into the client’s interface.
The key is to find a real-world example of a problem that affects people around you right now. You don’t necessarily need the technical know-how to fix it, as this can be outsourced. Just define the problem and find out whether you can see a viable market for it.
Step 2 – research the market and potential customers.
You have your problem and you have your solution. Now you need to define the market. For me, this is often a country, like Africa, due to my experience and expertise in this region. In-depth analysis is necessary to fully understand the target market so that you can feasibly find buyers for your product.
Enough data is available to define trends that already function in other areas. These ideas can be tweaked for new markets. Research both local and international competition and develop your idea from a wide-ranging critical perspective. Part of this process is to properly challenge your own idea so that you can adapt it before you try to launch.
Find out why it won’t work and make the necessary changes until it will. Along the way, you will find problems that force you to make fundamental changes to the original idea. These lightbulb moments are key to success.
Step 3 – create a realistic business plan.
Collate your idea, research and problem-solving into a single document. Your business plan must be well structured, practical, convincing and, above all, impressive. Writing the plan is a valuable process, as it forces practical consideration of cashflow, marketing, budgets, and staff requirements.
Step 4 – cash flow forecasting.
I always suggest at least a three-year cashflow forecast and remember that this is as important as your business plan. Without cashflow, all you have is an idea. This is not a business and never will be unless you can finance it. You should aim to evaluate whether profit can be made.
Cashflow forecasts will arm you with the information to know definitively whether your idea can work, or not. Cashflow is the lifeblood of all businesses and this document is the most important to get right. Every decision made should refer to it, and every outcome considered from the viewpoint of income and cost.
I don’t invest in businesses without a cashflow forecast. It means that the directors do not have the requisite understanding to monetize their idea. I don’t have faith in a business that isn’t in control of its finances.
Step 5 – fundraising.
When you have your idea, business plan, and a valid cash flow forecast it’s time to fundraise. Raising money through crowdfunding, venture capitalists, Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) are all valid paths to take. To be successful, you must have a thorough and detailed investment deck and white paper to present to potential investors.
If you are incorporating blockchain into your business idea, the best option is an ICO. It’s worth noting that in 2017, ICOs raised 3.5 times venture capitalist funding.
Step 6 – grow your business.
Networking is the single most important aspect of business growth. You need to be going to the right places and meeting the right people. Think peer-to-peer. While a CEO of an established business could be a good contact, they’re unlikely to give you the specific guidance you need.
Seek out other start-up entrepreneurs within the same sector. Consider housing your office within a specific fintech incubator, for example. This will give you the opportunity to meet and socialize with other start-ups. It can also provide business opportunities. Present at conferences, utilize social media channels to spread your message and work with media outlets and influencers. The aim is to become the leading expert in your field – the person others automatically turn to for solutions.
Step 7 – create an internal toolbox for fintech innovation.
Create a team of dedicated innovative professionals with the sole purpose of creating, testing and iterating. These innovation enclaves should have total control over idea generation and testing. Every failure along the iteration pathway constitutes an opportunity to learn. Google’s innovation enclave, Google X, is a great example of this in action. The team is responsible for various truly innovative products including self-driving cars, Google Glass and a balloon-powered Internet. Merge members from IT and Operations into one streamlined DevOps team for maximum results.
The ideas, of course, aren’t enough. Your business must also have continuous loops for feedback and improvement. Utilize a recognized system of continuous improvements, such as the Japanese Kaizen system of proficiency.
Step 8 – adopt external technologies.
Understanding the development of technologies suitable for your business model is an important step. While developing in-house is always important, external developments can push your innovation further. Always look to hire the best people, and these may well come from external sources.
A solution that can work well is what’s known as the acquisition integration paradox. Utilizing external teams that have technical expertise your people don’t is important, but only if they are given the space and time to be productive. By integrating these external acquisitions with your internal team, further innovation and faster development are possible.
A final word on your fintech sector strategy
While these steps are useful for any fintech sector strategy start-up, even if you follow them to the letter success isn’t guaranteed. Even the biggest companies can misfire. High profile examples include Nokia initially failing with smartphones and Kodak’s struggle to digitize. Company structure can hold back progress, and the core business model must always be flexible and adaptable.
By viewing your internal enclaves as a way of innovating, but also as having the potential to create diversified revenue streams, you will reduce risks and increase your chances of success.