An audience of prospective investors and bankers gathered in North Little Rock on Wednesday to mark the end of the inaugural ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator, sponsored by the Independent Community Bankers of America and hosted by the nonprofit Venture Center of Little Rock.
The eight companies that completed the first-of-its-kind accelerator pitched their ideas during Thursday's "demo day" at Winrock International's Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in North Little Rock. The firms were chosen for the program from a pool of 190 applicants from across the U.S. and 39 other countries.
Each company received a $75,000 investment plus 12 weeks of intensive training, mentoring and meetings with community bankers at the Venture Center's office in the Tech Park.
The graduates, introduced at the event by Venture Center Executive Director Wayne Miller and Brian Bauer, managing director of fintech accelerators for the Venture Center, are:
- Agora of New York, which helps banks enhance their legacy systems without replacing them to give users a better experience.
- Botdoc of Monument, Colorado, which gives banks the ability to remotely collect documents in real time.
- CRiskCo of Brisbane, Australia, which provides automated AI-based onboarding and underwriting technologies to banks, governments, lenders and credit providers.
- KapitalWise of New York, which offers an AI system that allows financial institutions to interact with customers at scale via machine learning that can predict when a customer is a good candidate or needs to be convinced to take a certain action, such as saving, investing or paying off a loan.
- MK Decision of San Diego, which offers a loan origination system with automated credit decisions and data-driven fraud prevention.
- Sou Sou of Washington, D.C, which offers a social banking account banks can offer to customers who want to save and build credit.
- Teslar by 3E of Springdale, which offers software products that improve the accuracy of financial institutions' data and increase efficiency by making information more accessible.
ICBA President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey talked about the trade group's involvement with the program, saying it chose to partner with the Venture Center because of its success with the FIS- and state-sponsored VC FinTech Accelerator.
"We are doing this because we believe in the future of community banking," Rainey said. "We couldn't be more excited about what this does in the future, and we're so excited to hear where these companies will lead our community banks as we go forward."
ICBA COO Kevin Tweedle said the group will continue working with the graduates, adding that programs like the ThinkTECH Accelerator are reciprocal: early-stage companies help ICBA members with new products and services, and ICBA members help the companies by providing industry insight.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson also spoke at the event, saying he hopes the companies would return to invest in Arkansas. The governor talked about the state's efforts to become a "technology center" — efforts that include his public schools coding initiative and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission's financial support of accelerator programs.
"What more can we do?" the governor said. "We want to be that hub of excellence for technology companies that see Arkansas on the map as investing and leading the way in technology growth in our society."