This is my last post on the Money 20/20 2018 extravaganza in Las Vegas. The event is coming soon, plus I need enough vacation to be properly rested before the craziness kicks in. I just realized I had discussed the event, the sessions, how to navigate all four days, how to plan and organize oneself as well as the specific sessions I was hosting or moderating, yet had not mentioned the startups attending the conference.
A proper conference focused on financial technology without startups is like an emperor with no clothes? This post is thus dedicated to the M20/20 2018 cohort.
First, there are three distinct startup categories:
The Startup Academy is comprised of 100 startups that all have raised less than $3 million in equity funding, been incorporated for less than 3 years and are a first time attendee of Money 20/20 USA, thereby insuring optimal freshness – investors love freshness. The application process is closed for 2018 and I encourage all fintech startups to prepare themselves for next year’s event. I cannot emphasis enough how much coverage and positive scrutiny one gets by participating. I understand the application process is managed in partnership with Medici, thus guaranteeing a professional outcome.
Startup Academy participants not only get exposure via the M20/20 marketing machine, they also get to interact with the advisory board – some of which I have co-invested in the past and I guarantee these people know fintech inside out – with investors and corporate partners during the office hours program, pitch training sessions, and Academy drinks – presumably to heighten the Las Vegas sensory overload experience.
The top 24 startups from the Academy were selected to participate in the pitch challenge, the winner of which will go home with a fat $25,000 grand prize. If I were the winner I would insist on fiat currency payout this year. One can never be too prudent. In what promises to be further proof of the rise of entertainment in all things and the advent of cross-functional expertise, one of the judges for the final round will be Shaquille O’Neal.
Incidentally, I will be a judge on one of the first rounds, thereby validating one does not necessarily need not be a former NBA star to select fintech startups. I used to play rugby, but that has never helped me in any way business wise.
Finally, Startup City will feature 58 startups on the conference floor. I have always found the concept a most excellent networking opportunity and as with every year, will dedicate half a day to pay a visit to all startups on the conference floor.
As for the startups themselves, I pored over the list, completed my homework and preliminary due diligence. I am intrigued by more than a handful of them but will not divulge my preferences ahead of the conference, what with the pitch challenge and all. Suffice it to say that most fintech sectors are represented, from payments to crypto, to b2b to directo to consumer, stablecoins to asset management tools, risk management platforms. There is maybe less of an AI flavor to this year’s participants and the crypto space is well represented. Anyways, I can’t wait to meet all, spend a tad more time with the ones that hit the current investment themes I am currently focused on and of course congratulate the pitch challenge winner. I encourage you to do the same, and meet as many startups as you can.
Of course, don’t hesitate to say hello if you spot me out and about.