Funding, Start-up Profiles

How a tiny Melbourne startup got into one of the world’s most competitive fintech incubators

Dinushi Dias /

Yodlee is a veteran when it comes to fintech innovation.

Long before startups were doing it, the US-based company started building innovative banking solutions in 1999.

Since then the company, which now boasts tens of millions of users around the world, has directed its focus to startups.

Its incubator programs have supported some of the world’s fastest growing fintechs, including Kabbage, LearnVest and Coinbase, which alone has more than 2.5 million users.

Yodlee’s fintech incubator is one of the most competitive in the world but a tiny bootstrapped startup from Melbourne has made the cut.

StartupSmart asked Finch founder Shahirah Gardner how she did it.

“The Yodlee application process was very rigorous, which makes sense given the level of competition with only eight spots available,” Gardner tells StartupSmart.

“It began in September with a video pitch, product demo and written application that deep dove into our business model.

“From there, Yodlee selected 20 finalists for a ‘Shark Tank’ style pitch and interview with their [vice president] Christine Loredo and incubator director Jeff Cain.”

This year, Gardner says more than 100 fintech startups around the world applied, and Finch is the only Australian team selected.

“We’re very proud of our team,” she says.

StartupSmart asked Gardner about what makes Finch special and what happens next.

Give us the elevator pitch

“Finch is a social spending app for Australian millennials that allows them to pay friends, stay friends, and achieve financial wellness together,” Gardner says.

“As millennials, we’re entering a far more complex and onerous financial world than any generation, and as our financial priorities and values continue to change, traditional banks [and] institutions struggle to understand and connect with us as customers.

“Combine that with increasing social media pressure, lack of financial confidence and rising cost of living, and what you get is a lot young people feeling like they can’t get ahead.

“Ultimately, our goal at Finch is to meet millennials at their current behaviours and take them on a financial journey.”

What happens now?

“Yodlee will give us unprecedented access to mentors, investors and the latest financial data aggregation technologies.

“On the very first night, Yodlee organised a launch event at The Battery where we met over 70 of the most influential fintech VCs and banks in Silicon Valley. Finch even got a personal invitation by Yodlee’s CEO to his ranch in Napa.

“We hope this program challenges us even further and aspire to emulate some of the past fintech success stories.”

How did you get into fintech?

“As a tech PR executive, I’ve been working with leading Australian fintech startups on PR and marketing, so [I] have been observing consumer fintech trends—as a marketer and consumer—with great interest.

“My co-founder, Toby, has been in finance and innovation his entire career so it was a natural meeting of the minds.”

Will you join the Valley’s startup mafia or return home?

“While [it’s] inspiring and challenging to learn from the best in Silicon Valley, we’d love to stay in Australia and fly the flag for fintech here—we’ll see what the future holds.

“Fintech has yet to have its ‘Uber’ moment; we’re working on it.”

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a journalist at StartupSmart and multimedia content producer. When she’s out of the office, she works on social projects with her We Love It Productions family and buddying filmmakers.

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