This week there was a finance technology conference in New York called Finovate. I was able to slip in incognito because my press pass had been printed out as, “Ben Popken, Managing Editor, The Consumer Blog.” Freed from the shackles of people knowing who I was and thereby trying to influence my reportage, I was able to survey the scene with a clear and penetrating gaze. Here are four of the new sites that sounded the most interesting.
I haven’t tried out the services myself but here’s my take based on the presentations and what I saw in the demo hall.
PayNearMe – A payment service intermediary that lets people without credit cards pay their bills. If, say, your landlord signs up for it, then you’ll be able to pay your rent in cash at the 7-11. There’s a mobile app too. So if you bought your smartphone in cash or got it as a gift, or previously had a credit card when you bought the phone but then the bank later canceled your card, that part will come in handy.
Experian MyID – A dashboard that gives you total, granular control over all your online privacy settings. You can control your Facebook privacy parameters, opt out of certain kinds of cookies, and get notified when a line of credit is opened in your name. The downside is that it’s through Experian, one of the three main credit bureaus and for it to work, you’re going to have to give them access to a lot more of your personal data. Their whole business is harvesting consumer data and reselling it, I don’t think I want to give them any more of mine to play with.
Bundle.com – A merchant review service that uses customer spending data so you can see what different psycho-eco-social demographics think of different restaurants and stores. Not just the words they write about them, but where do they actually spend their money. As the presenter said, “you end up reading 65 Yelp reviews on a place and end up more confused than before.” Instead, the idea is to see what “foodies” might think of this fancy French restaurant, or where do the “frugal people” go for a burger. It’s launched in New York and San Francisco and they want to roll it out nationally. They say they have the means, and the customer data on hand, to do it. Interesting too to see what Bundle, which started out as a site with some graphs and regularly added personal finance articles, has evolved into.
Samurai by Fee Fighters – A low-cost payment gateway that lets merchants switch between credit card payment processors with ease. It’s not consumer-facing and their benefit to consumers is hidden from view, though you would hope the merchants would pass on any potential savings in the form of lower prices. But the guys used a magic trick that made a flash and puff of smoke out of their hands, and they reenacted a phone call with customer service using a Samuel L. Jackson soundboard. So by virtue of spicing up an affair that was otherwise low on showmanship, I have to give these guys a shoutout.
Here’s a picture of my badge, btw: