What's in store for the future of fintech? NYU senior Zainil Patny and recent NYU graduate Tanvi Kulkarni think they know the answer: a mobile application that helps consumers optimize their use of credit card rewards programs.
Frustrated with missing most of the benefits their credit cards had to offer, Zainil asked Tanvi asked: "Wouldn't it be cool if one card was able to maximize your points for you without having to remember anything?" That's when inspiration hit.
Tanvi had recently read about the Barclays Next Reality technology competition on Facebook, and the two business majors decided to hone the idea and enter. The contest, aimed at students like themselves, sought to encourage disruptive thinking at the intersection of finance and technology. Finalists would be paired with experienced professionals that could help shepherd their idea into reality.
For the enthusiastic young pair, the decision to refine their thinking and enter the Barclays contest was simple. Then came the hard part: developing a prototype as a proof of concept.
“We had a general idea of how we wanted people to use our app, but it's way different when you try and create an initial prototype," said Tanvi. “You find a lot of holes along the way that need to be filled."
Through seemingly endless hours of research and hard work, Zainil and Tanvi filled those holes and were finally ready to submit their app prototype, called OnePay. The app consolidates all of a user's credit cards into one “smart card." Then, an internal algorithm calculates the best credit card to use for every purchase to maximize rewards points, saving users the hassle.
Harnessing the power of mentoring
That initial prototype was enough to earn the ambitious duo a spot as one of three finalists in the Next Reality technology competition. Securing that spot came with a prize that was a game changer for the team's next steps: the opportunity to work with two industry mentors hand-selected by Barclays.
“[Our mentors] really helped us refine our go-to-market strategy and define our target customer," Zainil said. “One of the most helpful pieces of feedback we got was to create a competitive analysis matrix to help us identify where exactly we land on the spectrum: what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are, and, eventually, who are we going to sell this to?"
Answering the audience question and how they would actually make money may have been the key to the team's ultimate victory. Once they got thinking about how to sustainably market OnePay, they realized that by harnessing customer data from the app, they could make it more useful not only for users, but also for credit card companies that could put out relevant special offers through the app.
“It had a plus side for everyone involved in the process—consumers and businesses. It provided a lot of opportunity," Zainil said.
Continuing to rise up
Even though the partners are still finalizing the OnePay app as they prepare to roll out a beta version independently, they're already taking the help they received and paying it forward. Zainil is a mentor for NYU underclassmen, and Tanvi is involved in a mentorship program to help girls break into the tech industry.
Barclays mentoring doesn't end there either. Realizing that going from startup to scale up is a challenge, Barclays also operates a program that brings innovators together, called Rise, specifically designed for startup fintech companies. These unique workspaces give access to Barclays' global network of mentors, industry experts, investors and partners. Fintech companies from around the world are invited to apply.
Barclays Rise locations in London, New York and Tel Aviv also include the Accelerator program, a 13-week, fast-track fintech startup fostering plan.
Just like with Zainil and Tanvi's OnePay app, everyone wins.