Tell us more about Pynk! What makes your company and your vision unique? And what is the main problem Pynk aims to solve?
The problem Pynk is solving is that of ‘solo investing’. Everyday retail investors all over the world take on the heavy burden of investing their own money and for most, who don’t have high levels of financial education, it can be a stressful experience. 76% of millennial investors are financially illiterate, that means $1.4TN is badly invested every year, or worse still not at all.
Pynk is unique in that we bring everyday investors, from all over the world, to work together by leveraging the Wisdom of Crowds. By learning and investing together, Pynksters contribute prediction and investment data in a risk-free environment – and this, in turn, feeds Rose AI which powers the investment side of the company.
The more Pynskters participate, they earn a share of the fund, and through ‘learning by doing’ they become better investors over time. It’s investing as a collective, we offer safety in numbers, more consistent returns, and lower costs. It’s a new model for retail investors and the FinTech category that we call Social Investing.
Where is Pynk up to in its journey? And what is the next big challenge?
We’re 18 months in now and enjoying rapid progress. 2019 has been about landing our MVP which we call the Price Prediction Tool and building our Crowd which is now 11,000 strong across 160 countries. In Wisdom of Crowd methodology diversity of backgrounds is important, that’s why we welcome people from all walks of life and soon will have Pynksters from every country in the world.
The Crowd is getting better over time, and we are seeing more of them become Super-predictors as they make price predictions on Gold, Nasdaq, Bitcoin, ETFs and more. So the quality of the data is getting better and of course, the quantity is also increasing over time. Rose AI now has hundreds of thousands of data points, and because we ask Pynksters to stake points in the price prediction tool, as well as ask them other questions that give us insight, Rose AI is now drawing correlations in clusters of the way people think – meaning we are ‘psychographically’ profiling Pynskters in such a way that benefits the collective.
Our progress is reflected in the numerous awards we have won in recent months. We won Best AI start-up at Malta AIBC Summit, nominated for best FinTech award, won the Great Pitch at Wolves Summit and most recently we made it to the semi-finals of Web Summit, the world’s biggest tech event, beating more than 2K other start-ups to a top 16 position. We are currently closing our Seed round following pre-seed in early 2019, and next year we will be opening the investment side of our business for the first time – getting ready for Series A. So it’s all hands on deck!
AI, Blockchain and several other technologies have become buzzwords, heralded as technologies that will revolutionise many industries. To what extent is Pynk leveraging these for its own platform? And which of these do you believe will have the greatest impact within WealthTech going forward?
Blockchain technology is not central to what we are doing today and so we aren’t heavily leveraging that technology as of yet. We will tokenise the fund (with Security tokens) when there is enough liquidity in exchanges, and we often discuss a decentralised future for Pynk in one form or another. We are keeping a close eye on decentralised finance and ‘DeFi’ trends and we want to lead the way in this by creating a more equitable investment model for a global retail investor audience – but for us, that is a future objective.
Today, it is all about the AI– that means quality and quantity of data, as well as innovating with new machine learning algorithms. Where many companies are using AI to replace humans through automation, we are using AI to work in harmony with humans (#humansintheloop) and to serve Pynk people. It’s the ultimate neural network with 11,000 human brains plugging into Rose AI, and Pynksters seeing a positive return in exchange for their contributions and data. And it’s starting to work! For example, we can predict tomorrow’s direction of an asset more than 70% of the time. That’s a massive competitive advantage – and our Proof of Concept fund results are impressive as a result.
Ultimately, we are creating a universe where multiple AIs are competing against and learning from each other, and one day our crowd will create machine learning algorithms for us – we are already working on this with a partner, we think that’s exciting!
Due to the nature of the industry, there are many regulations to keep personal investment platforms in check. Do you see the regulatory landscape for platforms such as Pynk being affected by the growing use of new, influential technologies such as AI?
We are big believers in the regulation of financial products. There are many, especially in crypto circles who might describe themselves as anarcho-capitalists who would argue against regulation, but then let’s look at what happened in the heady days of 2017 and ICOs; millions of consumers lost their hard-earned savings. We at Pynk believe this is flat out wrong, and for that reason we will never run an ICO (not to say we won’t issue utility tokens for free one day). So regulation has a role to play in protection, but also in fostering innovation. We are fortunate to be in the heartland of European FinTech in London and supported by a progressive regulatory body in the FCA. It always takes time for regulation to catch up with emerging technologies such as AI and crypto, and rightly so since they need to get it right – but we want to work with regulators as we create new models driven by tech.
The past year has seen many European FinTechs expanding globally. Do you see Pynk expanding internationally down the line? If so, what markets do you see as having potential?
Yes, we very much have global expansion plans. As already mentioned we have Pynskters powering, building and shaping Pynk from over 160 countries now and one day we want to accept investor’s money from all of these countries. Obviously, this takes time and money. We do things by the book here so we need to work with regulators on a country by country basis. We will start in the UK and Europe first. America is obviously going to be a big market for us. We already have many in the Pynk Crowd from the other side of the pond, but of course regulation is challenging there because it’s on a state by state basis, so you need to find a partner as a solution – something many of the UK challenger banks are doing. We also have many from South East Asia in our Crowd and increasingly Africa. These are all countries and continents Pynk has a role to play in, since we are addressing a global problem.
London makes a great place to base Pynk in when considering international roll-out for several reasons. Firstly, the wealth of multi-cultural talent but secondly world timings means we can speak to Asia and the West Coast of USA all in one day. Not many people consider this as too important until you start running an international company.
Despite its recent international expansions, the investment platform Nutmeg was in the news recently for its growing losses. What are the biggest challenges for investment platforms in maintaining profitability?
We’ve seen it a lot, not just Nutmeg but many B2C FinTech companies with unicorn status but P&Ls that don’t have a lot to show for it. You can view that in different ways, but hats off to these first FinTechs that have paved the way for companies like us. FinTech is still young at 10 years old, now we have a responsibility to deliver on one of the early promises of FinTech which was financial inclusion. From our point of view, money and the investment model is broken for many the world over. If we simply replicate what has been done before on an app then you aren’t doing enough to fix the problem. You have to start from the beginning, disrupt and use tech to deliver a better model for all. If your product is good, people will want it. And we know through our unique approach we can use tech to work as one, leveling the playing field for our customers by working together to educate ourselves, reduce risk and cost. Furthermore, this really isn’t about ‘look this is Pynk, come and buy-in’ – we say we are built by Pynksters. Monzo started this ‘co-creation’ approach in finance, and we want to take that to the next level. Social investing is about coming together to build Pynk in the way Pynksters see fit, deploy their capital in the projects that better serve them and do good for society at large. Crowd Wisdom will ensure money is deployed in the right way, rather than into sectors that do harm. Our movement will become much more than just investing your money.
Securing funding is often cited as the single biggest obstacle for FinTech growth. What do you see as being the main challenges of closing an initial FinTech funding round?
As all entrepreneurs will tell you it’s a lot of work, and there’s not much more to be said about that other than fledgling start-ups need to find a way to do that and not hit pause on their plans to build the company. We were a little worried that Brexit might adversely impact the funding market, and we hear that has happened in other tech categories, but we haven’t personally experienced that yet – maybe because we have such good momentum, but probably because FinTech is still a ‘hot’ sector.
What is the one pearl of wisdom you would share with FinTechs starting their journey, and why?
Firstly, a start-up is difficult and demands a certain type of person. Before you start, be honest with yourself, are you prepared for the journey? And if you have a family, be honest with your partner – each of our founders enjoys full support from their other halves and that really helps when they haven’t seen us for days, if not weeks on end. Secondly, it’s all about the team. We are lucky in that Team Pynk have a background in working for high-performance companies in pressure environments, and we all know when the team is working and when it isn’t. When it isn’t you make sure you get together, be honest and iron it out. That might take some hours, but whatever is said you recognise it’s for the greater good and you move on as one. And finally speak to as many entrepreneurs, advisors, and customers as possible. Start-up culture is all about helping each other out and while it can be demanding, that’s what makes it a lot fun too!
Co-founder & CMO
Mark Little is a seasoned marketing executive with a passion for using technology to build consumer-relevant businesses and a track record in P&L growth. Having worked for leading blue-chips including Unilever, Disney and Reckitt Benckiser across both Europe and Asia – he now brings his many years of strategy, execution and leadership experience to FinTech. He is also an advisor to early-stage D2C start-ups.
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