Weekly Roundup

Posted January 29th 2016


Millennial Finance

  • Young People & Money: Traditional banking is under attack. As more and more millennials move toward digital and mobile financial services, old school banks are struggling to keep up with the rising fintech startups looking to eat their lunch. In 2010, 40% of Americans with bank accounts visited a physical branch once a week, while only 9% made a mobile transaction weekly. By 2014, the percentage weekly visits to bank branches fell to 28%, while the weekly mobile banking tripled, to 27%. Facebook recently shared a report on what people aged 21 to 34 think about money and finance. Essentially, they’re scared of debt, don’t like paying with credit, and not big fans of investing unless it’s done by robots. Which, by the way, is becoming more common. For more on that, check out this article in Wired on the rise of the artificially intelligent hedge funds.
  • Shifting to Smartphones: Traditional banks won’t go down without a fight, and many are pulling out the stops to appeal to younger customers. Fifth Third Bank knows that, for millennials, the waiting is the hardest part. So the regional lender is starting a new campaign focused around the speed of its mobile app. The bank is also launching a somewhat gimmicky mobile game that allows users to compete to see who is fastest at texting. Keeping things fast and smartphone dependent Chase and Bank of America are rolling out ATMs that don’t require a card. The new ATMs will allow customers to access the machine by inputting a code found on their bank’s mobile app. Future upgrades will allow customers to use their smartphone’s near-field wireless communication feature to access their accounts. The move is meant to heighten security standards, while also optimizing customer convenience.
  • Snapchat & Venmo: If millennials would rather have their money invested by robots, then who better to provide the service than Snapchat? The ephemeral chat service delved into payments a little over a year ago and now wants users to trust them to invest their money (using algorithms, of course). With the new offering, Snapchat would be entering the increasingly crowded field of “robo-advising,” an industry with major players like Charles Schwab and Vanguard, as well as sizable startups such as Wealthfront and Betterment. Given millennials’ anti-establishment mentality when it comes to traditional finance, Snapchat may be well positioned manage their portfolios as they get into investment age. Venmo, another millennial favorite, is riding a surge of popularity as millennials persuade their parents to use the smartphone app for sending money and splitting payments. The volume of payments through Venmo more than tripled in the most recently reported quarter, to $2.1 billion. The app, which has been around since 2011, is finally  monetizing with Pay With Venmo, a payment option for people shopping within apps, similar to the PayPal button that online shoppers are familiar with. When a Venmo user is ready to make a purchase in an app, they won’t have to plug in their credit card info, instead they will simply sign in and pay with their Venmo account.t


Amazon All Over

  • Improving Deliveries: Amazon changed the game during the 2015 holiday season by starting sales a full month before Black Friday, forcing many retailers to kick off their own promotions earlier than expected. While sales during this period failed to live up to Wall Street’s expectations, there were other benefits – mainly the number of people who joined Amazon’s Prime membership program looking for early access to deals. Amazon revealed that one in six Americans is a Prime member. In total, 54 million people have signed up for Prime, putting the program’s enrollment in the territory of rival Costco. The online retailer’s aggressive expansion is apparently too rapid for the likes of USPS, UPS and FedEx, which have, at times, struggled to keep up with the rapid growth of e-commerce. As a result, Amazon is taking matters into its own hands, building out its own logistics and transportation business. The company has been secretly leasing cargo planes from Boeing and has reportedly purchased thousands of branded cargo trucks. All this in addition to Amazon’s highly publicized drone delivery service, which apparently will be able to deliver packages weighing under 5 pounds in around 30 minutes.
  • New Verticals: Amazon got its start as an online bookstore 21 years ago, and has since become the everything store – driving record sales of everything from electronics to CPG products. One area that the company has been quietly expanding since 2012 has been its clothing offering. In fact, Amazon has grown their apparel and accessory offering by 91% over the past 12 months and the company now offers more than 30 million apparel and accessory items for sale – which totals more than all the products sold at 250 Walmart supercenter stores. Even more mind boggling, clothing sales are expected to propel Amazon ahead of industry leader Macy’s by early next year. And the company isn’t stopping at apparel. Amazon Prime members can also look to the online retailer for new video games. A new initiative offers releases. The deal covers any physical game (i.e. no digital downloads) and is available from the time the game is available to pre-order through two weeks after it launches. 
  • Rookie Ambitions: Amazon found great success with their Kindle and Kindle Fire product lines, which gave them the confidence to jump into the a smartphone landscape dominated by Apple and Android devices. The result was the Fire Phone, a failure as spectacular as the company’s biggest triumphs – and one that raised concerns over Jeff Bezos’ leadership chops. Apparently, Amazon’s smartphone ambitions didn’t die with the Fire Phone, but this time, the company wants to replace Google as the supplier of the software that powers Android devices, rather than developing its own hardware. Another software play in the works is a music streaming service that some inside Amazon are dubbing a “Spotify Killer.” Little is known about the new venture, but word is that it will launch in the fall and that the service will exist outside of Prime and requires its own subscription.


Cool New Tech

  • Gigabit Internet at Dial-Up Prices: Remember Aereo? They were the company that tried to circumvent TV broadcasters a few years back by selling internet-connected boxes that would live stream television. The FCC ruled against them then, but now they’re back with a plan to disrupt the country’s biggest Internet providers. The company is promising to bring gigabit internet to every home using an ambitious new wireless hub called Starry, which utilizes what are known as high-frequency millimeter waves to deliver the signal to people’s homes. Starry will launch city-by-city, region-by-region, as it installs its network. Its first market will be Boston, with beta tests launching this summer.
  • GoPro Goes Live: GoPro is no longer the darling of the gadget world. The company has hit hard times recently, laying off 7 percent of its staff due to lackluster sales. Forced to find new ways to appeal to consumers, the company announced a new feature that lets users live stream their GoPro footage on Twitter’s Periscope service. This strategic partnership comes at a time when both companies are struggling with slumping growth. For GoPro, the partnership is in line with its ambitions to grow a media business. Periscope finished 2015 with 10 million monthly active users – a user base that will compliment the numbers GoPro is already pulling in via Facebook and YouTube. Likewise, reaching out to GoPro’s impressive media following, which includes 3.7 million subscribers on YouTube, might tether some much-needed users to Twitter’s ecosystem.
  • BMW Integrate with IFTTT: Cars are quickly becoming extensions of the home. At CES, Ford announced a partnership with Amazon that would allow its cars to control their smart homes via Amazon Alexa (and vice versa) and now BMW has become the first carmaker to integrate with IFTTT. The free service will allow users to link applications and smart devices together by creating “Recipes,” which are made up of “Triggers” that carry out chosen “Actions.” These actions can include things such as automatically open home garage doors as the car pulls into the driveway, or send a message to a spouse when picking up the kids from school. Users will need to create an account on BMW Labs channel in order to start creating their own recipes.


Interesting Reads

  • How Virtual Reality Feels: “I didn’t feel it — the ball — resting in my holographic hand. But I sensed it there with my eyes. It almost felt real.”
  • A Search Engine for Your Memories: A cognitive assistant that could learn all about you, then remind you of a name you can’t remember the moment you need to say it.