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Where can I find the 'wisdom' in crowds?

Late last month I was invited to the Friday night kick off for Seedcamp's Seedhack financial technology 'hack-a-thon' event held at the Google-run UK Campus, recently launched in London.

When you go to as many conferences and listen to the gilded prose of many a social media 'expert' as I do, you hear some of the same stock phrases repeated over and over: 'the new normal' 'Web 2.0' 'It's all about engagement!' 'You might not be on Twitter, but your customers are' and of course 'The wisdom of crowds'.

Most of you know that the term actually comes from an old (in internet terms) well-known book by James Surwiecki, written in 2004. But, here in 2012, in my world of payments "innovation", European banking regulation and enterprise risk management systems that seem to be shipped with optional 'on' buttons - I've been denied the chance to witness the wisdom that is 'The Crowd' in real-life. 

That is why I found Seedhack so fascinating. The room at the new start-up incubator 'Campus' in right outside the City in London was filled with t-shirted young men (com'on girls get coding!) waiting to choose from a list of available FinTech APIs in which to embark on a weekend of application development.

The only way I can describe it is 'speed-dating for coders'.

Out of the list of APIs, presented as a three minute pitch by the following companies: 

  • Bilbus
  • Archivme
  • TransferWise
  • Holvi
  • Hypernumbers
  • Paypal
  • Mobank
  • Leecthi
  • AXA Banque
  • GoCardless

The groups of coders then assembled, after dinner, to start dreaming up and developing a real-life financial app. The weekend ended late Sunday afternoon with product pitches from the teams. The following apps came up trumps:


A CRM solution for churches to manage churchgoers + mobile & social app to allow anyone to donate anywhere via PayPal


Are creating a casual social game to help friends bet each other about the topics they care about.


Sayvd is a social mobile app giving you an easy way to save small amounts of money and stick your savings in a safe place for bigger purchases later. Save 2.5 on a coffee towards your snowboard.

Sometimes I get annoyed with hipster start-ups poo-pooing all the evil, unfashionable banks who then express dismay and surprise at the complicated, regulation-heavy road that is modern payments and banking. However, not this time. 

Notice anything similar in these three apps? They're all small. They aren't Faster Payments or even Barclays Pingit. They are transactional apps that full fill small, but important needs for consumers. 

Want to throw some change in a Salvation Army bucket, but have no change? HolyLight.

Looking for an easy way to save small amounts of money on a regular basis? Sayvd.

Even an app for those of us looking for a way to match real money with bets between friends - MiniPots. 

Does anyone see banks developing any of these? Is it even in their interest to do so? However, at a crowded weekend in London at the end of March developers came up with three workable payment apps that fulfilled a consumer need. 

Will any of these developments storm the financial technology world? Who knows - maybe not. But innovation sometimes emerges from small places and this one was fuelled by a crowd. 

I bumped into one of our MobeyDay speakers at the event. He commented that this type of event was the 'new' Finovate. No one had to sit through presentation after presentation of 'hit or miss' FinTech start-ups. This weekend was exciting and dynamic and fresh. 

If 'The Crowd' interests you - we'll be talking about Crowds at our Social Media Days event on April 25. Register to come along! 


Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 16 April, 2012, 13:06Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Glad to see innovation is alive an well! I look forward to seeing which app makes it to the mainstream and which apps will remain niche apps ...both of which serve a purpose.

The title of your blog post hit me (as did the stock phrases), and I am curious to know how Steve Jobs reacted to the widsom of crowds? Mr. Jobs was famous for not listening to what people wanted, but telling them what they wanted.

Elizabeth Lumley
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Elizabeth Lumley

Global FinTech Commentator

Girl, Disrupted

Member since

05 Nov 2007



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