21 November 2013
Payments, savings, borrowing, insurance, these services form the backbone of our daily activities, allowing buyers and sellers to generate income, save for large purchases and guard against potential risks to these plans. Yet, for nearly 3 billion global consumers across the globe, these essential resources – and the comfort and security they provide – can be scarce.
With such a large market at stake, it’s hardly surprising that the topic has attracted the attention of the industry’s leading playmakers. Now, that list is gaining another big name in the form of Karl Mehta, co-founder of PlaySpan and partner at Menlo Ventures.
Mehta may be best known as an entrepreneur for his famed PlaySpan exit, but he told PYMNTS.com that he sees a potential in this untapped market that is bigger than any one company or entrepreneur. It’s for this reason that Mehta, and fellow entrepreneur Carol Realini, recently announced a forthcoming book on the subject entitled “Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid.”
“The next five years will be a period of unprecedented change,” Mehta told PYMNTS.com. “Within five years, another 3 billion or more people will have access to the Internet via mobile. We believe that financial services will reach 1 billion or 2 billion more people in the same timeframe. The book will help people understand the potential and how to be part of the effort to achieve a world where everyone has financials services that fit their personal and business needs.”
The book, however, isn’t ready for the public just yet. Instead of publishing the book promptly, Mehta and Realini are using another technological innovation to harness input from experts all over the world – crowdsourcing. Via http://www.openfininc.org/, readers can nominate pioneering projects that are working toward real-world solutions.
For more on his latest project and why he chose such an unconventional release strategy, PYMNTS.com spoke to Mehta in an exclusive interview.
PYMNTS.com: You recently finished writing three sections for your new book entitled ‘Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid.” What inspired you to take on the topic of financial inclusion, or rather, what did you feel that you had to say on the subject that other resources haven’t yet provided?
Karl Mehta: The authors have had an opportunity to see firsthand financial inclusion projects around the world. Most people don’t realize how much is happening, and how much things are changing. New models are emerging – and it is happening differently in different places. But, here are also some common themes. We wanted to do a few things that haven’t yet been done:
1. Provide a global view. Most discussions tend to focus on one market and one aspect – like an article on Square and Mobile POS in the U.S., or M-Pesa in Kenya. But, if you step back and look globally you will be able to see big changes unfolding.
2. So, everyone knows about Square and M-Pesa – but there are in fact hundreds of interesting high impact projects underway right now. We wanted to showcase the best examples of technology enabled financial inclusion. This awareness will benefit all of us. Making us smarter and better equipped to achieve of world where everyone has access to financial services that empower their life and work.
3. There is a fundamental change happening. Financial services are evolving. It is much bigger than just banks – banks are becoming a platform and many new solutions and companies are getting involved in delivering financial services. This shift we call Banking as a Platform (BaaP) is a new framework that needs to be understood.
You’ve also done something rather unprecedented, which is open up your book to interested contributors online, allowing them to suggest solutions for inclusion in the book. What intrigued you most about crowdsourcing?
Although we have been to many countries and seen many financial inclusion efforts (including India, U.S., China, Indonesia, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Afghanistan, Romania, Russia, U.K., France…), we still know that there are even more efforts we haven’t seen. We didn’t want to limit our thinking to our own experiences. Therefore the crowdsourcing.
Why did you feel as though crowdsourcing would be the right choice for the book. What did you feel it could add that perhaps you and Carol would not have been able to achieve on your own?
We already know that innovation will happen in unexpected places. And that there is a ton going on right now around the world. Crowdsourcing will give us a deeper view of what is out there today – and help us identify successes with potential for global impact.
You recently launched the initiative a few days ago. What has the response been so far? Have you been as successful at engaging readers as you would like?
Early response has been positive – we expect with your help more will find out about it. Within minutes of launch, we got our first submission, and we continue to get more everyday. Submissions can be done for another 30 days.
In a perfect world, what do you hope your new book will accomplish in terms of leaving its mark on the industry?
1. Build a larger understanding of how the landscape is changing and how BaaP can create a fully banked world.
2. Showcase the best examples of technology enabled financial services around the world today
3. Inspire companies to invest in financial inclusion and people to join the effort – start companies, join existing initiatives, fight for change within your organization.