Startup Roundup: Letting The Machines Do Their Thing

SoftBank Readies Pepper Rollout

Robots aren’t going to take over every human job, but they are certainly changing what types of jobs humans need to do, as well as how those jobs get done. The future won’t be “man versus machine” (or, as science fiction has taught many to fear, “man subjugated by machine”) – instead, it’s more likely to be “man alongside machine.”

Like it or not, automation is not only possible – it’s already changing the world in dramatic ways. That’s a good thing for organizations that hope to meet the ever-rising tide of consumer demand for faster, cheaper, more accurate financial services. Here’s how these startups are hastening the robots’ day.


Automation could replace 30 percent of jobs by 2030 and affect fully half of all jobs by then. That’s why Chargehound says it’s time for organizations to recognize the value of automation, not only for delivering cost savings, but also for creating profit opportunities — both financial and social.

The startup encourages organizations to start thinking about automating four types of tasks: Ones that are repeatable, recurring and need consistency; ones that do not require human reasoning, such as data entry; ones that are measurable, so the effects of automation can be observed; and ones that are “soul-crushing” for human employees, requiring little interaction or engagement – and generating concurrently little job satisfaction.


The IRS is hiring and training more than 3,000 agents to enforce its Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), and the onus is now on the payer to collect all necessary tax documents from the payee and validate the info on those forms.

A tall order, admits Tipalti CMO Rob Israch – yet one he was surprised to find only 10 percent of organizations were automating. Recent research by the startup and Gatepoint Research showed that nearly half of organizations still validate tax forms manually, while 30 percent aren’t validating them at all.

Israch said it’s time for the finance sector to step up and lead the way on tax compliance, and automation can help.


In the homeowners’ association (HOA) vertical, more than 70 percent of property vendor payments are still made via paper check. Michael Praeger, CEO and co-founder of AvidXchange, said it’s past time to bring automation into the space to optimize invoice management and payment processes.

Praeger said accounts payable automation can increase security, create greater control around paying bills, and accelerate the payments approval process by enabling electronic signatures and approvals from HOA board members who are wintering out of town.

In May, the startup announced a partnership with Premier Community Bank in Bradenton, Florida, which Praeger said will extend its reach into this difficult vertical.


When a company receives a payment from a customer, there are two main accounting functions that must take place: First, funds must be credited to the company’s account, and second, the payment must be logged so that open invoices can be closed out.

Dave Wilson, founder and chief architect at DadeSystems, said that legacy remote deposit capture systems only solve the first part of the equation. Plus, he said, they offer diminishing returns as the systems around them becomes more advanced, and they require sales reps and other remote workers to come back to the office to deposit payments.

A modern system should allow them to deposit on the go, said Wilson, and it should fulfill both necessary accounting functions. That’s what he said the startup aimed to create in its mobile tool for corporate deposits.


As the fraud prevention space recognizes the value of an email-based risk assessment approach, the time and costs associated with a large volume of individual acquisitions have become too great to be considered practical.

Chief partnership officer Tim White said that’s why Emailage is shifting its focus to partnerships and embedding solutions into partners’ ecosystems. That means the startup can realize growth without the prohibitive time and costs associated with it, White said.

Going into any venture with a partner can expedite the sales cycle, White said. Direct relationships create a direct path to growth.


Workers in the $1.4 trillion gig economy have indicated that timeliness and choice in payments can drive their decision to keep doing the gig or invest their time elsewhere, so payouts matter – but satisfying gig workers’ myriad and widely varying demands is no easy feat.

Bruce Parker, founder and CEO of Modo, said there are two parts to the problem: Pushing funds to a card, bank account or mobile money account – whichever the worker prefers – and settling internal accounts to keep the ledgers balanced.

That requires organizations to maintain connections to a variety of payment partners and tools, as well as compliance and reporting tools that straddle payroll, banking and accounting systems. Parker said that’s why Modo sees facilitating interoperability as a critical service in this space.


Growth means going beyond the niche to offer more sophisticated solutions that serve many different types of customers.

Nanopay CEO Laurence Cooke said that’s why the startup now wants to make its B2B offering applicable across borders, and its cross-border capabilities applicable to businesses. Cooke said this could encourage businesses to take that next growth step and go global, or provide an entry point for existing global players to consider working with the startup.

Nanopay is also exploring the realm of capital markets and treasury, where it is moving beyond cash settlements to enable more complex actions, such as digitizing and centralizing investment banks, to accelerate movement of funds and assets between countries and currencies.


Connected consumers have many devices, and the more they have, the more difficult it is to get all of them to play nice together. Michael Orlando, COO, FitPay, said that security across devices is one of the greatest obstacles the IoT will need to solve.

Orlando said enabling devices to collaborate or share authentication credentials across an individual’s IoT network could simplify access for devices that require authentication, while adding security to the ones that don’t, allowing them to “borrow” security from other devices in the circuit.

In the future, Orlando said this capability could power an Amazon Go-like experience anywhere, while keeping the instant unattended payments experience fully within the consumer’s control.