All a Twitter about Financial Services

About an hour ago, Alex Payne (@al3x), one of Twitter’s early employees and their API Lead, announced he was leaving Twitter for a startup called BankSimple.

BankSimple is very early stage and little is known beyond what Alex includes in his post. The most telling sentence has to be:

Imagine, for a moment, a bank that doesn’t suck.

Almost immediately, Twitter began pointing out a coincidence, i.e. that banking is a popular outlet for ex-Twitter innovation.

First, Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey (@jack), left Twitter to launch Square, the mobile payment device that allows people to accept credit card payments with their phones.

Now, Alex is taking on banking at BankSimple.

It makes sense that innovation would bubble up in an industry undergoing huge amounts of scrutiny and suffering from all-time lows in customer satisfaction. But it’s a bit interesting that both these ex-Twitter guys have chosen financial services as their next projects.

Makes you wonder what they used to chat about over there.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

15 comments

  1. Odd… didn't Twitter just allow him to telecommute from PDX? I wonder if that was planned.

    I just switched banks — from a bank I'd been with since 1991 to a relatively new bank, Ally.com. The whole industry needs a reboot. Ally is a breath of fresh air compared to all the traditional establishments.

  2. On the surface (literally), Twitter and banking seem to be light-years apart, since one deals with extremely public information while the other has very sensitive information. But perhaps the similarities lie under the hood, since both Twitter and your average bank have to process huge amounts of data in a very short time. Maybe that's what attracted Alex to BankSimple – the technical challenge.

    At last year's Oracle OpenWorld, I attended a panel discussion in which people from several companies (FCC DISCLOSURE: INCLUDING MY OWN) discussed their use of Oracle Database to manage large amounts of data. In many cases, the data was not accessible to the general public, but at least one of the presenters (Carfax, if I remember correctly) had to manage inputs from and outputs to a public website. Such sites not only present bandwidth challenges, but also security challenges and (in some cases) regulatory challenges. There are vendors (including your employer) who are trying to position themselves to meet all of these challenges, and service providers need to select the vendor(s) that will help them meet their needs.

    Certainly an exciting time for @al3x and @jack to make their respective moves.

  3. The Oracle OpenWorld 2009 session that I mentioned was session S311442 (sorry, I can't link directly). Here's the abstract:

    S311442
    Session Title: Oracle RAC SIG Customer Panel
    Session Abstract: Listen as leading-edge customers share their experiences with Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC) and grid computing, including the newly released Oracle RAC 11g Release 2. This panel starts with a brief introduction by each panel member on the systems their companies run and some of the experiences they’ve had with the Oracle grid stack. Following is a discussion with the audience in which you can ask your questions and learn from some of the customers that have been there before. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see industry leaders share their lessons for success.

    Listed presenters included:
    Sohan Demel, Oracle; Jens-Christian Pokolm, Postbank; Aris Prassinos, MorphoTrak, Safran Group; Daniel Smith, CarFax; Tony Webb, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

    The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, for example, is a genome research institute that works with multiple terabytes of data weekly,.

  4. Yeah, he and Rael are in at PIE (http://piepdx.com/), a coworking space in the Pearl District. Seems like it might have been known to them.

    Agreed that banking and financial services generally need a major reboot. We'll be seeing more of this.

  5. I was thinking similarly, i.e. jumping into financial services from a pure consumer play like Twitter would be a bucket of icy cold water in the face, but I think the tenants of good consumer web apps would translate well.

    It's all the red tape that might bog them down and sap their will to be great.

    Definitely will be interesting b/c as Rich says, that industry needs a reboot.

  6. So far it seems Marshall has the most detailed post about what exactly BankSimple will do.

    From that and a survey from their site I checked out, it looks as if it's going to be a single account, online-only bank that will let you use any ATM without fees (or reimburse you for them) and deposit checks by taking a photo with their app. Sounds awesome to me. I'd do anything to ditch BofA.

  7. All this online banking stuff makes me paranoid. One goof, they suck all your money at lightspeed. All the “analysis” they do is bogus, sometimes simply copying the manual procedures, sometimes not even that much. Hackers are always knocking at the doors, so you have to keep changing your password away from any favorites or favorite algorithms to stuff you have to write down. The concept of non-repudiation isn't thought out. Now put non-transaction oriented software development on top of that. Add some of the silly questions the developers ask online. Yikes.

    Of course, I'm still miffed from several years ago when some new device read my nine as a seven in the 10-cents column of a mortgage check, setting off a $35 late fee, lowering my credit score, then stonewalling my protest.

    With all the webby crap I've seen, I can't imagine that a reboot will improve things. It just gives an opportunity for the industry to spew garbage about how government shouldn't stifle innovation, leading to getting rid of the regulations that prevent, well, things like all the bad financial things you've seen happen over the last ten years. Sometimes Atlas should shrug.

    I don't think carfax had complete repair info on one of my previous vehicles, either.

  8. I forgot about the red tape issue, as well as the general visibility of the banking industry that has people demanding a reboot.

    It's one thing to have Robert Scoble mad at you; it's another thing entirely to have the U.S. Congress mad at you.

  9. Online banking is definitely a leap of faith. As you say, innovations in banking do sometimes lead to devolution, e.g. the improper OCR of your check that could have been corrected by a human. I don't think the government generally stifles innovation though. Maybe it depends on the sitting president 🙂

    Anyway, not enough is known about BankSimple to say much at this point, but I wish Alex well. I'll probably see him around the way in Portland, so maybe details will follow.

    Square does seem very useful though . . .

  10. My first thought when I saw Alex was starting a bank was “good luck with that”. So much red tape and regulations. I know a guy working at a peer-to-peer microlending site, another financial services innovation, and he told some stories about the regulations.

    They'll need some series backing with large rounds to handle all the non-technical stuff.

  11. I forgot about the red tape issue, as well as the general visibility of the banking industry that has people demanding a reboot.

    It's one thing to have Robert Scoble mad at you; it's another thing entirely to have the U.S. Congress mad at you.

  12. Online banking is definitely a leap of faith. As you say, innovations in banking do sometimes lead to devolution, e.g. the improper OCR of your check that could have been corrected by a human. I don't think the government generally stifles innovation though. Maybe it depends on the sitting president 🙂

    Anyway, not enough is known about BankSimple to say much at this point, but I wish Alex well. I'll probably see him around the way in Portland, so maybe details will follow.

    Square does seem very useful though . . .

  13. My first thought when I saw Alex was starting a bank was “good luck with that”. So much red tape and regulations. I know a guy working at a peer-to-peer microlending site, another financial services innovation, and he told some stories about the regulations.

    They'll need some series backing with large rounds to handle all the non-technical stuff.

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