Qoins, an Atlanta-based startup that rounds up users’ spare change to help them pay off their debt, took home the largest equity-free cash prize for startups in the country as the winner of the Fintech Innovation Award Challenge at this week’s FinTech South conference. The audience was able to vote on which of four finalists would receive the $50,000 check during a live pitch event.
Since their inception, Qoins has helped its users pay off more than $1.2 million in total debt. They’re currently raising a seed funding round and participating in the Village Capital Pathways program for underrepresented founders.
This was the first year the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) held FinTech South, which was the Southeast’s largest event dedicated to financial innovation, and the first year of the Fintech Innovation Award Challenge. The sold-out event saw 1,300 attendees at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta.
The four Innovation Award finalists — DataSeers, Medxoom, Qoins and Wela — were selected by a panel of judges made up of financial industry and technology executives. All four of the companies are in the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) portfolio.
A main theme during the whole FinTech South event was the growth of the industry throughout the Southeast. The region is anchored by Georgia’s “Transaction Alley” payments hub, through which 70 percent of all digital payments flow — Georgia fintech companies process over 128 billion transactions per year, representing over $5 trillion. Six of the ten largest payment processing companies in the country are based in Georgia.
Though the state has had an established fintech industry for years, the 2018 State of Georgia’s Fintech Ecosystem Report, released at the event, shows sustained growth. The number of identified fintech companies increased from 90 to over 120 in the last two years, reflecting the emergence of new startups.
The report also showed that the state is seeding a new wave of mid-sized, scaling fintech companies — no longer startups, these rapidly-growing businesses are generating jobs and revenue to power the growth of the sector. They include fintech unicorns Kabbage and Greensky, and Cardlytics, which recently raised $70 million in an IPO.
However, Georgia isn’t the only hub in the region — during a panel on Catalyzing Early-Stage Fintech Startups that also showcased panelists from ATDC, Techstars and the Plug and Play Tech Center, Dan Roselli of Charlotte-based Queen City Fintech accelerator shared that Charlotte and Atlanta share resources throughout the region. “Being in the southeast, we collaborate a lot better than we compete,” he said.
Jeff Gapusan, ATDC’s Fintech Catalyst, mentioned how several ATDC companies, including Qoins, had gone through the Queen City Fintech accelerator.
Other panels at FinTech South included discussions on corporate innovation labs, growing a fintech company from startup to a public offering and how fintech companies can work with banks.
Finally, the winners of TAG’s Fintech Advance Awards, which recognize innovative Georgia-based fintech companies of any size, were honored on stage: Ingo Money, PrimeRevenue, Safe Banking Systems, Fattmerchant, Patientco and Kabbage. The Fintech Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Tripp Rackley of Kenzie Lane Innovation, also was honored.