Second Annual FinTech Frontier Pitch Competition Puts Fresh Ideas at Center Stage

Cintrifuse wants to help companies tap into Cincinnati’s exciting FinTech scene

Cincinnati startup catalyst Cintrifuse is hosting their second annual FinTech Frontier Pitch Competition, inviting early-stage startup companies to showcase their FinTech innovations on October 28. From side hustles to projects in your garage, Cintrifuse wants to hear from the next generation of great FinTech ideas. Cintrifuse CEO Pete Blackshaw said the pitch competition format is the ideal way to set a low barrier to entry, allowing any great ideas to shine. And in a FinTech hotbed like Cincinnati, there’s great potential for all involved.

“FinTech has tremendous potential for greater Cincinnati,” he said. “It’s an area where we think the concentration of talent, technology and capital can create an outsized advantage for our region. We have strengths in banking and insurance, but we also recognize the importance of disruptors, so we have an eye on building a pipeline of entrepreneurs in FinTech and telling the rest of the world how serious we are about it. If you’ve got a great idea — you may even be side-hustling — we don’t really care. If it’s a big idea that can go places, we don’t want to create any barriers to you getting visibility or attention, and I think the pitch competition format works really well for that.”

Last year, Cincinnati investment startup WiPROSPER was part of the challenge. CEO Will Carter said he was interested for obvious monetary reasons, but was also looking forward to meeting key players in the FinTech scene and breaking through. WiPROSPER finished third in the competition, and Carter said the company “gained a connection to Cincinnati” and now has a brighter and more solid outlook since competing.

“The value of a competition like FinTech Frontier is in the growth and maturation of your startup, the exposure shared with the startup scene, learning from other competitors and the networking that takes place as a participant,” he said. “Each of these benefits can be a game changer in the arc of a startup’s path to market. And for those that place like we did, it is validation to our network. We are now better able to access support where we really struggled before. In the strongest possible way, I recommend participating in the competition.”

For Blackshaw, that result is exactly the goal of the program. It’s not just about handing out cash or hosting an event, it’s a way to connect entrepreneurs to the community that wants to see what they’re working on.

“It doesn’t end with the pitch contest,” he said. “We want to drive visibility for greater Cincinnati, and the big upside isn’t just the cash, it’s the potential relationships with organizations like Fifth Third, First Financial, Western & Southern or Great American Insurance. It’s an incredible number of potential partners and collaborators, all who are eager to build a startup economy in this area. Sometimes you need some prize money to get initial interest, but there’s so much more upside beyond that.”

According to Blackshaw, those large organizations — and several others in the area — are key to the development of Cincinnati’s startup future. Having worked at large corporations like Nestle and Proctor & Gamble, Blackshaw said he’s blown away by the shift in philosophy that’s made bigger companies much more willing to look to the startup world for ideas and investment opportunities. Tapping into that, he said, is especially key for the FinTech scene.

“We’re collaborating with these large, powerful companies who are humble enough to realize they’re entering a disruptive future and they have to be externally focused and think about mutually beneficial partnerships,” he said. “They realize even that small FinTech startup that hasn’t scaled might be their salvation, and that’s really powerful. When I was working with P&G, the notion of working with these small players was the impossible dream. Now, there’s an environment where there’s codependency with the small player who brings that fresh thinking and outside perspective.”

This year and in future editions of the event, Blackshaw hopes Cintrifuse and its sponsors and partners can continue to focus on the ways empowering FinTech startups can contribute to a more equitable and sustainable world. He said there’s always an opportunity for that kind of progress whenever money is involved, so what better way to contribute to that work than through FinTech startups?

“We learned last year that there are a lot of opportunities for diversity and helping the underserved in FinTech,” he said. “Cincinnati has a huge passion for diversity and equity, so how do we think about financial services that drive equity? We got a lot of response from that last year, and it got us thinking about where we could take it, like the convergence of climate tech and FinTech. I’m excited that Cincinnati is working to own that FinTech niche.”

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