Wells Fargo Launches Startup Accelerator

Wells Fargo has launched its first accelerator program that will provide funding and guidance to young pioneering companies in the financial services sector. The new Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator is a semiannual boot camp for innovative entrepreneurs whose technology ideas in payments, deposits, fraud, operations, and other fields could shape future customer experiences in financial services.

Wells Fargo will guide three startups in its inaugural class, offering them mentorship in an attempt to prepare them to one day serve as vendors. In addition, the bank will make a direct equity investment of $50,000 to $500,000 in each selected startup. But unlike other existing accelerator programs, Wells Fargo’s program allows startups to remain non-exclusive, allowing them to grow more by pursuing other investors.

The Startup Accelerator also will provide business planning expertise to firms in the six-month program. Company subject matter experts and purchasing managers will offer workshops and individual coaching. Successful companies may become vendors to the bank.

“The Startup Accelerator adds a new cylinder to our corporate innovation engine,” says Steve Ellis, executive vice president and head of Wholesale Services at Wells Fargo. “We’re taking a proven business model from the venture capital community and repurposing it as a strategy for connecting with start-ups whose ideas and growth prospects could add value to our business and our customers.”

The Wells Fargo team explained the highly regulated banking industry can pose many obstacles for young companies, and startups are rarely equipped to handle the large enterprise needs of a bank or lack needed security measures. Through the accelerator program, Wells Fargo will help the startups develop the infrastructure they need to overcome hurdles that might arise.

The bank is accepting applications through Oct. 1 from young companies interested in joining the accelerator in the fall, when it plans to accept about 10 companies.

For its first accelerator round, Wells Fargo chose three companies from areas that could help the bank get to know its customers better: biometrics, location services and improved customer experience technology. The three innovative companies selected and funded to pilot the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator are:

  • Zumigo, San Jose, California: A developer of mobile services using a unique combination of location and mobile identity technologies to secure commerce and enable mobile marketing.
  • EyeVerify, Kansas City, Kansas: The creator of EyePrint IDâ„¢ that transforms a picture of your eye into a key that protects your digital life.
  • Kasisto, New York: The builder of state-of-the-art artificial intelligence technology that improves the consumer experience on mobile devices through intelligent conversation.

In addition to these three firms, the Startup Accelerator will give 10 to 20 young companies each year the opportunity to develop and refine products in a collaborative environment. Applications will be accepted twice per year. A Wells Fargo investment committee comprised of senior technology, venture banking, and innovation leaders will evaluate candidates and select participants.

“We’re interested in any technology that could be used by an institution like Wells Fargo to better serve our customers or operate our business,” Ellis adds. “Analytics, big data, mobile, security, and infrastructure are all important to us. We’re looking to engage with innovators beyond the edge of our own creative enterprise.”