Today’s profile is with Steve Polsky, founder of Juvo, whose vision is to establish financial identities for the billions of people worldwide who are creditworthy, yet financially excluded, via their everyday use of smartphones.
Over to Steve for his responses to our questions – in bold.
Who are you and what’s your background?
Hi. I’m Steve Polsky, CEO and Founder of Juvo. My career to date has focused on building early stage technology ventures – Juvo is my fifth start up. I’ve helped successfully launch and grow four companies (VoicePlex Corp, Amber Networks, Edusoft, Flixster) across the telecoms, data communications, education and consumer internet industries. Overall, I’m passionate about the use of technology to solve real-world problems and love turning concepts into reality that touch the lives of millions of consumers.
Juvo is a culmination of 20 years of effort across the telecoms and consumer internet industries. After Flixster, where I was president and COO, was acquired by Warner Bros, I knew that I had one more challenge in me. More than anything, I wanted to confidently be able to say that I had made a real impact. This motivation is a big part of how Juvo came to be.
Before developing the idea for Juvo, I digested over 60 technical books and taught myself everything, from how to build iOS and Android apps to server code to Amazon Cloud Services. It was all in preparation while searching for the right concept and hoping that I would have the skills and expertise at my fingertips to make it happen.
Away from work, I’m proud to be a visiting lecturer for the Wharton School of Business’s undergraduate course in entrepreneurship.
What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
I’m the CEO and Founder of Juvo with overall responsibility for the company. Currently, my main areas of focus are the growth of the organisation, expansion of our reach around the world and investing in the development of forward looking financial services offerings.
Can you give us an overview of your business?
Juvo was founded with an overarching vision: to establish financial identities for the billions of people worldwide who are creditworthy, yet financially excluded, via their everyday use of smartphones. In partnership with mobile network operators, Juvo’s proprietary Identity Scoring technology uses data science, machine learning and game mechanics to enable millions of consumers to build their own personal financial identities and thereby gain access to otherwise unattainable mobile financial services.
Juvo is currently live in 23 countries and is expanding rapidly. Our overarching target is to enable as many of the 5 billion prepaid mobile phone users worldwide to build financial identities as a stepping stone towards greater mobile financial services.
Tell us how you are funded.
Juvo is Venture Capitalist funded, backed by global business leaders and luminaries in the world of tech, mobile and finance. Its executive team comprises accomplished industry leaders across the data science, consumer internet, financial services and mobile telecoms fields.
Current investors in the company include Freestyle Capital, Seed Resolute and Wing Venture Capital. As well as numerous private investors including the former CEOs of AT&T Wireless, NYSE, Sprint, Telefonica International and Vodafone Group. (Stay tuned as we will soon have an update on this! )
Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
Our mission, and reason, for setting up Juvo was to help enable hundreds of millions of consumers around the world to build financial identities, starting with their everyday use of their prepaid mobile phone. Nearly 80 percent of the world’s mobile phone users are on prepaid mobile devices and over 2 billion of those users are currently excluded from financial services. Through the reach of mobile devices, consumer facing experiences and data science, it is possible to change this and enable financial access for millions of consumers.
Using data science and machine learning, Juvo’s Identity Scoring technology builds real-time personas for prepaid mobile subscribers. We start with simple transactions around mobile phone usage and through transparency, education and incentives walk users up a pathway to an increasing set of financial services.
Who are your target customers? What’s your revenue model?
Our target customers are global mobile operators. Currently Juvo partners with a number of mobile operators around the world, including Millicom and Cable & Wireless. We help our partners build deeper relationships with their prepaid consumers – reducing churn on average by over 40% and increasing their monthly revenues from 10% to 15% among prepaid mobile subscribers.
If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
It is exciting to see all of the innovation in the financial services space currently happening across the globe. Given a magic wand, I would like to see a closer collaboration between governments and regulators and the technology community to unlock the enormous potential that exists today to impact populations around the world.
What is your message for the larger players in the Finance industry?
It is very simple: team up with innovative technology providers to unlock today’s potential. The financial services industry has moved at a relatively slow pace in consumer innovation. Today, what is possible with mobile distribution and cloud-based data science unlocks incredible potential for having an impact and providing access to a whole new swath of consumers. The right combination of innovators with existing large players can truly unlock this potential.
What phone are you carrying and why?
I use both an Android and an iOS device. Given our focus, understanding usage across both platforms is key to our success.
Where do you get your industry news from?
At Juvo we track financial services news and innovations across a whole host of publications and have an internal channel that aggregates the latest information – that is my main source.
Can you list 3 people you rate from the FinTech sector that we should be following on Twitter?
Ron Suber (@RonSuber) is always my FinTech go-to source of news.
Can you suggest the name of an Angel Investor or VC that might be interested in being profiled?
What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
I’m incredibly biased here and am 150% invested in Juvo’s offerings and its impact around the world.
Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
Based on the main trend Juvo is seeing the primary focus of our predictions is that in the next 5-10 years over a billion new consumers will come online. We believe this will be transformative for financial services offerings across the globe.
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