Category Archives: Finance

ReThink: Personal Finances

With the advent of mobile banking, a slew of new startups have appeared that offer ways to transfer money from one party to another via a mobile device. While all operate on essentially the same idea of bypassing traditional banking institutions (we’re talking institutions like checks, ATMs, wire transfers, etc), each has its own niche. Back in UnConventional’s early days, we highlighted Dwolla, which lauds itself as the “online cash option;” it essentially acts as an electronic wallet. Today, we’re taking a look at a Serve, which has its own unique structure and function.

Beyond the electronic wallet function shared by most like-minded companies, Serve (which is actually a branch of American Express, which was incidentally nominated as one of the most innovative companies by FastCompany) offers two stand-out features: the Serve card and subaccounts. The Serve card acts like a debit card for your Serve account, meaning you can use it to access your Serve funds anywhere American Express is accepted. This is especially useful if you are worried about your card being stolen or about going over your budget (think traveling). Subaccounts are just that: accounts within your main Serve account. Each subaccount also gets a Serve card, so you could, for instance, set up a subaccount for your daughter at college, allowing effortless financial provision for her while simultaneously keeping tabs on her spending. What’s more: Serve is almost completely free. Starting this June, the only fees associated with Serve are funding your account via a credit card (which is silly) or withdrawing funds more than once per month from an ATM. And we haven’t even touched on Serve’s widgets, which is yet another way American Express is proving itself to be rethinking personal finances from the bottom up.


ReThink: Accounting (Again)

Here at UnConventional, we believe that rethinking is a never-ending process. You might have noticed, therefore, that we rethink some things two or three or ten times, because one good idea deserves another. Today, we’re again rethinking accounting and taking a look at a company taking the next step in making accounting easier, simpler, and more user-friendly.

The reality of cloud computing is well upon us, and this holds no less true in the realm of accounting. Most new accounting products are in fact web-based programs that operate independently of any one computer. Xero is every bit in line with this new paradigm, but they have taken things a step further. Now, not only is keeping the books simple, intuitive, and manageable from any computer, it’s manageable from anywhere. Xero has unleashed the power of our mobile devices in the pursuit of cleaner, simpler accounting. No more receipts, no more missed transactions, and no more surprises. It’s one step closer to a world without clutter, confusion, and complexity, leaving our hands and minds free to work in our business, not in our accounting.

ReThink: Brokerage

Traditional investment opportunities are rather limited for the public investor. Stocks, bonds, CDs, and derivatives of each pretty much define the extent of available places to profitably park extra money. However, SecondMarket is blowing open a number of previously semi-closed markets, such as private company stock, community bank stock, bankruptcy claims, and a variety of fixed income and private equity securities. Though probably not appropriate for Joe Stockholder, significant opportunities are available for the savvy investor as well as for sellers of its eclectic investments. In an age of mind-numbing complexity, SecondMarket is making access to the full spectrum of financial instruments simpler for all.

ReThink: Credit Card Payments

Accepting credit card payments is a hassle. With merchant accounts, device fees, transaction fees, and swipe fees, accepting plastic can be complicated and costly. Not so with Square. Using a mobile device and a simple card reader, Square allows merchants to accept credit cards with one low, flat transaction fee. The interface is simple, the process is painless, and the payouts are made in twenty-four hours. Rethinking credit card payments means anyone can accept plastic, anywhere, anytime. Now, you can afford to think inside the Square.

ReThink: Payment Collection

Collecting money from groups of people has never been easy. Some people forget, some people don’t have cash, and some people don’t trust your math. For situations like this, forget the mess and turn to WePay. Unlike other payment options, WePay allows the collector to create a customized collection interface, so those who are paying know exactly what they’re paying for, know how much they owe, and are enabled to use their bank account or credit card to make the payment. WePay allows people to set up an online storefront, sell event tickets, collect donations, or collect dues, all using a simple, intuitive system that is also more cost-effective than other options. It’s a fresh new approach to the old payment paradigm!

ReThink: Accounting

Accounting used to be a great mystery. Professions and entire companies have emerged just to handle it, and for smaller businesses, software companies have “demystified” the process by selling expensive and complicated software. That’s the old paradigm, but Wave Accounting is taking a new approach. Instead of outsourcing or purchasing software subscriptions, small businesses can now take charge of their own accounting through Wave’s simple, free, and highly capable online program. No more manual entry, no more stashing receipts, no more waiting for last month’s statements. It’s all online, it’s all interconnected, it’s all automatic, and it’s all free. Say goodbye to your accountant and to your cluelessness; Wave empowers businesses to take charge of their own finances. Did we mention that it’s free?

Shoebox Accounting Stops Now from Wave Accounting on Vimeo.

ReThink: The Marketplace

Shoot! Your best friend’s birthday is tomorrow, and you still haven’t found him that vintage copper boiler he’s been wanting. You could settle for less and get him a biography of Grover Cleveland (who can get enough of those?), or you could turn to Zaarly and post what you’re looking for. A guy gets on Zaarly to see if he can sell anything, and finds that someone is looking for that old copper boiler he had been using as a cumbersome laundry basket. He contacts you and sells you his boiler, saving the day and making you the hero of your friend’s birthday. Sound simple? It is!

Zaarly is a community-based marketplace where people post what they want instead of what they have. It’s utilizing demand-side economics, which any sharp economist will tell tell you is the better way to stimulate commerce. Need something? Post it and watch as your own community provides! Now, about that labradoodle your kids have been wanting…

ReThink: Venture Capital

Traditionally, a business with an idea (or an idea trying to become a business) had to either get a loan from the bank or sell (literally and figuratively) their idea to venture capitalists. Some ideas, though, don’t justify either of those options, but they still won’t get off the ground without a little help. Enter Kickstarter. This crowdfunding platform allows individuals to fund the ideas they want to see come to fruition in exchange for exclusive deals once the idea gets off the ground. Investors can give as little or as much as they want, and with so many people funding each idea, the inherent risk is spread out among many people. Ideas only get funded if their funding goal is met, but once met, the crowd has enabled a new idea to get the kickstart it needs to become reality.

Have you enjoyed this week’s theme? Learn more and find other incredible uses of crowdsourcing at this industry website!

ReThink: Microfinance

Most of us have heard of microfinance, which opens the way for entrepreneurs in developing countries to gain access to small amounts of capital. Muhammad Yunus is widely credited with the creation of microfinance through his work in establishing the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1976. The funding for microfinance institutions has traditionally been provided through donor organizations, central banks, and the sale of bonds; however, this paradigm has shifted with the introduction of Kiva. Instead of tapping into traditional capital markets, Kiva connects borrowers with individuals who have extra money to lend, enabling a wealth of new capital to be provided at no additional cost to the borrower. Individual lenders can lend as little as $25 to entrepreneurs across the world, enabling economic growth and development to small business owners otherwise unable to take out a loan from a bank. One loan at a time, lives are being changed around the world.

How Kiva Works from Kiva on Vimeo.

ReThink: Payment

Remove the middle man, lower the cost, right? That’s the idea behind Dwolla, the pioneering electronic cash option. Traditional electronic payments involve one or more middlemen, each one very interested in taking a chunk of change out of the payment. Dwolla is taking the Pal out of PayPal, so to speak; transactions cost a maximum of twenty-five cents. The result is electronic payment the way it’s meant to be: simple, fast, and practically free.

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