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March 23, 2023
As news outlets continue to report on the demise of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and the broader implications for the industry, it bears repeating that not all banks are equal. Community banks are relationship lenders first and foremost and this distinction makes all the difference in times of uncertainty.
As we gear up for our next accelerator, we caught up with a few past participants to hear what they had to say about the program:
“The ICBA Accelerator program was a game changer for KlariVis! Our company experienced growth of over 200% in 2022 and a significant amount of that growth is directly attributable to the Accelerator,” said Kim Snyder, CEO, and founder of KlariVis, a ThinkTECH Accelerator alum. “In addition to closing new business, we perfected our pitch, gained tremendous insight into product market fit from our target market, and gained exposure across the industry as a result of being in the program.”
“The Accelerator ROI is immeasurable,” said Don Shafer, co-founder and co-CEO of Quilo. “The Accelerator team lined us up with meetings with the Fed, CFPB, OCC, and FDIC, all on one day; I couldn’t have done that on my own.”
“To be successful in this industry, you must understand the problem, have a solution, and be able to communicate how you help succinctly, said Zach Duke, CEO of Finosec. “There is nowhere else in the industry where you can have the frequency and quality of meetings in a condensed format like the ICBA ThinkTECH. It is the true definition of an accelerator.”
Even if you don’t fit the criteria for this first accelerator—i.e., solutions for deposit gathering and retention or real-time payments—we want to hear from you. Submit your information if you have a solution that you would like considered.
The difference was on full display when I learned Vero Technologies, a 2022 ThinkTECH Accelerator alum, was one of SVB’s customers and exploring a potential bridge loan as a contingency plan for short-term support. I immediately reached out to Greg Ohlendorf, president and CEO of First Community Bank and Trust in Beecher, Ill. Greg is one of our ThinkTECH Selection Committee members, so he was familiar Vero Techologies, but wasn’t a user of the service.
That didn’t stop Greg, however, from having a conversation with co-founder John Mizzi and offering assistance and even his personal cell number to see him through his temporary funding needs. Ultimately John didn’t require the additional loan support to meet payroll, but it was a valuable lesson about the importance of relationship banking that convinced the entrepreneur to start banking with First Community Bank, a local lender that would be accountable, accessible, and capable of meeting his short- and long-term business needs.
This speaks to the power of what makes community banking so special--relationship banking, and the types of interactions that make our ThinkTECH Accelerator so effective. Bringing the program in-house at ICBA has only created a more expansive innovation opportunity. We can now be more responsive in addressing community bank needs, with changes enhancing the program in four important ways:
We’re addressing current pain points. For our first Accelerator of 2023—running April 24 through June 30—we’re specifically seeking solutions that help community banks in deposit gathering and retention and real-time and instant payments, areas we’ve heard repeatedly are community bank priorities. But we’re not stopping there; we are also looking for submissions in a wide array of applications to address issues in new and innovative ways this year (see #2 and #3).
We’re planning targeted Solution Forums. In this dynamic, changing industry, what’s top of mind for bankers will shift throughout the year. To that end, we are planning targeted, pop-up Solution Forums to address the timeliest of topics. Akin to crowdsourcing needs, we will work with bankers to identify the topics bubbling to the surface, including data/connectivity, AgTech, AgeTech, RegTech and financial wellness. Then, we’ll host topically focused, quick-pitch sessions that bring forth solutions to address specified needs associated with these critical trends and evolving issues.
We’re hosting more than one accelerator. With the changes we’ve made internally, we’re now looking at this program as perpetual, where we are constantly identifying new fintechs that have solutions for community banks. In fact, fintechs, if you have a solution that helps community banks become more competitive, efficient, or profitable, we want to talk to you. [See sidebar for more information.]
We’re formalizing a hybrid model. Our accelerator will hold its kick-off week in person in Atlanta, followed by eight weeks of virtual connection and engagement between fintechs, community bankers, and industry leaders, and a closing week that culminates back in Atlanta. This model will allow us to both maximize participation—we want to encourage more bankers to join these conversations—and strengthen these connections throughout the 10-week event and beyond.
We are launching our next Accelerator soon and identifying the approaches that best address the market’s difficulties and emphasize the community bank difference in the process—both to our fintech partners and the industry at large. Above all, we look forward to having you along for the journey, implementing innovative solutions in fresh and exciting ways.
To find out more about 2023 ThinkTECH programs and how you can participate, visit icba.org/accelerator.