Financial technology, or FinTech, over the last decade has been a major driver in the innovation of how traditional firms in financial services operate. It has disrupted everything from payment processing to forecasting and budgeting, spawning some of the FinTech startup behemoths that we know today such as: Stripe, Deel and Brex.
Web3 marks a fundamental shift in paradigm as a new computing primitive that has meant traditional FinTech tooling in web2 is unable to copy and paste over. Swapping out fiat for crypto, bank accounts for wallets and LLCs for DAOs has been a forcing function in producing a new class of financial applications that have emerged in support of this phase in innovation.
As a result, we’re seeing history repeat itself in how FinTech is able to drive outsized value creation in a new category that I call, FinTech in Web3. In this piece, I’ll map out the web3 financial tooling landscape and highlight why it is quickly emerging as the next exciting frontier in innovation and investment for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists alike.
On & Off Ramps
As web3 reimagines a new world in how finances are conducted, on & off ramps are the bridges that many use to crossover.
They provide a convenient way of directly turning fiat in a bank account, to tokens in a wallet that can then used to explore and interact with applications on the decentralised web.
On & Off ramps are a fundamental piece of infrastructure that have quickly become the first FinTech tool in web3 that many use.
With crypto having firmly established itself as a form of digital money, payment gateways are the portals by which users spend it through.
They enable merchants to accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment in exchange for goods and services provided to customers.
Payment gateways are a key component in moving commerce from fiat to crypto by providing a means for buyers and sellers to transact seamlessly.
Through the removal of a centralised entity, with the replacement of a smart contract, payment protocols are crypto payment gateways in their purest form.
They enable truly permissionless commerce to take place between merchants and their customers.
Payment protocols are a decentralised alternative to centralised gateways in moving commerce from fiat to crypto.
Given their inherent scarcity and artistic display, NFTs have become an ownership must-have for any participant in the digital economy.
An NFT-specific checkout is a frictionless way for buyers to purchase NFTs with a credit or debit card.
NFTs can represent everything from a credential, to a membership in a community. Given their importance, NFT Checkouts provide a simpler means for users to acquire them.
As web3 as an industry continues to grow and mature, payroll & expense management become key components in the management of an on-chain workforce.
It helps on-chain organisation streamline their financial operations by enabling them to pay contributors and contractors, as well as to manage expenses denominated in crypto.
With web3 changing the very nature of work, a crypto-native payroll & expense management solution is key to helping organisations operate in this new world.
As online-first communities with a shared bank account take root in the form of a DAO, treasury management seeks to answer the question of how such an account should be managed.
Organisations utilise treasury management to aid in the stewardship of their on-chain assets through diversification and other means.
Online communities are defined by a mutual ownership of assets, treasury management is a prerequisite in ensuring their sustainability.
As more companies transition into the digital, fiat is no longer the default currency of choice, spend management must become multicurrency in a new way.
The tooling aids on-chain organisations straddling the line between web2 and web3 to manage their spending in both fiat and crypto.
Given the multiple cryptocurrencies an organisation can hold at any given time, spend management plays an increasingly important role.
The financial activity of organisations must at some point reconcile from the blockchain back into the real world, web3 native accounting & reporting is the tool of choice.
They are used by on-chain organisations to track all on-chain transactions from token swaps to NFT mints, across multiple blockchains to ensure compliance.
Even in a new digital world, the transactions of its participants must be dutifully tracked and accounted for, therefore, accounting & reporting becomes a necessity.
As one of the two certainties in life (death & taxes), it is no surprise that taxation even in the digital world, is an inevitability.
Web3 native tax software is used by consumers and enterprise alike to track crypto portfolios and transactions from which capital gains, income tax and more can be calculated.
With its thousands of cryptocurrencies, along with unique mechanisms such as yield farming, on-chain tax software is the solution to tackle this step up in complexity.
Given the shift to a new computing paradigm, on-chain organisations precipitate the requirement of on-chain business intelligence.
The function of an intelligence platform is to process blockchain data for use by web3 native organisations in order to drive higher quality decision-making.
The need for actionable insights follows companies into an on-chain world, business intelligence is a necessary tool in surfacing those insights.
This landscape represents the companies in emerging categories in which significant value creation is beginning to accrue in the application of financial technology to web3. However, this is just the start.
We will continue to see further innovations in tooling to support on-chain organisations as existing applications increasingly fail to meet their needs. Some example areas that I am excited to see new solutions include:
- KYC - As Know Your Customer (KYC) increasingly becomes Know Your Wallet (KYW), EU regulation has placed a burden on centralised exchanges to collect information on unhosted wallets, or block transfers to them. I predict that this will extend to decentralised applications in which certain wallets will be prevented from interacting with dapps if it is a known malicious actor. We have already seen this happen with Tornado Cash using a Chainalysis oracle contract to block OFAC sanctioned addresses. As dapps are forced to meet a higher regulatory standard, a KYC API service is necessary for use by developers to integrate into their applications to handle this regulatory burden, so they can instead focus on their core product.
- Subscription Management & Billing - With crypto becoming an increasingly popular tool for commerce by consumers, current billing models are limited in their scope to one-time payments, with alternatives such as volume and recurring based models not at all being possible. Crypto-specific subscription management & billing tools will emerge as solutions for merchants to not only enable their existing business model to move from web2 to web3, but also to help mange and reconcile the differences in fiat and crypto subscription data that both currency types throw off.
- Procurement - Permissionless participation in decentralised organisations is a super power that however results in coordination issues, particularly in the acquisition of tooling. DAO procurement tooling typically occurs in non-standard ways, with no clear responsible stakeholder within the organisation to sell to. Given that it is my expectation DAO tooling will mature to become application-specific, i.e. the tooling required by a service DAO, will not be the same as required by an investment DAO; procurement management software for sufficiently large DAOs will become a necessity to help cut through the noise in ensuring it is accessing the best tooling fit for its purpose.
FinTech in Web3 as a narrative will increase in importance as financial activity continues to move on-chain. This landscape serves as a starting point for enterprising entrepreneurs and venture capitalists alike in how they should begin thinking about this new emerging category.