Tech Startups Try to Occupy the Minds of Wall Street Protesters

 

Entrepreneurs form startups to shake up industries and bring in new ideas – a mindset that some say plays well with the themes of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Betterment LLC, PerkStreet Financial Inc., BillGuard Inc. and several other financial technology companies have banded together under the umbrella of “/Declare” and purchased the domain names SlashDeclare.com and SlashDeclare.org to host content about the movement.

Participants in /Declare say they are trying to improve the state of financial services. For example, at perkstreet.com/declare, the online banking provider says: “Our biggest banks are failing us … When we founded PerkStreet, we declared our independence from the conventional banking practices that made no sense. We won’t charge you fees to use your own money.”

That page includes a link to PerkStreet’s main site, where it prominently pitches what it calls a “next generation” bank account. Betterment.com/declare has similar language about its motivations for creating a simple self-service investment platform.

“What makes this movement special and what /Declare is really about is taking a stand for transparency. And we don’t expect every institution to sign up and say, ‘We have the same ethos as you do,’ but we do think that the institution should be held accountable,” says Jason Henrichs, PerkStreet’s chief operating officer and co-founder.

The /Declare collaboration “is fundamentally being driven by what caused us to leave the big financial services firms, and go and start our own companies,” he said.

Despite the /Declare pages’ blatant ties to financial products, the project may find some fans among the protesters, says James Van Dyke, the president and founder of Javelin Strategy and Research.

“I don’t have a problem with that as long as there is transparency,” he says. “The key question is, ‘Are we offering products that provide real value or is there something wrong here?’ Financial services can be like any product or service. Like food, it can be tainted or it can provide the equivalent to nutrition.”

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This article originally published October 27th, 2011 on Bank Technology News.