Participants in the 2022 Student Fintech Innovation Competition

As teams of Ohio State students made their pitches as part of the first-ever Student Fintech Innovation Competition, a theme was beginning to emerge. Sure, certain aspects of financial technology like cryptocurrency, electronic payment and algorithms were omnipresent, but so too was a common, but surprising thread: social responsibility.

Nearly every team pitching their ideas to a panel of judges, which included venture capital and data analytics experts and a serial entrepreneur, positioned their project to showcase how various aspects of financial technology (fintech) can be utilized to help others.

“The ideas on display at the Student Fintech Innovation Competition only reinforced my belief that the future of fintech is at Ohio State,” said Anil K. Makhija, dean and John W. Berry, Sr. Chair in Business. “We are excited to carry on the momentum we have created through this event, as well as last fall’s Fintech@Ohio State & Beyond conference, to collaborate university-wide on opportunities to better understand and recognize an industry that is critical to so many aspects of our lives now and in the future.”

In all, five teams of undergraduate and students from across Ohio State took advantage of the opportunity to pitch their ideas for an opportunity to win a cash prize. The competition represented the latest step in Ohio State’s journey to becoming a leader in fintech, whether through student-focused programming, the creation of educational resources and curriculum or through research and thought leadership.

Eshwar Pamula headshot
Eshwar Pamula

Eshwar Pamula, a first-year mechanical engineering student and the only member of the team that presented the idea behind Cred, was named the competition’s winner. Whereas credit cards are limited to adults, Cred seeks to provide individuals younger than 18 years old the opportunity to build their own credit by operating as a neo-bank, or a virtual-only bank.

The idea, which would include participation by parents and guardians for security reasons, calls for partnerships with MasterCard and Visa for transactional support. The goal of Cred is to improve the financial literacy of soon-to-be adults. Pamula took home $3,500 for winning the competition.

“As a teenager in India, I was never allowed to even have an authorized user credit card, let alone a credit card. This was even when both my parents had a near-perfect credit scores,” said Pamula, who earlier this year also won LaunchpadOSU, a student startup competition offered by the Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship.

“Diving in deep, I noticed that this was a major problem in America too. With Gen-Z teenagers spending $2,500 per year on average, it doesn’t make sense for them not to build credit or even earn rewards on their purchases. Another key issue among teenagers was the lack of basic personal finance knowledge. I pitched the idea of Cred which aims to help teenagers become financially literate and build credit on their daily purchases.”

2022 SFIC - Mason Willis
Mason Willis pitches Asic Energy to judges in the Student Fintech Innovation Competition.

Other ideas pitched at the Student Fintech Innovation Competition included:

  • Advoca, an algorithm-based service that tracks an individual’s charitable donations to promote personal philanthropy and nonprofit transparency.
    • Team: Gabe Murphy (data analytics) and Garin Spurlock (information systems)
  • Asic Energy, a 100% green energy solution for Bitcoin mining
    • Team: Mason Willis (finance)
  • Common Interest, an alternative to payday and predatory loans that engages activist investors for loan capital
    • Team: MBA students Clyde Compton, Tim Barry, Ellison Hoke, Ajay Karthic, Atiqur Rahman, J.R. Ramsey, Ana Carolina Sousa, Michelle Weingartner and Briana Wilson
  • CryptPay, a digital payment platform that provides security through technologies such as peer-to-peer distributed ledger technology, biometrics and encryption
    • Team: Namith Anil (computer science and engineering), Liam Fernandes (finance and accounting), Abdelrehman Ibrahim (finance), Havi Patel (marketing)

The Student Fintech Innovation Competition, which was moderated by Dan Oglevee, senior lecturer in finance, was made possible by support from Fintech71, which was represented by Matt Armstead, one of the event’s judges and a partner and co-founder at Horizon Two Labs. Other judges included:

2022 SFIC judges
Trey Addison responds to a presentation at the Student Fintech Innovation Competition.
  • Trey Addison (EMBA ’19), co-founder and managing partner of Nascent Group Holdings, who manages the firm’s acquisition strategy, portfolio investment alignment and investment operations
  • Jason Black, senior vice president and director of analytic insights at Huntington National Bank, who is responsible for conducting analytics across the enterprise, with an emphasis on implementing new analytic solutions
  • Scott Griffin, director of entrepreneurial programs at Fisher College of Business, where he teaches courses on new product development and innovation
  • Faith Voinovich, principal at Ohio Innovation Fund, where she leads investments spun out of top research institutions

By participating in events like SFIC and LaunchpadOSU, I noticed the urge to become a founder and start something innovative is huge at Ohio State. These events not only give an opportunity for students to learn from each other, but also get to know about the stories of the judges, their success and their failures along the way.

Eshwar PamulaMechanical engineering student