From bitcoins to blockchains, unicorns to gazelles – we unravel the mysteries of fintech.



  1. Financial Technologies
  • technologies used and applied in the financial services sector
  • chiefly used by financial institutions on the back end of their businesses
  • increasingly represents technologies that are disrupting traditional finance services, including mobile payments, money transfers, loans, fundraising and asset management

“fintech is one of the fastest-growing areas for venture capitalists.”

On the surface, defining fintech is relatively straightforward. But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover a whole new language lurking beneath. Do you know your bitcoins from your blockchains? Or your unicorns from your gazelles? If not, it’s high time you did.

This is not a drill

Fintech is not a fad, nor is it a buzzword. Fintech is storming the world of financial services. It covers a broad range of companies, technologies and market participants – namely start-ups, financial services companies, market infrastructure and technology companies – which are changing the way they do business. The term itself describes the new technologies and services adopted by these companies.

Major financial institutions have been quick to embrace the disruptive nature of fintech, eagerly forming partnerships in an effort to improve operations and answer customer demands. In fact, according to a recent PwC report, funding of fintech start-ups has increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41 per cent over the past four years[1].

Learn the lingo

Keen to know more? You should start by learning the lingo, so here are some of the key terms you’ll hear bandied about in the world of fintech.

  • Blockchain: a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly.

In other words, it stores blocks of information that are identical across its network. Like the internet, blockchain comes with built-in robustness. It can’t be controlled by any single entity and has no single point of failure.

  • Bitcoin: a type of digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.

Known as the most famous example of blockchain technology, bitcoin is a cryptocurrency whose distribution and ownership is recorded on the blockchain. At today’s exchange rate, one bitcoin equals $13,527.55 Australian Dollars.

  • Unicorn: a start-up company valued at over $1 billion.

So that one’s fairly straightforward. But for bonus points a decacorn describes companies over $10 billion, and a hectocorn is one valued at over $100 billion. According to TechCrunch, as of January 2018 there were 276 recorded unicorns, with a total value of $967.4 billion[2]. Some of the biggest unicorns include Airbnb, Uber, Dropbox and Pinterest.

  • Gazelle: a company that grows at 20 per cent a year, for at least four years, from a minimum base of $100,000.

These guys are pretty rare in most economies as they struggle to sustain growth over more than five years. Key examples are mostly found in high-tech and internet companies and the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Yahoo and Google were all gazelles in their early days.

  • Robo-adviser: a class of financial adviser that provides financial advice or investment management online with moderate to minimal human intervention.

How is that possible I hear you ask? Thanks to algorithms – they provide digital financial advice all based on mathematical rules or algorithms, which are executed by software. This is artificial intelligence at its best.

  • Accelerator and incubator: very similar organisations which select entrepreneurs or start-ups to join them for a limited period of time, often taking an equity stake in return for coaching, mentoring and introductions to clients and investors.

Accelerators are true to their name and work with early stage companies to help accelerate their growth. Whereas incubators specialise in nurturing entrepreneurs with great ideas but no business plan to harness them.

Now that you’re well versed in fintech, you’re ready to grab the bull (or the unicorn) by the horn/s and dive deeper into the world of financial services.