Critical outlooks for the future of the credit union system are pervasive. From forecasts of dramatically smaller numbers, an “outdated” charter, or numerous existential threats such as cybersecurity risks or disruptive fintech innovations, negative outlooks are easy to find.
In contrast, a speaker at a recent conference asserted: “America today needs credit unions more than ever.” This comment referred to the person’s belief in credit unions’ destiny, that is what cooperatives can do for members and communities at this point in history.
The observation was based on the growing data about significant unmet member financial needs. More importantly, the judgment was grounded in a belief in the destiny of cooperative financial ownership.
I saw this same belief in a changed future in George Washington University’s eleventh New Venture Competition finals last week.
Nine startups were chosen from over 216 student teams competing for cash prizes of over $200,000 plus in kind legal, office space and mentoring resources of another $600,000. More than 500 students from all eleven faculty had competed for this final.
One winner was chosen from each of three business categories: technology, social and new venture tracks. The winners were:
- Last Call–an online marketplace to enable businesses to discount surplus food and provide more affordable meals—thus reducing food waste.
- Dulceology–an online bakery that uses social media to create its markets as well as pop-up shops to serve special events such as conventions.
- Plast-ways–an engineering consortium of plastic eating microbes designed to extend the life of landfill waste disposal technology.
These three startups each received $35,000-$45000, plus the opportunity to receive experienced start up support or even venture capital. Their common hope was a passion to solve a problem or to change the way a traditional market was being served.
These entrepreneurs were driven by destiny-the desire to change the status quo to something better.
As a member, I ask do credit unions still share this idea of destiny?