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A Guide for Anti-tech Founders or CEOs on The Choice of Technology to use for your Fintech

You discover uncharted territory in the ever-evolving world of business and technology. There, hidden amidst market trends and consumer behaviors, is an elusive gap in the market, gleaming with promise. An idea sparks in your mind, an innovative solution that will marry technology to this market need like a perfect pair of star-crossed lovers.

With this spark, you dive into a detailed market research treasure trove. You venture through charts, graphs, and reports as though they are the pages of an epic adventure, validating your brainchild. The data points to a promising prophecy: your idea could succeed. Africa’s Next Unicorn. Maybe a Decacorn? Your spirit is ablaze with anticipation, as if your feelings reflect your data’s promising results.

You decide to confide in your closest confidant, a wizard in technology. Unveiling your idea is like revealing a precious jewel from the depths of your creative mind. His eyes light up like twin galaxies as your words cascade over him. Suddenly, he leaps into an impassioned monologue, a brilliant eureka moment powerful enough to stir the stars. Exclaiming, “We could harness the power of the MEAN stack and, if necessary, blend in additional stacks!”

You pause, perplexed, like a child presented with an arcane riddle. The MEAN stack? Other stacks? You ask your friend to demystify these cryptic terms as if explaining to a six-year-old. He enthusiastically describes that MEAN is no ordinary word but an acronym representing MongoDB, Express, AngularJS, and Node.js. But alas! His jargon-filled explanation is like an unknown magical incantation, leaving you more lost in the labyrinth of technical vocabulary than ever before. Can you relate?

Please have a seat, and let’s dive right in!

Regardless of background, every founder must think through technology for their start-up. Depending on your business idea and time in the market, you can go for a ready-made solution or build from scratch. Your start-up’s operations and financial performance will be influenced by the software you settle on and how it integrates with other systems. A well-integrated “tech stack” will save you time and money.

You must carefully analyze your project requirements before any code is developed. It would help if you pondered over crucial questions touching on need, scalability, Security, client choice, third-party integrations, friendly UI, and use for customers and internal teams. Many programming languages, technologies, tools, and frameworks exist. Making a poor choice can adversely affect your project or business. It can result in higher costs, delays, lack of scalability, compromised Security, poor performance, and an unappealing user interface, among other issues.

A group of technologies used to create software projects is known as a tech stack. It is a collection of tools, frameworks, libraries, third-party software, and programming languages developers use.

An application is made up of two kinds of software: the client-side, also known as the front end, and the server-side, also known as the back end. 

An application has two main parts. The front end, or user interface (UI), is what users see and interact with. Its main job is to make the application easy and enjoyable to use. The back end is the behind-the-scenes part that makes everything function properly. It includes operating systems, databases, APIs, and server-side frameworks. It’s also responsible for hosting, deploying the app, and carrying out the business logic.

The front and back ends are connected by something called ‘middleware’. This isn’t a development tool but more like a translator that helps the front and back ends communicate. Middleware can include tools that help build and distribute apps, like app servers, web servers, content management systems, and more.

The most widely used technologies for various projects fall under Web or Mobile App categories. 

Web Apps:

JavaScript is frequently used when developing web applications as a scripting language to add interaction to online pages. Various JavaScript libraries, including jQuery, Bootstrap, and Slick, are integrated into frameworks like Angular, Vue.js, and React.js to enhance user interface capabilities. HTML creates and places content, positions, and arranges every element on a page. While CSS is used to format structured material, HTML is used to structure content. This primarily refers to fonts, colors, layout components, background material, etc. 

Are you feeling lost? Well, let’s break it down for easy digestion. 

Imagine you’re an architect designing a house. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) would be your blueprint. It outlines where every window, door, and room goes. HTML dictates where text, images, buttons, and other elements are placed on a web page. For instance, <p>This is a paragraph.</p> is a simple example of HTML used to structure a paragraph of text.

On the other hand, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is like an interior designer coming in after the architect to make the place look beautiful. It determines the colors, fonts, and layout of the HTML elements. It’s what makes your website visually appealing. For example, p {color: blue;} is a simple CSS rule that changes the color of all paragraph text to blue.

JavaScript libraries such as jQuery, Bootstrap, and Slick can be seen as tools in your architect and designer’s toolkit. They provide pre-written JavaScript code to perform everyday tasks and simplify coding. For instance, Bootstrap provides pre-designed elements, like buttons and navigation bars, which can be easily added to a website.

Frameworks like Angular, Vue.js, and React.js are like advanced toolkits with rules and structures to build web applications more efficiently. These frameworks can integrate with JavaScript libraries to enhance user interface capabilities. For example, React.js might be used to make a single-page application where different components (like a navigation bar, a form, or a table) update dynamically without reloading the entire page.

So, in essence, HTML is used for placing and structuring content, CSS is used for making that content aesthetically pleasing, and JavaScript libraries and frameworks are used to make the web application more interactive and efficient.

Mobile Apps

Technologies used to create mobile apps are classified as cross-platform, hybrid, or native. Native app development is based on using specific programming languages for each platform. For example, Swift and Objective-C are used for iOS and Java and Kotlin for Android.

On the other hand, hybrid development uses tools such as HTML5, JavaScript, Ionic, Cordova, PhoneGap, and Xamarin. These tools allow an app to work across multiple platforms. For creating apps that work on different platforms, tools like React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter are used. These are popular for cross-platform development. Most developers prefer native mobile app development because it offers better control over the app and makes it easier to use the device’s hardware features.

Are you feeling lost again? Well, let’s break it down for easy digestion. 

Consider an artisan building a piece of furniture. He could use specific, specialized tools designed for each material — a particular chisel for wood, a specific hammer for metal, etc. This is like native app development. Just as the artisan uses the best tool for each material, developers use languages specifically designed for each platform. For iOS, that’s Swift and Objective-C; for Android, that’s Java and Kotlin. When you build a native app, you use tools perfectly tailored to each platform. This usually leads to better performance, a more natural look and feel, and easier access to device-specific features. For example, an app developed natively for iOS could fully utilize Apple’s 3D Touch or FaceID features.

On the other hand, imagine our artisan built furniture using tools that work adequately on any material — a general-purpose hammer, a basic saw, etc. This is akin to hybrid app development. Using tools like HTML5, JavaScript, Ionic, Cordova, PhoneGap, and Xamarin, developers can create an application once and deploy it on multiple platforms. This saves time and resources but might not perform well or feel as integrated as a native app. Think of an app like Instagram, which you can use on Android and iOS devices. This app could have been developed using hybrid tools to work across both platforms.

Now, there’s a middle ground — the artisan might use an advanced tool that can be adjusted to work excellently on multiple materials. For cross-platform development, tools like React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter are often used. These frameworks allow developers to write code once and run it on multiple platforms, but they do a better job of mimicking the look, feel, and performance of native apps compared to typical hybrid development tools. An example here could be an app like Airbnb, which uses React Native for its mobile application, allowing much of the same code to run both on Android and iOS while still maintaining a high-quality user experience.

In today’s technology landscape, many developers lean towards native mobile app development because of its greater control and better integration with the device’s hardware and features. But the choice between native, hybrid, and cross-platform development often depends on the project’s budget, timeline, and specific requirements.

Factors to consider before selecting a tech stack.

There are quite a few essential aspects to consider when choosing a tech stack for your Fintech. These are;

1. Latest Technology

2. Project size and purpose

3. Business scalability

4. Market Timing

5. Security systems and cyber Security.

Let’s unpack the above.

1. Latest Technology

Choosing the right technology for your fintech firm should be guided by your existing business practices and workflows. While established technologies can be reliable, adopting new ones might carry a significant cost in terms of money, time, and potential risk of failure. So, before you make that decision, consider if the new technology stack would enhance your operations and increase efficiency.

Consider your company’s internal needs and customer expectations when considering a tech investment. Sometimes, companies overlook their actual needs when introducing new tech. For example, if you run a lending business with field sales executives, providing them with lightweight tablets can facilitate sales tracking and presentations. The technology you invest in should be user-friendly for your team and contribute to productivity.

Look to your industry peers for technological inspiration. Adopting a technology that other businesses haven’t tested in your field can be challenging. Engage with your industry community, attend forums or exhibits, and seek opinions. If most companies in your industry use cloud computing technologies, it could also be a smart move for your company.

Ensure that the cost of building your tech stack is justifiable. While it can be tempting to adopt solutions used by top-rated fintech firms, there’s little point in purchasing expensive software systems if they strain your budget or if their promised benefits don’t outweigh the costs for your business. Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to ensure your tech investments will benefit your company.

Consider the personal needs of your stakeholders, be they customers, vendors, or team members. The technology you choose should address the problem you’re trying to solve. For instance, large-scale projects requiring complex business logic should function consistently and be platform-independent.

When developing mobile apps, user needs should take center stage. Consider the proficiency level of your target users. For instance, micro-business owners in the MSME lending segment may not be very tech-savvy, while personal loan applicants might be more comfortable with technology.

If you’re new to the market, you might start with a ready-made environment that allows faster and cheaper deployment of your applications. Investing heavily in high-performance tech platforms with a small user base might not be worthwhile. However, as your business grows, building or acquiring a robust tech platform tailored to your needs could be beneficial.

2. Project size and purpose

For smaller projects that demand swift execution, complex frameworks and technology are often unnecessary. Suppose you need to build a minimum viable product (MVP) quickly, present it to your customer, and gather valuable feedback. In this case, open-source software and basic tools might be your best bet. As previously discussed, the M-E-A-N stack can be an excellent resource for start-ups.

Mid-sized projects, however, demand a higher level of technology involvement. Depending on their requirements, they may necessitate a blend of various programming languages and frameworks. When a project requires more intricate functionalities, integrations, Security, and sophistication, advanced technologies that offer more complex features and algorithms become essential.

For instance, creating social networks like Facebook, online marketplaces like Jumia, Amazon – ERP systems, payment gateway firms like Interswitch, or lending fintech companies like Zenka and Tala requires a broad spectrum of programming languages and frameworks. In these cases, the technology stack must be advanced and robust.

The technology requirements are even more demanding for specific sectors, like blockchain and crypto exchanges or platforms. These platforms are built on distributed ledgers using exceptionally complex tech platforms, underlining the importance of having an appropriate and capable technology stack for your project’s scale and complexity.

3. Business scalability

Remember, the technology stack you choose might need to be capable of scaling if you foresee rapid growth for your business. Not every tech stack has the potential to scale in line with your business’s growth pace. There are two ways to scale your application: horizontally, by adding more physical machines or processing units to your server, or vertically, by adding new features to the existing platform. For instance, payment gateway fintech can expand their services to include lending, i.e, Safaricom’s Mpesa, offering credit facilities to merchants through partnerships with banks and other financial institutions ike NCBA and KCB.

Business technology evolves rapidly, and what feels like a year or two in software and hardware advancements can seem like an eternity. The best you can hope for is a technology that will serve your needs in the foreseeable future, although no solution lasts indefinitely. The ideal business solution should enhance operational efficiency for three to five years. Implementing new technology often involves costs and can temporarily disrupt productivity. Therefore, frequent changes in the tech platform are not advisable.

4. Market Timing

If you’re looking to kick off your project swiftly and feasibly, a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) makes an excellent starting point. You can reduce the time to market by leveraging ready-made solutions offered by many software companies. Moreover, you can extend your app’s functionality through third-party connectors, bypassing the need to start from scratch or spend time hunting for developers.

Having a well-documented technology workflow can significantly streamline the process of designing specific functionalities for a fintech company. Exploring demos from multiple service providers in your segment could be beneficial before you begin building your own platform. This approach gives you a sense of what’s available and aids in shaping your platform more effectively.

5. Security systems and cyber Security.

Start-ups, particularly those in financial services, are often targets for cyber-attacks. Newcomers to technology usage, such as banks, are closely monitored by hackers. Therefore, ensuring your website, emails, and mobile app are designed with the best security and threat mitigation strategies is crucial, especially when establishing a Fintech firm in sectors like payments, banking, or lending. Implementing security checks on both client and server sides can help mitigate common security vulnerabilities and cyber-attacks.

Before starting the development process, thoroughly analyze your technology choices. Not all technologies offer the same level of Security. For example, many businesses now use Amazon Web Services (AWS) to protect against server-level threats. Your chosen technology should have stringent system security measures to enhance business processes and meet your organization’s needs. Remember, technology shouldn’t be your business’s weakest link in defending against hacker attacks or other potential data breaches. Always opt for technology that is tested and approved by certified experts.

In conclusion, different web and mobile applications require specific development tools based on business size and stage. No universally efficient, cost-effective, and high-performing tech stack suits all businesses. Your project’s unique needs should guide your technology stack selection. Relying solely on tried-and-true technologies may not be enough. It’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons of each technology realistically. Having a knowledgeable team or advisors experienced in developing tech stacks related to your business can be invaluable. They can assist in identifying project requirements and recommending the best tools for creating a scalable, highly functional website and mobile app (for both Android and iOS). This will enable your business to stay competitive and scale up within your sector.

Well, that was quite a long read! How about you share it in your circles? Knowledge is power, and as they say, #SharingIsCaring.

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