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ChatGPT plugins: The next App Store...or Clubhouse?

Last week brought news that ChatGPT was launching third-party plugins. This could be AI’s 2008 App Store moment.

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I confess I loathe using ‘chatbots’. 

When I have a problem that needs to be solved they never seem to be as speedy or efficient as asking a human the same question.

Has that all now changed thanks to Open AI’s latest product launch ChatGPT Plugins?

Yes, perhaps. But there is a bigger, more transformative prospect too for fintech.

These slick little AI helpers can do everything from translating languages to playing games, scouring the web, crunching or summarising data, and much more without ever leaving a chat window.

The best part of ChatGPT plugins though is that they're easy to create for third parties in a manner just like smartphone apps.

"In line with our iterative deployment philosophy, we are gradually rolling out plugins in ChatGPT so we can study their real-world use, impact, and safety and alignment challenges—all of which we’ll have to get right in order to achieve our mission," Open AI said in a blog post.

"We’re starting with a small set of users and are planning to gradually roll out larger-scale access as we learn more (for plugin developers, ChatGPT users, and after an alpha period, API users who would like to integrate plugins into their products). We’re excited to build a community shaping the future of the human–AI interaction paradigm," Open AI added.

When talking about the origins of fintech - and a good working definition of what is a nebulous term at best - I like to point to the year 2008. Two important events occurred within a few months of each other that galvanised the fintech boom and paved the way for a global industry of financial services disruption worth hundreds of billions of dollars and employing millions of people.

One, yes you guessed correctly, is the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Or let's just call it more 'the' financial crisis. Most people get that one. The other subtler and less easily guessed was a market shift so huge we've almost forgotten it is just 15 years old. The launch of third-party apps for smartphones. 

There is an alternative timeline where Steve Jobs didn't open third-party access to the one year old iPhone. Infact, this was almost a reality were it not for backlash from developers. 

You can make plenty of fair arguments around the unfairness of the business model of the App Store (Apple takes 30 per cent). But, had there never been an app store, you could argue, you might never have had Accorns, Monzo,Revolut,Robinhood, Chime, Brex or Starling Bank. Or at least their business model and the overall fintech market would be profoundly different.

Not only did the ability to launch apps bring about huge leaps forward in the user experience for 'online' banking and digitally delivered financial services. But it also lowered and continues to lower, the barriers to entry for new financial services and banking startups. 

Third-party app development is something we take for granted today but you wouldn’t have a fintech industry without it.

More so than just a new improvement in UX, AI plugins may represent a scenario similar to the launch of the App Store way back in 2008, ushering in a whole new wave of fintech innovation and market dynamics. 

While the smartphone hardware breakthrough of the iPhone was a tangible step forward, it was the App Store’s launch that was the real paradigm shift. 

Plug In

Last week, Klarna was the first major fintech company to reveal its use of a ChatGPT Plugin.

For Klarna the plugin helps users buy things. In that way, it is no different in intention to any other shopping algorithm app. However, the ease of use and sheer power of the OpenAI platform is a game changer. 

In the words of Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski the new tech passes his ‘north star’ ‘mom test’, i.e. “would my mom understand and benefit from this”.

Alongside Klarna are a host of other early adopters to launch plugins. These include Expedia, FiscalNote, Instacart, Kayak, Milo, OpenTable, Shopify, Slack, Speak, Wolfram, and Zapier.

But the Klarna example is the tip of the iceberg. Over the next few years, both B2C and B2B fintech will benefit from adopting these plugins and their future new iterations. Maybe I will one day even enthuse over chatbots.

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