This post was long due but I got delayed laying down my thoughts because of a busy summer and early autumn. At the beginning of June, András and I took a short study trip to London, the European capital of FinTech. The goal of our trip was double:
- meet with global accelerators to get acquainted with industry best practices in acceleration and incubation;
- and create a connection to these accelerators that could help local FinTech startups with scouting events, insider information etc.
Barclays Techstars Accelerator
In this post, I will focus on our first objective as we came home with some really useful tips that a lot of you reading FinTech blogposts can learn from whether you are seeking investment as a startup, wanting to create a bridge between banks and startups or working at a local incubator.
We visited 4 leading accelerators in London:
- Barclays Accelerator: (powered by Techstars): Barclay’s own 13-week accelerator programme dedicated to FinTech startups
- Startupbootcamp: 13–16 week accelerator programme with 3 banking partners (Lloyds Banking Group, Rabobank Group, Intesa Sanpaolo) dedicated to FinTech startups
- Level39: a high-end co-working office space in the middle of Canary Wharf, Europe’s Wall Street, where they connect you with mentors, investors and most importantly, leading banking executives and can work alongside the best selected FinTech startups
- +1: Innovation Warehouse: a co-working space with a less structured acceleration element (workshops, extensive network of mentors and investors)
All these accelerators follows different methods and curriculums to help FinTech startups grow and mature (one banking partner/several banking partners, equity/no-equity, set time horizon/no set time horizon etc.) but there were 3 characteristics that were present at every space:
- The average age of founders is around 35 in accelerated FinTech startups.
While — since Mark Zuckerberg — a lot of people associate startups with university students and fresh graduates in hoodies, this is not the case in FinTech. FinTech is a sector where previous experience is an advantage — and this experience usually comes from the financial services industry. Your future potential banking partners value experience as it gives them a certain reassurement in You and I also believe that most of banking’s problems and inefficiencies can only be discovered from inside the financial services industry. I believe a mix of founders with different background creates a perfect team.
- Their banking partners don’t ask for exclusivity in accelerated/invested FinTech startups.
You would think these giant monsters – so-called banks – would do anything to chain FinTech startups to themselves whether they want to become a banking partner of them or just make it harder for the competition to partner up with them. Although, this is certainly not the case. Banks have already discovered that they help themselves and the future of banks better if they let their accelerated startups choose their own partners (even Barclays’ does not require exclusivity, only a right of information before a deal gets done to be able to offer better conditions if they are really committed to that startup).
- They all run with a small staff and rely on a wide network of mentors.
This is only useful for a handful of you who have launched an incubator/accelerator or are looking to launch one but I thought is important to share. The lesson from London is clear: keep a lean overhead, find those 3-5 motivated people who is interested in the sector and puts quality effort into building your community and build an extensive network of mentors as part of this community. As a prime example, Level39 accelerates 200 companies in 3 floors and connects them with 140 mentors — all done by 9 people.
I hope this short summary helps you on your FinTech journey as a startup, a bank or an investor. Feel free to drop us a message if you are interested more in our study trip and experience or meet us at the next FinTech Wednesday or FinTech meetup (which by the way will be special and really close to the topic of this blogpost — follow our page).
And yes, I managed to write about London without mentioning Brexit, it already has to be a record of some kind.