“For innovation to flourish in a corporate, it requires a delicate combination of access, protection and empowerment. Barclays is setting the right conditions.”
How Barclays London Accelerator is plugging FinTech startups into its mainstream business
What is there to link these three diverse business challenges?
*sharing virtual construction plans
*anticipating quantum computing-powered fraud
On the face of it, not much.
Yet when you take startups who are working away at these problems, co-locate them with seven other entrepreneurs who are finding and exploiting particular niches, add a global banking player, and throw in a leading accelerator ecosystem to the mix, it becomes a lot clearer.
Blocktrace, Basestone and Postquantum are three of the ten startups on the current Barclays London Accelerator programme who are addressing those challenges. The programme is housed in Mile End, east London, somewhere between the throng of Tech City and Barclays HQ in Canary Wharf. It’s co-manged by Techstars, who provide both VC-backed funding and mentorship from VCs as well as retail and finch entrepreneurs, design and product experts.
The diversity of the problems the startups are solving is striking – as is the ambition behind the companies being accelerated.
And once you put these ten together, they begin to build a picture of what the future of a bank might look like in the future.
Rather than a monolithic institution, you get a glimpse of a bank becoming a platform, enabling access to customers and transactions with third parties empowered to provide innovative B2B and B2C services via APIs and marketing collaboration. The bank’s divisions span retail personal and corporate banking, wealth management, card services and investment, enabling a wide range of use cases to be enabled.
Barclays is certainly not playing it safe with its choice of startups. “Our aim is to attract most disruptive and innovative services” says Baljit Bamrah, Director of Partnerships for Barclays. “We want them to change the game with us.” It’s impressive that three out of the current out of 10 are using Bitcoin and Blockchain, which many traditional banks and exchanges are regarding as a potential threat to their existence.
Access, Story and Traction
The accelerator may be housed at a reassuring distance from the corporate mothership, but the startups get access to relevant teams at Barclays, including C-Suite and domain experts. As well as people, the startups have preferential access to a suite of Barclays APIs, enabling them to build on key banking and trading functions. Greg Rogers, Managing Director of TechStars, says this is a vital component of the mix: “They get mentorship from Barclays and also other successful FinTech company CEOs. They get traction with Barclays which is a huge differentiator. And they get the story, which means telling it in a succinct fashion.”
Startups are accelerated for a 13-week period, and this is the second cohort. Previous alumni include financial wellbeing service Squirrel , credit scoring service Aire and predictive analytics platform Market IQ. The London Accelerator takes startups from anywhere – the current crop includes homegrown startups as well as entrants from Stockholm, San Francisco and New York. Competition is fierce and the number applying speaks volumes about the number of FinTech startups. No less than 550 startups applied in cohort, which was whittled down to 60 and then the final 10.
Plugging into the HQ
It would be easy to dismiss programmes such as the Accelerator as a CSR box-ticking exercise. However, it’s clear that the degree of access the startups appear to be getting and the evident synergies can add clear value to Barclays divisions. Basestone, for example is drastically reducing risk in the construction arena and has a clear value to the insurance and real estate sectors.
At a recent showcase co-hosted by the Mobile Ecosystem Forum, nine out of the 10 startups were present to be able to tell their story in a snappy way and clearly articulate the problem being solved.
Below are the full 10 and a little about the solutions to problems they’ve uncovered. You can read more at the MEF Minute.
Basestone Tablet and web-based collaboration tool for the construction industry. Its founders come from the drawing review industry and were approached by HS2, the UK’s High Speed Rail link being built, and have now moved onto London’s east / west link Crossrail.
Everledger Everledger aims to bring trust & transparently to the worldwide diamond industry where certificates are open to forgery. The platform writes to Blockchain to provide an immutable ledger for diamond identification and transaction verification.
Godesic The founders of Godesic were frustrated by the limitations of delivering large scale projects such as the UK launch of 4G mobile with desktop tools. The company provides project management software for minute-by-minute tracking of transition into operations for large IT programmes, something which has a direct value for Barclays.
LiquidLandscape addresses the challenge of traders being deluged with data and overloaded at the time that critical decisions are made. This company provides “instant replay” for trading, and data visualization engine for creating linked, immersive data exploration environments with live time series data – in 2D, 3D, and VR.
With Origin, Barclays is truly looking to disrupt itself – the founders want to disrupt investment banking by transforming the banks’ involvement in the bond issue process. Origin is a “Lending Club” for large corporations and institutional investors, using technology to facilitate corporate debt issuance.
PQSolutions. The advent of quantum computing to banking operations will create a step change in processing. It will also open up new horizons in fraud. Founder Anderson Cheng is anticipating this world, and Post-Quantum provides cyber security solutions using innovative encryption and authentication techniques to counter quantum computer attacks.
CEO Martin Sweeney and two other of the founders of Ravelin worked at taxi upstart app Hailo and were able to identify the potential for fraud using stolen credit card data. Their solution combines data science and machine learning with a merchant’s fraud profile to deliver pin-point accurate online fraud detection.
Safello The ambition of this startup aims to bridge the 2.2 billion worldwide who hold bank accounts with the 2.7billion unbanked via Bitcoin. The solution is a Europe-focused Bitcoin exchange with plans to expand into Bitcoin payments.
Stockfuse addresses a key recruitment challenge for banks and is aiming to bypass or augment the process of using resumés / cvs. With this gaming platform which uses live stock data, users and potential trading candidates can demonstrate their actual ability to trade the markets.
See also: MEF Minute: The startups of tomorrow.