Blog article
See all stories »

You can believe in unicorns, I’d rather plant seeds

A famous quote from investor Warren Buffet goes along the lines of: "Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

I’m going to turn that quote around. Banks, banking and the financial services industry will be transformed (for the better) in the next ten years because someone planted a seed in FinTech today. The traditional firms that help sow those seeds will be the winners in the innovation race in the long run. 

For the past five months I have been working with a team running an accelerator programme for FinTech startups. In addition to helping to guide our nine companies through the programme, I’ve met with many leaders and investors in the financial services and technology space. The questions I often get asked are: Who’s your favourite? Where would you put your money? Who’s destined to be the ‘unicorn’?

For the record, I will never answer the first question – all of our teams have worked their fucking asses off over the past 14 weeks. We don’t award a ‘winner’ - we help accelerate companies. As for the second question – I spent 20 years as a journalist – if you think I have any extra money to invest, you need a reality check.

As for the third. Oh boy.

Let me just say I hate the term ‘unicorn’. I hate it for more than just a natural, journo-honed aversion to meaningless buzz words. I find it offensive.

For those of you who don’t know – the term unicorn is one of those Silicon Valley terms denoting a startup that has finally gained a valuation of $1 billion. Think AirBnb, Uber, and in Europe, TransferWise. The holy grail of investing is to find one of these potential ‘unicorns’ and invest in it when it is small and growing.

The implication being that the search for ‘unicorns’ is somehow dependant on a magic spell. As if the only way to invest in a future successful company is to transform yourself into an enchanted maiden and coax a mythical beast out of the forest. That's just bollocks.

You know what makes a successful company that will sustain growth, gain traction and last beyond the cool, startup-y bubble? A good idea, a strong team and lots and lots of focused hard work.

It’s like those people who think there is a super secret formula for losing weight and getting in shape – they just haven't figured it out yet. (these people usually think this while drinking a large glass of Malbec while watching Eastenders...Just me? OK then…)

There is no magic spell, no enchanted maidens, no mythical beasts in FinTech. On November 12th, Startupbootcamp will host our Demo Day. This industry will be formally introduced to nine companies that worked their way through 14 weeks of our accelerator programme with grit, sweat and determination.

They are:

  1. BondIT – Bond allocation software using machine learning
  2. Cybertonica – Mobile payment fraud prevention – uses behaviour to detect fraud
  3. Delio – Wealth management platform that looks for private investment opportunities for a bank’s wealth clients
  4. MoneyFellows – Online interest-free credit and social savings
  5. Obsidian Solutions – Cloud-based investor relations platform
  6. StockViews – Crowdsourced equity research sold back to institutions – small/mid-cap stocks and bespoke research
  7. Tradle – Retail Banking KYC/Compliance on the blockchain
  8. Walnut Algo – AI Algorithms for intraday trading
  9. WoraPay – Mobile payments platform allowing any merchant to take any mobile payments allowing consumers to order and pay

:-)

Comments: (3)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 12 November, 2015, 11:21Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Do you by chance happen to have more information on the 9 companies mentioned below? or are they all in stealth?

Elizabeth Lumley
Elizabeth Lumley - Girl, Disrupted - Crayford 12 November, 2015, 11:24Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Nope, all non-stealth! Message me your email and I will send. Demo Day is today

Pierre Galeon
Pierre Galeon - Forward Business Ventures - London 16 November, 2015, 09:10Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Good read! And at last someone who does not mice their words! Keep it up Liz!