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Is a FinTech revolution brewing in Continental Europe?

With the continent's share of FinTech funding and deals under 6% of the global volumes (and less than 2% in the German-speaking countries), this is not a post about a burgeoning fintech scene in the region.

However, talking to or meeting over a hundred startups, investors and banks for the first study of fintech startups in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, here are five reasons why the fintech scene in the region bears watching:

  1. Late bloomers: The post-crisis fintech revolution that took root in the US around 2009-10, gathered steam in the UK only around 2011-12, with recent estimates showing annualized growth rate in investment/deal volumes 74% a year vs. 27% globally and 13% in Silicon Valley. While a lot of this can be credited to the initiatives to build up London as a (fin)tech hub, our study showed that there is hidden potential in the region - coming soon to a theatre near you!
  2. Lost in translation: several startups in the fintech space are simply unaware of the global business opportunity ("what's all the fuss about?") as well as the funding available (see my previous post). The rest of the world is busy with startups in the English-speaking world. Banks suffering from the crisis, SEPA deadlines etc. are finally waking up to these new players: it took us 4 months to convince some of them to attend our first event ("what, just startup pitches, and no high-profile speakers?"). Things seem to be looking up though: Commerzbank announced an incubator last month, and there seems to be a flurry of events lined up in the next couple of months. 
  3. Making Fin and Tech meet: this is where London or New York have it easy. Looking for a fintech hub in Germany, I am reminded of the 2006 World Cup, with matches scheduled in almost every town of Germany: Berlin has a bustling overall startup scene but an almost non-existent banking sector, though Mambu, Open Bank Project, Smava etc. call it home; Frankfurt has the banks and we managed to find some semblance of a startup scene. Munich (e.g. Fidor, Paymill), Hamburg (e.g. Kreditech), Zürich (e.g. Numbrs), Vienna etc. are all in the running. 
  4. Regulatory / legal requirements: remains a pain, but at the same time I am pleasantly surprised what Bergfürst, Seedmatch etc. have been able to pull off, delivering more than their ilk in the UK or the US.
  5. Me-toos: yes, there are quite a few, but some have interesting twists based on the local market or customer behavior, have grown a customer base or struck the right partnerships, including outside Germany - making them attractive e.g. for acquisitions or partners looking to enter the Continent.

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