VCs, seasoned entrepreneurs and corporate finance houses were rubbing shoulders with T-shirted startups at Money2020 in search of the next Facebook or Square.
Steve McLaughlin managing partner at FT Partners chaired a session on The State of Fintech VC, featuring contributors from Bain Capital Ventures, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Ribbit Capital and Oak Investment Partners.
In a cut to the chase question, McLaughlin asked why the fintech arena had seen so few deals with values in excess of $250m. The recent Intuit and Braintree deal was noted as an exception to this rule.
According to Ann Lamont of Oak Investment Partners, "You have to look at the buyers and whether they come from the old world, or the new world of tech."
In her view acquirers from the old world buy established companies, with values based on a multiple of EBITDA. Elsewhere in the new world of tech, acquirers buy a technology they need but don't have, or a platform that is benefiting from the network effect of growing at scale. In those circumstances valuation can go off the scale.
In terms of big trends, Ravi Viswanathan of NEA admitted VC could be faddish in its focus and that business-to-consumer ventures had recently been in the shadows of business-to-business opportunities, with small and medium-sized businesses particularly being highlighted as a sweetspot within B2B.
Mobile was identified as the disruptive force generating the most opportunities. In the words of Ann Lamont: "Mobile is something the incumbents don't understand and don't do well."
McLaughlin also asked the VCs if they could foresee making an investment of $25m in any Bitcoin-based venture within the next two years. All were sceptical of making that leap in the timeframe.
In other streams, enthusiasm for Bitcoin was higher. In the Bitcoin 101 session, speakers highlighted that the opportunities lie with building out different functions and utilities across the Bitcoin ecosystem. Which means looking beyond the much publicised role of Bitcoin as a currency.
One example identified was the need for more tools to smooth fluctuations in the value of the digital currency, the same types of options and hedging instruments that allow businesses to take risk from their transactions in the traditional FX markets.
As one speaker commented: The search for Bitcoin's 'killer app' is not restricted to money. Many different services and utilities can be layered on top of Bitcoin, adding value in different use case scenarios.
These evangelists also expected to see Bitcoin innovation and adoption accelerate beyond the USA. Notably within second and third world countries which have fewer barriers to adoption and more incentive to leap from currencies with high inflation rates, or local economies dependent upon barter. The effect of technology leapfrogging - such as jumping straight to new generation of mobile phones - was also singled out.
The intermingling between established players in payments, banks and the VCs, with an emerging generation of new payments startups, continues. Tuesday at Money2020 sees the beginning of the conference's LaunchPad360 sessions in which 16 startup ventures pitch their ideas to conference delegates in a series of rapid fire presentations.