Aspiring fintech entrepreneurs take note: Having a great idea is one thing, getting it off the ground is another. Thomas Beattie, CEO of Vancouver-based startup Voleo, offers his advice.
All entrepreneurs begin with what they believe to be a great idea. Whether the world agrees is the challenge, so what really matters to a start-up is implementing the idea and achieving scale. Provided that the product is one that generates utility or addresses a pain point, success is dictated by strategy, intellectual property and an element of luck - the latter inevitably generated through hard work.
As a Vancouver-based start-up moving into new territory on international ground, we are learning valuable lessons in terms of exposure, opportunity and growth.
Our platform aims to reinvent the traditional practice of investment clubs and as such it is not surprising that conventional institutions can be slow to get on board. It’s not that the incumbent financial institutions aren’t intrigued by the potential, but we’ve learned that it is common for them to get bogged down in their internal processes and distracted by the history of traditional investment clubs.
The latter is an example of the tail wagging the dog and a good parallel to this is board games; interest in board games has waned because people’s lives have changed and sitting down each week in the same room seems no longer feasible. Yet gaming is roughly a $100 billion dollar a year business, evidence that a change in technology can create enormous opportunities.
If a start-up is looking to change a behaviour or disrupt a traditional industry, one thing that we’ve seen work to propel the trajectory of a startup is to get involved with global incubators and innovation labs.
High value exposure and international opportunities can open doors and create new avenues for a fintech start-up that cannot be found through other means, so any occasion that presents itself is worth contemplating. For example, being the only Canadian company participating in this year’s Accenture FinTech Innovation Lab in London is providing a platform that can accelerate our expansion and provide us with the knowledge and tools to fully implement our vision.
As other startups look to do the same, I would highly recommend considering this step; looking outwards allows you to seek mentorship and guidance from companies around the world that have diverse experience and knowledge. One piece of advice when getting involved and trying to catch the attention of big players is to keep in mind that it’s not enough to simply create great technology - you need to find a way to reinvent and enhance the experience to make it more than mobile, it needs to be truly engaging.
The lifeblood of a pre-revenue company is capital raised from investors who share this vision and believe in the team and product. Make no mistake, capital does not fix a broken model but it does enable challenges to be addressed, especially in complex and highly regulated environments in which many fintech companies operate. The barriers to entry in this sector are significant, but by supporting our growing fintech sector and being keen to see our peers in the sector excel, we can mentor the cause.
In terms of where Canada stands, I’ve learned that compared to our global counterparts, our country’s lack of a unified voice for fintech has led to us being an afterthought in the league of global players. What we are missing in our local fintech industry is an outlet for effective collaboration. As I’ve seen first hand, being in the presence of other international companies at the forefront of the industry allows for elevation, and provides collaborative opportunities that would otherwise be missed. Collectively, we can embrace and support our growing fintech sector by creating a dedicated body to champion its cause with the support of all levels so as to emerge as an active and impressive competitor on the global stage.
Not knowing exactly what the future holds is part of both the joy and the stress of being an entrepreneur. While the future may be hard to predict, I believe that we are creating it.