Leeds gets fintech accelerator

Source: Dotforge

The first dedicated fintech accelerator outside London is being launched in Leeds in a move to help unlock and deliver on the "supercity of the north" potential and capitalise on the city region's strength in financial and digital services.

The Dotforge fintech accelerator, which aims to be up and running from early 2015, will seek to enable greater collaboration between entrepreneurs and businesses through programmes of funding and intensive business support.

The announcement was made at the Grand Départ International Business Festival 'Forefront of Fintech' event in Leeds, which saw a host of international financial service and innovation experts, entrepreneurs, academics and regulators discuss the future of fintech and banking, as well as hearing from some of the brightest fintech start-ups from across Europe.

Dotforge will to deliver three programmes of investment and support over the next three years and will be actively seeking up to 10 businesses to receive £50,000 of first-round investment, with the potential for up to five to receive a further £50,000 to support their second round of investment raising.

It's expected that on top of the initial funding, the companies will attract a further £1m of funding from other investors in the first 18 months of the programme. The accelerator programme is expected to create 20 plus jobs over the first 12 months, more than tripling to 60 in three years, if the start-up businesses receiving the funding are successful.

Lee Strafford, co-founder of Dotforge, said: "Our agenda is to build six accelerators across the north and to build and connect the technology and investment community. We want to connect the supply chain of talent across the whole of the north to add value.

"The two logical verticals for Leeds are absolutely fintech and medtech or digital health. The reasons we're choosing Leeds is because there are a number of head offices here, but just as importantly, it has the back offices as well. So the access to industry and the access to the people who are trying to solve some of the industry problems are here. What we are going to be looking for are individuals and teams to solve thothose problems.

"We are also seeking to build relationships with banks and other financial institutions to partner with us to deliver that investment to the accelerators alongside an angel syndicate to invest in the early stage businesses."

Dr Chris Sier, Co-lead on FiNexus and former Director of the Financial Services Knowledge Transfer Network, who chaired the day, said: "The Government wants the regions to benefit from the same rapid growth that London has been subjected to over the last three or four years, particularly in fintech.

"And there is a significant pull from Leeds. One has to ask the question to the business start-ups in London and ask do they have to be there? And the answer is, they don't.

"People are waking up to the opportunities that lie outside the capital and the advantages that come with that location."

The emerging fintech sector has steadily been attracting investment and, together, the UK and Ireland have seen the volume of fintech deals triple since 2011 - a growth three times the global average and more than five times that of Silicon Valley.

Peter Cunnane, economic development officer at the City of London Corporation, added: "The fintech industry needs the right eco-system to thrive: a centre for financial services, leading academia and strong civic leadership. With these three components, there's no reason why the Leeds City Region cannot become a global hub for fintech.

"The region can provide access to market through the high number of banks and building societies based in the area and, with growing technology and digital sectors, as well as a wealth of understanding and knowledge around the financial market, the Leeds region is a natural choice for fintech."

During the day, a top-flight panel including Jonas Piela, founder of Berlin bank Avuba; Frank Schuil, chief executive of recently funded Bitcoin startup, Safello; UKTI's fintech specialist Shaul David; Raman Sethi, VP at Barclays Corporate Bank and Dr Chris Sier, co- lead on FiNexus and former Director of the Financial Services Knowledge Transfer Network, debated key themes, including how the financial industry needs to adapt, and where the opportunities lie to collaborate to create value and drive growth in the UK .

Lurene Joseph, CEO of Leeds and Partners, said: "Dotforge's announcement is a hugely important milestone in developing the opportunities for talented tech people to build and grow their companies in the north.

"Leeds and the wider area has a huge strength in technology and specifically data, this, combined with the industry strengths in financial services, means we can support connections between the larger companies in the city and the startups; working with the private sector investors and companies that will fundraise and deliver the accelerator.

"The significant contribution that Leeds and the wider city region's financial and professional services sector makes to the UK economy is well known. But what this event has confirmed is that Leeds city region - the UK's second centre for banking services - is ideally positioned as a significant hub for professional services and digital capability, to cement our leadership further in financial services with our strong fintech offering."

Leeds City Region hosted the symposium as part of the first-ever International Business Festival to bring senior decision-makers from industry, government, enterprise and academia together alongside the Grand Départ (July 2nd-4th). The events are designed to establish and define a world-beating, legacy approach to foreign and domestic investment, whilst generating millions in new business for the region. 

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