Barclays Accelerator: five rapid years of fintech innovation
The last five years have seen growth in financial technology beyond any other period in history. Since 2014, the Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars, has played an integral role in supporting the fintech ecosystem. With valuations of the programme’s graduates breaking the billion dollar mark, we catch up with Mariquit Corcoran from Barclays’ Group Innovation Office – and profile a few of the fintech startups creating breakthrough innovations to solve some of our industry’s biggest challenges.
“The rate at which fintechs and banks are working together is continuing to accelerate,” says Mariquit Corcoran, who as Managing Director, Group Innovation, at Barclays provides one of many bridges between startups and the bank. The ‘acceleration’ has seen not only the growth of a host of companies providing solutions for payments, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and beyond, but also a deepening of Barclays’ relationships with over 160 alumni from the 16 Accelerators completed to date around the world, including London, New York and Tel Aviv.
With growing companies like ShieldPay, Simudyne and Novo boosting the collective dollar value of the Accelerator graduate portfolio into ten figures, Corcoran says: “We’re at a point in which fintechs who have experienced great success in customer acquisition and growth are now running into challenges with the costs and resources needed to address complex regulations and compliance requirements.
“These are areas banks have significant experience in. Banks also recognise that the ability to innovate at pace and bring new features and products to customers can’t be done without being open to working with fintechs.”
Cutting-edge Rise workspaces host the Accelerator, as well as a plethora of events for participating startups and other resident companies – many of which are graduates of previous years’ schemes. Investors, entrepreneurs and Barclays experts rotate in and out of the buildings for seminars, networking and mentoring, as Accelerator companies take advantage of the links, counsel and energy that come from sharing workspace in a leading industry hub.
Approximately 150 fintechs call Rise their home across our sites in London, Tel Aviv, Mumbai and New York’s Silicon Alley, which is currently expanding to five full floors spanning over 66,000 square feet.
“Barclays’ expertise and network brings value that the companies who enter the Accelerator won’t find in any other programme,” says Corcoran.
“Each company is assigned a sponsor within Barclays who will work with them throughout the programme to help them succeed. The companies are provided with mentors and one-to-one meetings with subject matter experts throughout the firm. Even those who don’t have an obvious use case for Barclays will have the opportunity to engage with clients across the Barclays network, which often leads to more introductions, further expanding their network and business opportunities.”
“The success of fintech founders is our number one priority”
Much has changed in the programme since 2014, with Barclays refining the offering after lessons learnt over time. The bank now takes an equity stake in the Accelerator companies, and has launched Rise Growth Investments, new investment capital of up to £10m per Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars class.
Whatever the size of investment, “knowing we have ownership in the companies, however small, further increases engagement with Barclays colleagues,” says Corcoran. "The ownership stake helps the broader firm recognise that our relationship with the Accelerator companies is more than just a 13-week engagement.
"Also, having an equity stake in the companies is a strong message to the founders that our number one priority is their success.”
In a recent deal, Barclays co-led a US $5.5m funding round for California-based startup Crowdz, a graduate of the 2018 London Accelerator. Crowdz is behind a blockchain-based invoice exchange set to revolutionise B2B payments.
“We receive incredible support from Barclays colleagues who are dedicated to helping entrepreneurs succeed throughout the programme and beyond,” Corcoran explains.
“This support is critical to the companies whilst they navigate a large and complex organisation.”
Another lesson, says Corcoran, is to “teach the companies how to sell to a large enterprise. This is an area we find most startups struggle with. Providing them with real-life practical advice they can use is key.”
That advice has led companies like Cutover, Flux, Simudyne and many of the other graduates into partnerships with Barclays. Ultimately the success of these enterprises, schooled in the Accelerator, has provided customer value across a range of applications in the financial services industry. “The mindset in working with Accelerator companies is being open to engaging with startups,” says Corcoran, “and that’s evidenced by the many solutions we use across the firm today.”
Barclays Accelerator stars
Waffle – New York graduate, 2018
Targeting the multi-trillion dollar insurance market and heading for a 2020 launch, Waffle protects customers and everything they love through one fully-customised policy. Going beyond insurance, Waffle also helps its customers lower their risks before they materialise through a risk mitigation platform that leverages the untapped period between sign up and claims.
Simudyne – London graduate, 2017
A software company that allows banks to build artificial intelligence models and use advanced algorithms to understand complex behaviour, Simudyne has partnered with Barclays to enable predictive analytics at large scale and with low computational cost.
Flux – London graduate, 2017
Digitising the world’s receipts – providing itemised receipts in banking apps to create valuable customer information, where users can understand their spending better and banks can generate valuable insights. Flux has partnered with Barclays and is now integrated on Barclays Mobile Banking test app Launchpad.
Novo – New York graduate, 2017
With a “mobile business banking for the modern entrepreneur” pitch, Novo puts the power of everything small businesses need in the palm of their hand to manage their business finances all in one place. The company has been working closely with John Stecher, Barclays Chief Innovation and Technology Officer, and the UK Business Banking team, both during and after the Accelerator to develop their product.
Cutover – London graduate, 2015
Providing collaborative task management software since graduating the London Accelerator in 2015. Based at Barclays’ Rise workspace in London, Cutover has signed an enterprise agreement with Barclays and completed over 15 proof of concepts across multiple areas of the bank.