My December in Tech

 

Dec1

This is a crazy time of year for deal do-ers. As a corporate lawyer, December is almost always the busiest month of the year. Everyone wants to get that crunch deal done before Xmas. The wave of money coming into Europe is beginning to be followed by a subsequent M&A wave (with the odd IPO).

And as I begin to think about what 2016 will bring, my mind is definitely turning to the intersection of financial services and law. Alternative Finance and next gen lending in particular are continuing to shake up. 2016 will see a big shift in the AltFi landscape as more alternative finance options come to market (we’re working on 7 pre-launch crowd-funding and AltFi platforms currently) and existing players merge / consolidate.

Next-generation lending company Earnest recently raised a huge $275m in equity and debt financing – this was covered in the recent FinTech Monthly video that I am involved with for Tech City News:

http://techcitynews.com/2015/12/01/fintech-monthly-braintree-ecommerce-and-next-gen-lending/

The amount of questions that I get asked by investors, companies (looking for funding) and start ups looking at new financing business models has definitely gone through the roof this year. I recently became involved with The Memo’s Future Finance series: http://www.thememo.com/tag/future-finance/

Dec2

See my latest video on “Crowdfunding: The Tinder of Future Finance?” here: http://www.thememo.com/2015/12/03/crowdfunding-the-tinder-of-future-finance/

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Bricks, Clicks and Boxes of Tricks

I head up the Tech sector for our firm and I often get asked by clients outside of that sector about how and when I think technology will disrupt their businesses.

Retail is one such sector – traditional retail businesses have been going online with multi-channel propositions for a long time to compete with eCommerce.  eCommerce is evolving and even businesses at the bleeding edge of that industry such as Birchbox with its subscription commerce model have begun to open up real stores to compete in that same multi-channel environment.

bricks

It seems to me that pure high street businesses will be squeezed out of the market at some stage unless they are super niche or super local. But even then, no-one can do super-niche on the ground on a level that truly competes with the internet.  In a recent interview, José Neves, the founder of Farfetch , an online marketplace that connects consumers with fashion boutiques, stated that “bridging the divide between e-commerce and the bricks and mortar business” is the industry’s most significant challenge.

People are paying attention to José, as Farfetch is one of the few European “Unicorns” (a Tech start up valued at over $1 Billion). His vision of a super-niche eCommerce business has been incredibly successful, stating:  “I’m a believer in physical retail experiences.” I get it – eCommerce saves us all a huge amount of time and energy but it does somewhat suck the life out of the experience.

It has been estimated that, in 2013, business to consumer eCommerce sales amounted to more than $1.2 Trillion dollars worldwide and that 40% of world’s internet users have bought something online in their life. The top five countries globally for eCommerce spend per capita are, in order: US, UK, Sweden, France and Germany. Much has been written about the rise of the Asian eCommerce buyer also and it’s highly likely that that this list will see a significant shift Eastwards over the next 10 years.

So if the true winners are multi-channel retail businesses, what next for them? In my view, it will be a further blurring of the lines between the real world and digital world.

High-end brands such as Burberry and Rebecca Minkoff are two examples of brands that are now focussing on combining strong digital presences with interactive technology in their stores (such as touch-screen mirrors, RFID-enabled tags and 3D body mapping).

Businesses such as NOMI have been popping up in recent years where their whole business model is built around helping retail companies adapt to this real world < > digital world blur. NOMI helps businesses optimise their brick and mortar stores just like their website by measuring, analysing and optimising the ROI of offline marketing and store operations initiatives.

It’s guaranteed that more Tech will be appearing in a store near to you sometime soon and retailers are going to be hunting down your additional spend by getting you more engaged through your mobile device, on your desktop and in person.

Nov ’15 Tech Vids (and other thoughts)

BChain

This month I have been featured in The Memo’s new Future Finance series. I look at the fight between Bitcoin and the law:

http://www.thememo.com/2015/11/11/who-will-win-the-bitcoin-war/

cake

The first episode can be found at: http://bit.ly/1NqE3j3  (Ben Goldsmith explains the blockchain using cake – it’s excellent).

We hosted our monthly Tech event in London this week. This month’s topic was a hot one: FinTech. With Innovate Finance, the FCA and some great VCs speaking (Orange Growth Capital, BGF Ventures, FinTech Circle and Illuminate), it was a mini-confrenece really. With close to 170 people signing up, this was our busiest Tech event so far.

It’s hard to follow all of the events going on right now. But if FinTech is your interest, then here’s a great calendar: http://www.disruptivefinance.co.uk/?page_id=682

And to finish off, I was recently reminded of my London FinTech podcast from Oct ’14: http://bit.ly/Zi3uBm

FinTech Monthly Oct 15

I am reminded today that I need to have a catch up on my blogging… Deals and clients are getting in the way!! Well, it’s moved up the to do list but, in the meantime, here’s the latest edition of FinTech Monthly (Oct ’15 edition):

http://techcitynews.com/2015/10/12/fintech-monthly-london-fintech-capital-of-the-world-challenger-banks-and-bitcoin-computers/

We look at London’s poistion as the Fintech capital of the world, Challenger banks and Bitcoin computers.

OCT 15

London: leading from the centre?

My recent (13 Sept ’15) article for the Sunday Telegraph for the start of FinTech Week:

This is London, the greatest city in the world. And this is Fintech Week, so you’ll be expecting me to tell you that London is the fintech capital of the world too.

London

It isn’t, not yet. But it’s working on it. In my view – formed at 30,000 feet as I shuttle over the Atlantic between the two – London’s fintech ecosystem is within one round of IPOs and exits – perhaps within three to five years – from having the sort of self-renewing ecosystem that New York enjoys.

London, of course, sits in the middle of everyone’s day. The City has always thrived from working in New York’s morning and Tokyo’s afternoon. That’s why so many of the main players in retail banking globally locate strategic functions the Square Mile and Canary Wharf. London’s fintech community has a strong market on its doorstep.

So London is particularly strong in enterprise, b2b software, such as trading platforms as well as the more commonly understood facets of fintech, such as alternative finance (crowdfunding with debt and equity) and payment systems. And the entrepreneurial community that sustains the community is large and growing too. A lot more venture-capital is flowing into fintech, not only from Europe but increasingly from the US. Much of my day job is helping connect US money with British enterprise, and vice-versa.

London’s culture is changing, too. Something of the American can-do spirit is wafting in with the red-eye. Launching a start-up is seen as the way to go for the bright graduates who might, even only 10 years ago, have looked at investment banking, law or the accountancy firms as being the only respectable outlets for their talents. Increasingly, the brightest and the best are to be found in Shoreditch lofts, not City towers. There are a huge number of early-stage companies bursting with ideas and innovation. In ambition and energy, London and New York are neck and neck.

Where New York pulls away, though, is at the next stage of a company’s life. Put simply, New York has many more people who’ve been there, done that, made their money and are ready to invest in and guide the next generation. It has more angels, more non-execs, a much deeper and broader pool of expertise and capital on which infant companies can draw.

That’s why London needs to get some more deals away, to float (or sell at a hefty premium) a phalanx of fintech ventures. That’s when the system will replicate itself and grow to maturity.

Even then, both cities may never catch Silicon Valley, the third point of my personal transatlantic triangle. Take bitcoin: the Valley has (from what I’ve seen) at least 10 times more money invested in the technology, and thus a proportionate amount of the global blockchain talent. It’s building the best consumer-facing fintech companies in the world.

London, though, has its own strong, collaborative community. It’s stronger in fintech than any other sector. As Singapore and other locations start to ramp up, it remains a world leader, and the most exciting place to work.

http://business-reporter.co.uk/2015/09/13/london-leading-from-the-centre/

#Community

network

One of the key learnings that I have had from spending time in the US tech ecosystems is that community is key. You can’t fake it – those people who are passionate about the community, connectivity and fostering network growth tend to be exponentially more successful than those who are not.

Take Eddie George and the NewFinance organisation, for example. From the early days of the FinTech movement in London, Eddie’s grassroots organisation has done a tremendous job at pulling the community together. Unsurprisingly, that model has easily transcended our borders and moved successfully around the world.  Well done Eddie for having that vision!

I have long held the view (based in large part on what I have seen in the US) that lawyers can not only sit at the heart of an ecosystem but they can do a lot to pull it together. That happens a lot in the US but not so much over here. We see the funds that are set up (and act for them as they deploy capital), we work with companies throughout their life cycles and then we also have an active overview of the M&A/IPO landscape.

Over the last few years, we have been determined to bring a bit of that US mentality to London. I host a monthly Tech CEO dinner (and have recently launched a series of Tech poker nights, which are fun) and most months we get >100 people together for a big event around a current hot topic. The crowds are usually a good mix of companies at different stages and investors.

For our Tech AGM recently, I pulled the list of our London large Tech events from the last 12 months or so:

  • 21 May 2014 – 3D Printing
  • 4 June 2014 – Cyber Security
  • 1 July 2014 – Two sided Innovation
  • 8 September 2014 – Connected Health
  • 9 October 2014 – Optimising Exits and Funding Growth
  • 18 November 2014 – The Internet of Things
  • 7 January 2015 – Connected Health
  • 4 February 2015 – Bitcoin
  • 1 April 2015 – Wearable Tech
  • 6 May 2015 – Robotics
  • 16 June 2015 –Sensory Overload (AdTech meets IoT)
  • 7 July 2015 – Big Data

Next in the calendar:

  • 23 September 2015 – B Rounds, C Rounds and Beyond
  • 10 November 2015 – Meet the FinTech VC

As an aside (and as a comment on the market), our upcoming B Rounds, C Rounds and Beyond event has been our most popular to-date. Within 3 days of the invite going out (mostly to funded execs), we had over 120 acceptances. We’re currently at 170 attendees.

If you are not in the network but would like more connections to interesting execs, companies and investors please do connect, I’d love to help!

FinTech Monthly August ’15

Another interesting Fintech Monthly video this month looking at the increasing large tidal wave of investment hitting fintech (and, more importantly, Mike Tyson’s foray into bitcoin). It was wonderful to film on our balcony at our More London offices.

http://bit.ly/1L7VXZj

AUGFM2

As Coinsilium looks at an AIM IPO, we can definitely see the blockchain and bitcoin ecosystem in London maturing quickly. That’s certainly backed up by the amount of VC deals that we have on currently in this space.

AUGFM3

My July in Tech

We hosted a few great events this month – linking angels to tech start ups; a great CEO dinner and a large big data event.

Another great Fintech Monthly vid: Barclays signs bitcoin deal, Innovate Finance and I look at InsuranceTech: http://bit.ly/1eIwc6w

insurance tech

And finally… I also wrote an article on P2P lending (which appeared in the July issue of Tech City News):

CROWD

The global FinTech ecosystem has reached a tipping point. Disruptive FinTech companies are attracting historic levels of investment and consumers and businesses are opening their minds to alternative sources of funding through Peer to Peer (“P2P”) lending and crowdfunding. Funding from these new sources is likely to drive the largest shift in the worlds of both personal and corporate finance that I am likely to see in my career.

P2P lending and equity crowdfunding are in some ways similar – rather than turning to traditional sources of finance, a variety of online platforms enable you to get a loan or equity capital from the “crowd”.

Who is this mysterious crowd?

It’s anyone really, although the mix of investors is different. Increasingly, institutional investors (such as hedge funds and other asset managers) are lending money out via P2P platforms with the rest of the investors generally being individuals looking to make an investment for a return.

Equity crowdfunding potentially offers much higher returns that P2P lending (with much greater risks of losing all of the capital) and almost all of the crowd here are individuals. Equity crowdfunding is a big topic in it’s own right and one that I will look at in my next Tech City News column.

P2P for me

There are lots of new entrants to this market and it is very fragmented. Some lend to people, some lend to businesses and some lend for quite specific purposes (such as short term mortgages – LendInvest).

And this is a global phenomenon; here are some of the larger P2P platforms around the World (other than the ones mentioned elsewhere in this article):

P2P Platform                HQ Country

SocietyOne                   Australia

Jimubox.com                 China

Touna.cn                       China

We Lend                       China

365p2p.cn                     China

Prosper Marketplace      US

auxmoney                     Germany

Renrendai                      China

Zopa                             UK

In April 2015, Funding Circle (which enables the crowd to lend to small businesses), raised a huge $150m round of venture funding which valued the business at $1 billion. The service is available in the US and in the UK and around $1 billion in loans have been made so far since it’s creation in 2010.

LendingClub went public in in the US in December 2014 and raised $870 million, making it the largest US tech IPO that year.

P2P for you

But why? And why now? A perfect storm created by banks not lending and interest rates being low has created an environment where lenders and borrowers really want to find each other. Online platforms and an increasingly large group of digital natives are facilitating that connection. Tinder for finance…

Overall, investors in Funding Circle are seeing returns of 7% on their investments in the UK (10% in the US); interest rates are not very different from what a customer might see from a bank loan but the key difference is simply that the business may get the money using Funding Circle, when it might not be so lucky with a bank.

Dollar democracy

Some estimates indicate that global P2P lending will increase from $8 billion in 2014 to around $1 trillion in ten years’ time. This activity will increase as the market grows and P2P lenders look to disrupt traditional lenders’ business models further.

I suspect that we will see a lot more partnering between banks and P2P platforms – there is already early evidence this is happening with Union Bank forming a strategic alliance with LendingClub and Santander and Royal Bank of Scotland announcing partnerships with Funding Circle.

Viva la democracy!