Wednesday 20 September 2017

New accelerator hunts for fintech startups

Dublin's Commissioner For Startups, Niamh Bushnell and Accenture country managing director, Alastair Blair.
Dublin's Commissioner For Startups, Niamh Bushnell and Accenture country managing director, Alastair Blair.
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Can Dublin have enough startup 'accelerators'? Apparently not. Today, the city gets its newest 'accelerator' facility, aimed specifically at financial technology ('fintech') startups.

Can Dublin have enough startup 'accelerators'? Apparently not. Today, the city gets its newest 'accelerator' facility, aimed specifically at financial technology ('fintech') startups.

The 'FinTech Innovation Lab' is being set up by the consultancy and professional services firm Accenture as a three month programme for 'early stage' tech companies that are trying to develop tech products of particular interest to the financial services sector.

But whereas most incubators and accelerators are created to help young startup companies in whichever direction their development takes, this one is rather more specific. It wants to introduce startups to actual customers.

So a large number of the 'mentors' it offers aren't just altruistic denizens of the technology or investor community here: they're banks who want to buy the products.

"There's very much a business use here where we introduce potential customers to these startups," says Graham Healy, the director at Accenture responsible for setting up the accelerator here.

"They get face time and access and test their commercial model in a safe environment with senior level executives in financial services institutions."

The companies participating will include AIB, Bank Of Ireland, Ulster Bank and State Street according to Healy. "Senior executives" from technology-oriented firms such as Fexco, Realex, Paypal and Google will also be on hand.

Six startups will be accepted into the programme. They won't get any cash, but they will get office space in the city centre, as well as access to senior 'mentors' and customers.

This particular accelerator model has already been used in New York and London by Accenture. In those cities, most of the startups accepted have either signed contracts with the banks that have spent time with them, raised further funding or both.

The programme is not aimed at complete startups, says Healy.

"We're at a stage beyond that," he says. "You're probably at a beta products and seed funding stage and want to see whether it all holds up in a customer environment."

The category is being specifically targeted because of the nature of the companies Accenture hopes to serve as clients: banks, financial services firms and ecommerce outfits. But it is also because this financial technology is one of two or three specialist sectors that Irish startups appear to be strong in.

Established Irish 'fintech' firms such as Fineos and Realex compliment startups such as CurrencyFair in chasing the lucrative niche. The biggest ever Irish-led startup, Stripe, is also a financial technology set-up, making online payments easier for ecommerce players.

However, Accenture is not after a slice of any individual startup's future earnings or lucre through the accelerator process.

"We won't take a cut of anything," says Healy. "It's not about getting into their IP or commercialising the startup's activity for us. We're in facilitation mode to bring these companies to customers because we're expected to understand the technology and the industry. So for us it's about being at the centre of it.

Healy says that the accelerator's application process remains open until the end of October. After that, 20 startups will be shortlisted to take part in a "speed dating" event in early November, whittling the number down to 12 companies.

Those startups will then partake in a 'Dragon's Den' style pitching round at the end of November after which six companies will be selected. The six will move into their allocated Dublin city centre premises (described only as "one of the well known startup areas in the city") to begin a three month engagement at the start of January.

"Dublin already has some of the best incubators around," says Healy. "But many of them are looking at pre-accelerator mode and ideation stage companies. We're at a stage beyond that. We're looking for startups that are about to bring their products to a commercial mode. That means startups that probably have already had beta products and seed funding and want to see whether those products hold up in a customer environment."

Indo Business

Also in Business