Of all the beasts in London’s startup ecosystem, fintech (financial tech) might well be the largest and most impressive. London’s reputation for fintech is among the best as the world. The startups who do business here are counted amongst the hottest startups going anywhere in the world. 31 London startups have been selected for 2017’s Fintech50, a ranking of the most influential fintech firms in the world. So, amongst the embarrassment of riches, here are 10 you can’t afford – in all senses of the word – to ignore for much longer.
The word on everyone’s lips and newsfeeds at the moment is ‘Bitcoin’. Whether you are a believer or not, one thing you mustn’t neglect is the technology underpinning it: blockchain. The name of this company is slightly misleading, though very fortunate for them – while they are market leaders in the field there are plenty of other small ‘b’ blockchain startups in the UK. Founded in 2011, Blockchain provides a fundamental service for people wishing to use cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin securely. Bitcoiner or not, one thing that seems to be more certain is the potential of blockchain technology in the coming years.
The first of two alternative ways to bank which has taken London by storm, Monzo has gathered something of a cult following. Indeed, many of its proponents believe it is Monzo’s rock ‘n’ roll attitude to banking in the face of more conventional alternatives which has been its biggest asset to date. They place the customer at the center of its product, their tagline urging everyone to help them build a bank ‘together’. They are the first digital bank to offer a current account, having gained their banking license earlier this year.
Competing very much in the same space as Monzo is Revolut. Based in Canary Wharf, Revolut recently hit 1 million customers just two years after their launch, putting them ahead of their much-celebrated rivals. What they offer is largely the same as Monzo, though they have recently turned heads with a host of add-on features for their service, including the ability to trade cryptocurrency from the same app you can use to spend money more cheaply abroad.
While our previous two fintech firms have achieved a large portion of their success from providing a better service for people transferring money into different currencies, they have done so under the proviso of being part of a wider banking service. Transferwise make no bones about this being their central service. They simply allow people to send money abroad for less money – it’s as simple as that. There is no threat of identity crisis here and this is reinforced by the fact that it was London’s fastest growing startup between 2014 and 2017 (Culture Trip was third!) with its value increasing 57-fold.
Like all the companies on this list, getting investment to scale your idea is key to the success of most tech startups. Seedrs is a startup which addresses that issue, creating an equity crowdfunding platform for anyone wishing to invest in startups. They have won a whole raft of awards for their work, the common theme of which is their willingness to shake up and democratize a seemingly impenetrable world of investment for the average person. This year saw the platform raise around £4m for one of our previous entries, Revolut.
Something of a stalwart on the London fintech scene, Nutmeg is part of Fintech50’s hall of fame. Nutmeg’s service makes it easier for people to invest in stocks and shares online, managing a portfolio of investments cheaper than you might find with more traditional brokers or banks. Their total assets recently reached £1bn and currently serve 50,000 customers who each have invested an average of £20k with the platform which launched in 2010 by founder Max Hungerford.
While the other startups listed so far provide their own services which help you spend or invest your cash, Curve offers people the chance to get their head around all the different services they have signed up for. Curve’s users can consolidate all their cards, online accounts and banking apps into one place, neatly allowing people to choose which account they want to use for what. They’ve done very well in 2017 and expect to push hard in 2018 to rid your wallets of all those cards.
If you are a freelancer or have ever had to repeatedly ask someone to pay you for work you’ve done, MarketInvoice might well be of interest. The service allows you to take control of your cashflow, selling on unpaid invoices to the startup so you can free up more capital as and when you need it. Since launching in 2011, MarketInvoice have funded invoices worth near to £2bn, and they are champions of smaller businesses who struggle for the same access to banking finance as their corporate counterparts.
Borrowing money can be difficult if you don’t have the scale of business to convince large lenders. Funding Circle solves that problem by connecting small- and medium-sized businesses with investors willing to take the risks others might anticipate as too great. The company is valued at over $1bn and is among London’s very elite fintech startups.
Another (relatively) old hand in fintech rounds off our list. Zopa focuses on matching borrowers and investors more closely than possible without their technology, both lowering borrowing rates and increasing potential returns for those investing. Their rate of growth has been astonishing, much like most on this list, and since 2005 they have seen their annual lending rise to £800m per year. Zopa aim to join the race to make the most of ‘open-banking’, regulation coming into effect in 2018 that makes it easier to change lenders for the consumer. For Zopa, like all other fintech startups on this list, the future seems bright.