In April 2019 a special BOLD Award was made to Maria Ressa, CEO and Executive Editor at RAPPLER. RAPPLER is a social news network that crowdsources stories to inspire investigative journalism, community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change in Indonesia and the Philippines. She now faces up to six years in a Philippine prison after a questionable conviction on a charge of cyber libel.
In 2017, President Duterte slammed Rappler in his State of the Nation Address. Around three months later in October 2017, businessman Wilfredo Keng filed a libel complaint over a Rappler article that had been published in 2012. Although the article had been published before cyber libel became a crime in the Philippines, a subsequent correction of a spelling mistake was enough for a court to declare it had been re-published.
Media outlets around the world have joined the outcry against her conviction in a case that is now seen as a test of media freedom in Duterte’s Philippines, including the New York Times, South China Morning Post and the UK’s BBC. Hillary Clinton tweeted, “We must fiercely protest attacks on the press. They are attacks on democracy.”
Facebook is investigating a sharp increase in the number of phantom accounts in the names of Filipino journalists and campaigners against the new law. It has sparked concerns that the government could, in a further crackdown on media freedom, use the accounts as evidence to arrest people on charges of faked material.
The first round of online public voting has now ended and we
are delighted to share the names of the final nominees in each of the 12
categories of 2020’s annual BOLD Awards.
The online votes that were cast will count for 50% of the
final decisions, and the introduction of our international panel of judges to
the process will also account for 50% of the overall selection of winners.
Judges will evaluate each nominee on the basis of Level of Impact 40%,
Scalability 30%, Transparency 20%, and H-factor 10% (Human & Social).
Our aim is to recognise and champion the companies, projects and individuals powering BOLD breakthroughs around the world. Pursuing incremental advances is important and valuable, though it means people remain grounded in what already exists. Whereas aiming for a 10x gain rather than a 10% improvement requires bravery and creativity to be truly innovative.
Working with our event partner H-FARM, the final award ceremony will be a gala dinner held at their campus in Venice, Italy, on March 27. Attendance is limited mainly to the award winners, category sponsors and some of our corporate partners and investors, though a few tickets remain available to spend a unique evening in their company. Apply to Attend here if you think you’ve got what it takes to spend an evening with the BOLDEST: https://bold-awards.com/request-an-invitation/
Here are the nominees by category. Did the projects you voted for make it to this stage?
Our panel of international judges will now assess the nominees and determine the winners, who will be announced at the black-tie gala dinner award ceremony at H-FARM on March 27 in Venice Italy. You can Apply to Attend here if you think you’ve got what it takes to spend an evening with the BOLDEST: https://bold-awards.com/bold2020vip/ #beBOLD
AI technology is increasingly used to open up new horizons for scientists and researchers. It enables analysis of masses of data much faster than humans can manage, identifies deep trends and patterns that could be indiscernible to human analysts, and can better keep up-to-date with the plethora of scientific research findings published around the world to connect relevant pieces together.
Though as much as AI and machine learning can cope with masses of data, they also have an insatiable appetite for more and more data to improve the eventual decision-making, provide unbiased feedback and, when required, implementable solutions. Feeding machine learning therefore often requires human input on a mass scale from “citizen scientists.”
Citizen scientists are people with an interest, but no qualifications, in science-based topics and who are prepared to volunteer their effort and input towards scientific projects. A number of platforms now exist to provide an interface between the legions of citizen scientists and project leaders or sponsors who require their help.
It isn’t the only form of crowdsourcing support in the Science sector. Tobacco conglomerate Philip Morris International launched sbv IMPROVER which has created and utilises a community of eminent global scientists. Their role is to independently check and comment on the validity of the research methods used and the results that are being achieved by PMI to develop less harmful products.
Though shifting back to the mass volunteer sector, Zooniverse has a network of over one million volunteers and is one of the biggest citizen science platforms in the UK. A great example of the social benefit from their work is their partnership with Cancer UK on launching Cell Slider, a project which to date has involved volunteers in analysing more than two million images of cancer cells.
A citizen scientist global challenge
A global 2020 project relying on citizen scientists is the City Nature Challenge. 200 cities around the world will compete to see who can make the most observations of nature, find the most species, and engage the most people. In the first stage, running April 24-27, volunteers will record and submit images of plant and animal life. In the second stage, April 28-May 3, people will try to identify what’s in all the images.
In 2019, Cape Town in South Africa recorded the most observations and the greatest diversity of species. San Francisco in California had the most participants of any city, with 1,947 people taking part.
In total, over 35,000 people provided 963,000 images and identified over 31,000 species of plant and animal life. Scientists can track trends from one year to the next, and the resulting library of images can then be used by other people on different projects and for different purposes. Here’s a link to the cities taking part on 2020, perhaps you’d like to get involved: http://citynaturechallenge.org/city-list-2020/
Citizen science in less developed economies
However, as the map of the cities in the 2020 City Nature Challenge suggests, there is an inherent bias in citizen science projects towards more developed economies where people are served by better built environment infrastructure and have easier access to smartphones and the internet. In the interests of better results it is important to encourage participation from diverse communities of citizen scientists with different languages, customs and cultures.
An example of research being driven by an economic imperative in a less well developed infrastructure is in Argentina. The country is the world’s second largest honey producer and the third largest exporter, though every year 30% of its bees die. Beyond producing honey, bees and other insects such as butterflies and flies pollinate more than 75% of the most important crop types grown today, scientists say.
A very recent project addressed this issue through recruiting citizen scientists as part of a project to research bee health issues. Previous research on bees has largely been confined to North America and Europe. The number of instances of observing bees has climbed in recent decades, probably due to more researchers going into the field to document and study them, but the number of observed species has fallen.
Eduardo Zattara and Marcelo Aizen of the Pollination Ecology Group at the Biodiversity and Environment Research Institute in Rio Negro, Argentina, found the same pattern. It is now known that declines in the number of bee species have occurred on every continent with the exception of Australia and nearby islands. Zattara, now also a visiting scientist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., hopes the study prompts other scientists, policy makers and business leaders to take action to reverse the decline.
BOLD Awards 2020
Judging entries in all 12 categories, which include Crowdsourcing and Science, has started. The shortlists of nominees will be released on February 11 and our panel of international judges will determine the final winners. The winners will collect their awards at a black-tie gala dinner just outside Venice, Italy, on March 27th. And you can be there to network with the winners, judges and VIPs who are spearheading breakthrough innovations throughout the world. Apply here to attend, if you’re BOLD enough: https://bold-awards.com/bold2020vip/
Big things are regularly predicted for the AR/VR sector, though so far the industry hasn’t quite lived up to the hype. Latest predictions include the augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) market is expected to total $18.8 billion in 2020 and then expand exponentially in the coming years. A market expecting such growth deserves looking at.
Consumer spending, largely for gaming purposes, remains the single largest sector, and is expected to reach $7B in 2020. Devices such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Sony’s PlayStation Virtual Reality have shipped millions of units as consumers look to explore the possibilities offered by virtual environments. However, many of the world’s biggest tech companies have begun to allocate significant R&D budgets to develop their AR/VR capabilities across a wider range of uses.
The phrase AR/VR tends to be bandied around as a catch-all for any use of sensory devices, so perhaps we should first be clear what the various terms mean.
Virtual Reality (VR) technology puts us in a totally immersive, artificial world we experience through headsets or a helmet. VR places us in video games as if we are a character, or can teach us how to perform heart surgery, operate in any dangerous environment (such as in a fire, at extreme depths undersea, in a frozen climate) or improve the quality of sports training to maximise performance. Primarily due to gaming, sales of VR headsets in 2019 are estimated to have been seven million units. Beyond gaming, VR has been developed to meet design, marketing, education, training and retail needs.
Augmented Reality (AR) is technology that combines things in the real world with computer-generated information. Our own realities become a framework within which objects or images are placed for us to interact with and it allows people to undertake experiences that are often more immersive than the real world alone offers. An optimistic estimate of headset sales in 2019 was 600,000 units compared to 7 million for VR, a sign of the current market disparity.
Sometimes VR and AR combine in a hybrid technology of Mixed Reality (MR) or Extended Reality (XR) that places virtual objects in the real world where the digital and the physical are practically indistinguishable. To avoid semantics, perhaps adopting the XR handle is the way to address the whole sector.
Projected market growth
Business-related XR in total already exceeds consumer gaming. VR can simulate working in dangerous or extremely demanding environments, such as fire fighting or surgery, or with expensive tools and equipment that can be easily damaged, without any of the risks. AR, on the other hand, can be used to relay essential information directly to the user about whatever happens to be in front of them – reducing the time spent by engineers, technicians, or maintenance staff referring to manuals and looking up information online while on the job.
With an anticipated exponential growth of the B2B sector, the 2020 XR Industry Insight report collated by VR Intelligence found that 65% of 750 XR professionals surveyed at AR companies in 2019 said they were working on industrial applications, while just 37% were working on consumer products and software.
At the same time, though, in 2019 they agreed with the forecast high adoption rate within the next three to four years among consumers, thus hitting peak growth in 2023.
When Do You Think We’ll See Widely Accepted Mainstream Consumer Adoption of VR & AR/MR?
It’s already possible to provide a service that’s an AR equivalent of a web publisher, allowing individuals to create AR-based interactive storytelling without requiring coding skills. The introduction of 5G and smarter cameras will accelerate the process and make the internet more 3D. It will enable cheaper headsets and viewing devices, with more realistic VR simulations and AR support at faster speeds for situations where quick decisions are needed.
Superdata, part of the Nielsen research company, predicts AR/XR headset hardware and consumer software are set to earn a combined $6.7B by 2023, 45% of all XR revenue.
Use in education will make XR the new reality
We have already experienced the impact of Millennials growing up in their formative years in a totally digital world, and how they are now disrupting the workplace and legacy business models in many industry sectors . As more and more influential students enjoy the experiences of learning through XR, it will become ‘go-to technology’ in their lives and they will increasingly expect it to use in their work environments.
Are you going to stay ahead of this curve or play catch-up?
2020 BOLD Awards
The first round of public voting is open to February 4 in all 12 categories of award, which includes AR/VR. We hope you take part and vote for your favourite entries. A panel on international judges will then assess the short-lists created by the public vote, and the wimmers will be announced at a black-tie award ceremony in Venice, Italy, on March 27th, 2020. And you can be there, Apply To Attend here: https://bold-awards.com/request-an-invitation/
We are delighted to announce the second tranche of judges on our international panel to determine the BOLD Awards 2020 winners. Each is an acknowledged leader in their specialist area and we thank them for their involvement.
A public round of voting will run from January 24 to February 4, which we hope you will take part in, and this will create shortlists of entries in each of the 12 award categories. Our judges will then scrutinise the shortlists and add their scores to the public scores to determine the winners. The award ceremony is on March 27th at the campus of our event host H-Farm, the notable digital educator and startup accelerator, near Venice in Italy.
Laura Chite, Fintech. Laura has over 20 years’ work experience in the IT industry, encompassing Human resources, Public Relations, Event Management and Sales & Marketing.
Laura is an Arts, Economics and Sociology graduate from the Egerton University in Kenya, and currently the CEO of CIO East Africa, which provides senior technology decision-makers with insight and expertise on Business Strategy, Innovation and Leadership.
She is also a proven asset, particularly in this era of digital transformation that is now rising on the priority list of corporate boards and CEO strategic planning everywhere.
Melissa Chan, Advertising. Melissa is the APAC Managing Director of McCann Worldgroup’sProduction Division – CRAFT Worldwide. With a total of more than 15 years’ industry experience, Melissa has spent the last 10 in production-led agencies in the region. In this time she has worked with leading brands to overcome change resistance and introduce new ways of working, develop effective campaigns and deliver efficient content.
Melissa’s experience over a diverse portfolio of clients enables her to share hands-on knowledge and solutions from different sectors and channels. She is a Marketing and Management graduate from the Curtin University in Western Australia, a Mass Communications Diploma holder, and is on the board of the Singapore branch of The Marketing Society.
Ana Xavier, Agritech. Ana has over 15 years’ experience in Venture Capital firms as a Portfolio Manager and in analysing investment opportunities. Prior to her current role at Portugal Ventures Ana held the position of Financial Manager at several SMEs in the textile and clothing sector.
Ana is currently part of Portugal Ventures’ Engineering & Manufacturing Division, where she focuses on deal flow generation of investment opportunities in the Agritech, Cleantech, Smart Manufacturing and Smart Materials sectors. She represents Portugal Ventures on the board of several portfolio companies.
Moojan Asghari, AI. Born in Iran and now based in Paris, Moojan is a passionate entrepreneur and advocate for women’s rights. She has started several companies and run several startup programmes in various industry sectors, including Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, while based in different locations including US, Taiwan and France.
Moojan is also co-founder of Women in AI, which is a global non-profit organisation with a mission to close the gender gap in AI, and is interested in working on a side project related to SPACE and protecting our environment.
Although the public round of voting in the BOLD Awards 2020 starts January 24, late entries can be submitted up to January 28. Check here to see the full 12 categories and to submit an entry: https://bold-awards.com/submit-your-project
Alternatively, if you’re interested in networking with the award winners, the panel of judges and other notable business leaders in their industry sectors, you might want to Apply To Attend the black-tie gala dinner award ceremony in Venice, Italy: https://bold-awards.com/request-an-invitation/
We are very grateful for the time that an impressive collection of BOLD Award advisors have been able to set aside in their schedules to help shape up the 2020 edition. We’ve really appreciated their continued inputs to maintaining the spirit of the wisdom and strength of a crowd as we search for and recognise top companies, projects and individuals powering breakthroughs around the world.
BOLD Awards 2020 will close with a gala dinner award ceremony in Venice, Italy, on March 27th at the campus of the event host H-FARM. A first round of public voting begins January 24, through the entry deadline has been extended to January 28 for latecomers.
Lorenzo Montagna is a digital veteran with more than 25 years of experience gained as a Country Manager of Yahoo! (the first portal), and then at Altavista (the first search engine), ViaMichelin (first geo app), and Lycos & Napster (the first social and music website). In 2017 he founded “Second stAR VR, ” the first Italian consultancy dedicated to a strategic adoption of AR and VR as new tech to drive increased efficiency and create new processes and business models. He has written a book on AR & VR For Enterprise, and is the Italian President of VRARA – a worldwide association of AR and VR experts with around 125,00 members in 50 countries.
Since 2019 he has worked with PwC Technology Consulting as Senior Advisor for AR and VR. The PwC team’s goal is to create meaningful digital experiences for Clients in the immersive technology sector, delivering new digital solutions covering all stages of the value chain and product lifecycle from design to customer care. Lorenzo is a regular speaker on AR and VR for several media platforms and at many international events.
Cristina Andersson is a multi-talented Entrepreneur, Educator, Author and a Founder and board member of the digital accelerator Airawise Oy.
After publishing ”BohoBusiness – Victory of Man Over Machine” (Talentum 2012), Cristina has become an expert in artificial intelligence and robotics, working as an advisor to different ministries in her native Finland, for the EU Commission and Parliament, and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).
This includes being a consultant to the Finnish National AiRo (artificial intelligence and robotics) Program for Health and WellBeing that aims to create a quantum leap in Healthcare in Finland. Apart from her daily work, Cristina studies Quantum Computing which, she believes, will revolutionise the way we solve “the wicked problems” of the universe and humankind.
David Berkowitz is based in New York and is the Founder of the Serial Marketer consultancy, where he keeps brands, tech startups and agencies at the cutting edge of marketing. Previous roles included running marketing for video production marketplace Storyhunter, leading the strategy practice at social listening firm Sysomos, serving as chief marketing officer of Publicis agency MRY, and co-founding the emerging media division at 360i.
David has contributed more than 600 columns to outlets such as Advertising Age, MediaPost, VentureBeat, and Adweek, and he has spoken at 350 events around the world. Beyond consulting, he publishes the Serial Marketer Weekly newsletter and runs the Serial Marketers community on Slack; you can request to join at serialmarketers.net.
To congratulate and network with the Award Winners, and with our international judges and business sector leaders from around the world, we also invite you to Apply To Attend the black-tie gala dinner award ceremony in Venice, Italy: https://bold-awards.com/request-an-invitation/.
Advertising has without doubt been transformed irrevocably by digital connectivity. Consumer product brands, service providers, organisations of any nature, and even individuals, can become their own media owners. Anyone with access to the internet can create and distribute unique content to generate audiences and build a bespoke following. What does it mean for the empirical guidelines and “rules” about advertising that evolved in the pre-digital era?
Some advertising commentators appear to believe the established practices are redundant, a distraction, a nostalgic cling on to the past. As are the traditional ‘legacy media’ themselves. Other more seasoned operators in the sector are convinced that a new generation of advertisers are so overwhelmed by the digital opportunities to measure audience numbers and behaviour that they favour performance metrics over establishing what their advertising aims and strategy ought to be in the first place.
Effective advertising is carefully planned
An advertising strategy seeks to answer four key questions;
1. What do we want to achieve? This relates to the company’s overall Business Objectives, and needs to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timetabled.
2. What’s the creative message(s) that will achieve our aims?
3. How are we going to deliver those messages – which communication channels and techniques to use?
4. Who should we be talking to, who are our prime prospects?
I’m going to focus on the latter two points of delivering messages and targeting the key recipients, because it appears to me that the two questions are getting muddled together and resolved with one decision. Advertisers are increasingly choosing communication channels because of the way they can be targeted and their effectiveness measured, rather than due to their inherent communication qualities and their relevance to the advertising objectives.
A wide range of advertiser scenarios require different strategies and executions, though when I was planning how to spend £ millions for top advertising agency clients there were two basics: did an advertiser want to build a long-term brand image – stake out a position in their marketplace with a stand-out personality; or stimulate short-term sales or some other behaviour (e.g. apply for a business award, request a holiday company brochure, join a book club).
Mainstream mass-media advertising, and its techniques, was handled quite simplistically. There weren’t many research-led “scientific” solutions. To make it easy for advertisers to understand what their agency advisers were guiding them to do, there was high-scale adoption and use of simple acronyms such as AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action.
This mantra was applied just as much to infrequent and well-researched purchase decisions such as buying a motor car or international property investment, as to frequent repeat-purchase grocery products including breakfast cereals, beer, confectionery and washing-up liquid. So there was undoubtedly plenty of room for advertising to raise its game as a business discipline to be taken more seriously in the client boardrooms.
Frequency vs Recency
In practice, the aims of either building a long-term presence in people’s minds or generating a more direct response, required different strategies. The first aim was achieved through a planning emphasis on the number of times a message was seen or heard – Frequency Planning. Achieving a more direct response was better achieved by an approach based on Recency Planning. This requires achieving exposure to advertising at a time or place relevant to short-term desired actions, and was championed by the late Erwin Ophren.
Recency Planning is about placing each individual opportunity for exposure to the advertising in a place and/or at a time when it is most likely to have its greatest effect. Legacy media examples includes simple executions like these:
Advertising d-i-y stores and products in the run-up to long weekends when people would be more likely to take on home improvement tasks.
Running tv commercials for breakfast cereals on breakfast-time tv channels.
Putting advertising for cars and motor accessories on radio at times when there is the highest proportion of the audience listening in-car.
Advertising specialist sports equipment in specialist magazines, whether it’s field sports, ice hockey, tennis, golf, running marathons, whatever.
The digital age
Fast forward to today, and the mass of online content and ubiquity of social media. Any business or other type of organisation, and indeed any individual person that seeks an online presence, has a multitude of opportunities to position themselves adjacent to or within relevant content. Or to actually provide content itself to satisfy people searching for solutions to their personal challenges, whether it’s home repairs, make-up tips, raising a family, dieting, where to shop for particular items, improve sports or business performance, or advice on virtually anything else. As well as creating influential social media accounts, people can even have/be their own YouTube channel!
The collection and management of mass digital data also enables specific targeting on individuals by their known location, interest, hobbies, pastimes, and attitudes and opinions about many issues including politics, as well as standard demographic data of age, socio-economic class and gender. Targeting the “right people” to begin with can be more specific. Monitoring their behaviour after exposure to certain messages is also possible in ways that were unheard of 10 years ago.
The rush to embrace specific targeting of highly defined individuals and transparency of accountability has brought us to a tipping point at which the benefits of online digital advertising – including remarketing, the impact of online influencers, email marketing, pay per click and all the rest – are thought not to just outweigh the usefulness of pre-digital legacy media, but to make them redundant.
Institutional aversion to running advertising on legacy media was brought home to me when a marketing student I mentor in one of the UK’s ten largest universities told me they are taught to never even consider advertising on television, billboards, radio or in hard copy print. “Online = good; offline legacy media that existed before = bad.” I’m not making this up.
Digital brands use legacy media
Though let’s have a reality check. YouTube is highly responsible for the growing trend to on-demand viewing, particularly among younger adults, in place of watching standard television with its linear scheduling of content. Their research-based report “Reach more than just viewers” encourages advertisers to target viewers by their hobbies, interests and passions, rather than by set times of day or day of week. Yet, as at March 2018, television was still delivering 94.6% of the total video advertising audiences in the UK (source: the generic television marketing body thinkbox).
In 2018 the biggest spending sector on UK television advertising was online businesses. Amazon alone spent over £60 million, which was a 21% increase on its tv adspend in 2017. They clearly see benefits from expensively using more than just their own part of the media advertising landscape to project a strong brand image rather than just influence short-term decisions and actions.
What’s your “Why”?
In fact the brand positioning proposition, conveying what a brand stands for and thus its role in a person’s lifestyle, has been updated as its “Why.” This is a trend influenced strongly by Millennials and it requires brand owners and service providers to not only explain their products’ benefits and why they should be valued, but why they are in business providing them in the first place.
More people are increasingly making moral and ethical judgments on brand behaviour, and brands are increasingly aware of any poor public opinion of them. UK supermarket chain Tesco was rocked by the revelation that some of its 2019 Christmas cards were made by “slave labour” in a prison in China. Swedish fashion brand H&M is also investigating similar claims.
A brand’s “Why” and the values it stands for is an on-going communication requirement, not tied to short-term purchase or usage decisions.
New data shows “brands with purpose” are expected to grow at twice the rate of those without some focus on social or environmental responsibility. The reasons a brand’s “Why” is so important is explained by Simon Sinek in his now legendary TedTalk. The 18 minute version of this has been viewed almost 48 million times.
Transformation and decentralisation of the advertising industry has manifestly given any organisation or individual opportunities to personally connect with potentially millions of people, or maybe what’s more important to some is to reach out to a much smaller group of key influencers. I work at it myself through managing clients’ social media accounts and creating online content (inbound marketing).
Technology has changed the way we connect with the world and it has transformed the way advertisements are broadcast. There was always B2B and B2C, now we can also use C2C. But I do not agree that is a reason to discard the benefits of legacy media that were expensively and effectively developed by major brand and business owners.
I’m also quite certain that when it comes to spending their advertising budgets, big-spending clients will expect to work with advisers who understand and know how to use legacy media.
BOLD Awards 2020
Advertising is one of 12 categories in the international BOLD Awards 2020 that aim to recognise top companies, projects and individuals powering breakthroughs around the world.
The closing date for entries is January 15, after which there will be a round of public voting – which we hope you will take part in. A panel of international judges will then determine the category winners, who will receive their awards at a black-tie ceremony on 27th March 2020 in Venice, Italy.
A growing number of organisations and projects are turning to open innovation challenges. They can generate fresh ideas and solutions from unexpected sources to open the way for sometimes truly transformational breakthroughs. And they can do it faster and at a lower cost than traditional R&D processes.
However, the growing popularity of such challenges and prize competitions does not mean they are easy to organise, or that the desired results are guaranteed.
At the CSW Global 2019 conference in San Francisco in September 2019, Aurelie Wen, Managing Partner of the open innovation platform Agorize North America, highlighted nine factors where challenge sponsors could miss out on maximising the effectiveness of their open innovation challenge. Here is her pitch deck for you to avoid any of the nine tripwires.
The existing big players in the financial services market are all transforming their legacy systems and services to the digital ‘always on’ new era. Digital natives who have grown up knowing only the online digital world since at least their early teens are able to start with a blank page and embrace – and even create – new technology to deliver faster, better value and more reliable services than the legacy providers. Is it a clash or is there synergy?
It wasn’t too long ago that fintechs were met with resistance by banks and the rest of the “financial establishment,” and when they achieved widespread traction they were perceived as a threat. Now, there is greater appreciation that fintech startups can build solutions much quicker than if the legacy corporates try to develop them in-house.
Consequently, many fintech accelerators have been founded by, or are at least significantly backed by, those existing players that include major banks, VCs, and sometimes government-backed business development agencies. Funding fintech accelerators is their means to access a pipeline of innovative startups who are delivering breakthroughs that are perhaps beyond the highly regulated corporate mindset and hierarchical structures of the big players.
What do accelerators provide?
Accelerators provide an attractive package of office space with access to technical resources, expert mentoring, connections to leading actors in financial markets, and even cash to cover living expenses. Gaining a place on a fintech accelerator programme could be compared to winning a prize in an open innovation challenge.
High demand for places on accelerator programmes means in some cases fewer than 1% of applicants are accepted. The accelerator hubs are able to select only the most promising startups that have already moved beyond proof of concept stage to a point of MVP or beta stage prototype, and are on the verge of gaining customer and marketplace traction – and thus an income. The hub ‘backers’ may also work to an undisclosed agenda of fintech solutions they would prioritise in order to meet any known customer demands.
What a place in an accelerator programme costs
In exchange the accelerator programme providers generally take a slice of equity, commonly between 5% and 8%. They then drive the startup management teams hard on a business development crash-course that aims to bring them in three months to a level that might have taken more like 18 months to reach if they had been left to their own devices.
Fintech accelerator locations
The startups and the accelerators thus exist in a symbiotic relationship and tend to naturally cluster around the main centres of financial expertise. This is where there is a receptive openness that appreciates their aims, availability of an educated and experienced workforce, and an investment ecosystem.
A number of accelerator hubs have structured programmes where a cohort of usually ten startups begin together, mentored individually though following a shared timetable. There is a formal application process with deadlines, interim interviews and presentations to give to win a place. Other hubs accept startups joining month-by-month on a rolling basis, and remain flexible to put extra resources in to what they identify as the most promising rising stars.
These are some of the accelerators that provide a formal business development course, usually lasting 12-13 weeks. Inclusion in this article does not mean we consider these fintech accelerators to be the biggest or better than others in Europe, they have been chosen to represent a cross-section of the flexible ways fintech accelerators can operate.
Locations and Accelerator Programme Providers
Barclays Bank is definitely part of the financial establishment, it was founded in 1690. Places on Barclays Accelerator are open to technology-focused startups across all aspects of financial services. Applicants can be from anywhere, though must attend the programme in person and thus have the right to remain in the UK.
It is a 13 week course based in central London for ten companies at a time that are likely to “solve real problems or create meaningful innovations.” Barclays takes 2% equity in each company, and its funding partner Techstars takes 4% for providing each team with up to $120,000.
Natwest, like Barclays, is one of the UK’s main high street banks. The Natwest Fintech Accelerator launched in 2018, and as well as London there are hubs in Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh. This accelerator provides six month courses and does not take any equity as payment.
London and Amsterdam
Startupbootcamp is an affiliation of 20 accelerator hubs around the world that offer a variety of programmes for different industry sectors. In Europe, its fintech hubs are in London and Amsterdam. In London the sole focus is now on growth stage companies, whereas fintech startups can apply for accelerator programme places in Amsterdam.
Startupbootcamp’s fintech programmes are backed by the UK Lloyds Banking Group, the Dutch Rabobank, Mastercard and PwC, among others big players.
The Amsterdam hub provides a three month accelerator programme, with six months use of shared co-working space and access to technical resources, plus each team is given €15,000 in cash to cover living expenses. Programmes conclude with Demo Day, a chance for the startups to showcase themselves to an audience of over 400 investors, partners, mentors, media, and the local ecosystem.
In exchange, Startupbootcamp will require 6%-8% equity in each company accepted on the Amsterdam programme.
Fintech Europe is an accelerator program launched in 2018 run and operated by Plug and Play Tech Center. It aims “to plug the gap between Silicon Valley and Frankfurt,” said Dr Sebastien Schafer, the CEO and Founder.
It is available to startups from across the world to apply to participate in two batches per year (12 weeks each). The platform offers the corporate partners, who are some of the world’s leading players in the financial industry including Deutsche Bank, UniCredit, BNP Paribas, Danske Bank, TechQuartier and several more, opportunities to partner up with the most promising Fintechs.
Beta-i delivers the Lisbon Challenge, a tech oriented accelerator program based in Portugal’s capital that provides courses tailored to specific tech sectors including fintech. Their programmes work with 15 startups at a time on a 10 week course which ends with an Investment Day spent pitching to investors. To be selected a startup business must be incorporated in Portugal and at least two co-founders must fully attend the 10 week programme.
To date they have received 4,300 applications from startups to attend, of which they have worked with 210. 105 businesses that completed the programme have received a total investment of €75 million between them, operating in 20 different industries.
Beta-i provides startups with Phase 1 funding in two tranches: €15,000 for 2% equity to all startups joining the programme, and a further €55,000 for 5% after the programme for the startups that have “risen up to the challenge”. Beyond this, in a Phase 2 the top five startups are offered a further 6 month incubation period, during which each startup will receive a further investment of €40,000 for 6%-10% equity.
Programme partners include the Lisbon City Council.
Based in the capital city of the Lithuania, Startup Wise Guys has been accelerating startups since 2012, though is only in its third annual round of providing a formal accelerator programme for ten fintech startups at a time.
It operates a two tier system. Startups that have reached MVP stage though do not yet have a marketable product can apply for a 14 week programme and up to €30,000 investment in exchange for 9% equity.
Startups that do have a product can apply for a place on a seven week course and up to €50,000 investment for 9% equity. All companies on either programme must be registered in Lithuania.
Applications open in May each year, and a three day boot camp each September reduces the applicants to 25. The pre-product 14 week accelerator programme runs through October to the end of December. The seven week programme for companies with a product then runs in January and February, after which it formally closes. However, during March and April, on-demand help is still available from mentors.
Stockholm has the highest population of any city in Scandinavia, and 18% of its workforce are in the finance sector. In late September 2019, Findec, a Swedish fintech incubator hub that has supported over 400 startups, announced its first three-month accelerator programme for fintech, regtech and insuretech startups. They are running it with PwC Sweden, and call it The Bonfire. Applicants must be based in Sweden, at a beta product stage ready for the injection of seed funding, and have at least two people working fulltime.
Nordea, which is the largest bank in the Nordic countries, is a second business partner. The Bonfire also has connections with fintech hubs in Norway, Denmark and Finland that in time will be able to filter through their strongest candidates. There is also a tie-up with the Japanese bank Nomura and two Japanese fintech hubs.
Five successful applicants for places in its first cohort
have been announced. At this stage, details of the amount and terms of funding
that may be available to startups accepted on the programmes are reserved for applicants
BOLD Awards 2020
Fintech is one of 12 categories in the annual BOLD Awards 2020. Other categories include AI, Robotics, Science, Space Frontier, Advertising and Marketplaces. The full list, and the place to submit an entry, is here. After a round of public voting in January and then assessment by a panel of international judges, category winners will receive their award at a prestigious black-tie ceremony on March 27th 2020 in Venice, Italy.Good luck!
Main image source: Finextra Retail Banking Technology Report 2019