LFP014 – Lifting the Bonnet on Fintech Accelerators with Nektarios Liolios of Startupbootcamp


In the hot Fintech sector there are few places hotter than being a Fintech in a 3 month accelerator program. But what are they? What’s the inside track? What works well, what is surprising and how is it all changing?

Plenty of dynamics to discuss in today’s episode with Nektarios Liolios, the co-founder of Startupbootcamp Fintech. Prior to that he had over a decade’s FS experience and in particular spent several years In charge of Swift’s Innotribe Startup Challenge. Many of you may not be familiar with that but you will certainly be familiar with some of the alumni of that program – real Fintech royalty such as Transferwise, Currency Cloud (more below the radar but the cognoscenti’s Fintech perhaps), and Azimo.

So who better than Nektarios to “lift the bonnet” today?

Startupbootcamp is a global network of industry focused startup accelerators. It was founded in Copenhagen in 2010 with the core idea of supporting the best entrepreneurs as they grow their startups. So it is a rara avis in terms of not coming out of the US tech scene. It is now the largest in Europe and one of the top 3 worldwide – another rare European triumph. They have helped 200 startups raise a total of over Eu64m creating well over 800 jobs and are in 8 locations worldwide.


A Quick Overview of Accelerators, Incubators and Co-working Spaces

Where did the accelerator concept come from? Naturally the west coast US tech scene and the likes of super-well-known Y Combinator and Tech Stars. Interestingly however in the fascinating Seedrankings research into US accelerator performance (pdf, wmv), whilst the best get great approval ratings, the participant in a median program would not recommend it to a friend. So clearly there is an art to doing this well.

But backing up to the bigger picture – maybe you are unclear on what the difference is between an accelerator, an incubator and a co-working space.

To a certain extent there is a spectrum … but broadly speaking an accelerator runs a specific program with a start date, an end date and a curriculum in between. You have to apply and enter a selection process to be accepted and will probably be given some small amount of funding in return for a small equity stake. Post-program you are out of the nest and into the real world (even if you then join their alumni group). As well as Startupbootcamp the premier London programs are Accenture’s Fintech Innovation Lab and Barclays Accelerator (in collaboration with Techstars).

By contrast an incubator is like a warm nest that you don’t have to leave and will not run a specific program although to be called an incubator it really needs to have some value-added (events, mentors…).  Notable examples are Level 39 (where R5FX of LFP005 fame reside) and Innovation Warehouse (where Kwanji of LFP009 reside),

A co-working space is just that – a co-working space 😀 – think a bit more focused/trendy version of Regus (notable ones in Fintech being Central Working and We Work (where Elliptic LFP003 now live)).  Again as there is something of a spectrum here some may do “value-adds” around the basic “space and desk” proposition.

I guess on the even simpler level we have good old-fashioned “office space” – mind you nothing is without a twist of lemon in the modern world. So I would guess that Level 42 – part of the Level 39 proposition but much more “just office space” (Ignitr, LFP012, reside there in their own dedicated office space) might not want to be labelled “office space” perhaps.

Incubators and accelerators in particular can have a different flavour depending on their funding. [In passing in the episode I refer to TechCrunch’s article “Corporate Accelerators are an Oxymoron” (in this context read Bank not Corporate)].

Naturally a single bank funds Barclay’s Accelerator…

Single corporates fund (obviously again) Accenture’s accelerator program and (slightly less obviously perhaps) the Level39 incubator (which somewhat eccentrically/hyperbole sometimes calls itself an accelerator) funded by the Canary Wharf group

Startupbootcamp’s accelerator is funded by multiple banks/FS-corporates as we hear in the show.


Oh Yes, The Show 🙂

All of that is pre-amble :-O … however getting terms straight (as we heard of LFP013 re “P2P”) is about half the battle right now after the explosion of press interest and consequent hype, spin and PR in 2014.

Yes – the show – it’s great 🙂 Listen to it!

The episode’s key topics are:

  • Swift’s vision post-2008 of alerting members to the changes in FS and the founding of Innotribe in 2009, whose mission was to enable collaborative innovation in the FS industry (and it’s easy to see how those deep roots have grown to where we are today)
  • Nektarios’ time managing the Innotribe Startup challenge and how that laid the ground for the accelerators of today
  • the main role of accelerators/incubators/co-working spaces being to provide a vehicle and a tool for startups; all of the ones out there right now are adding value
  • accelerators as condensing/compressing timescales, what the value-adds are and what the key value-adds are within those
  • Startupbootcamp’s pro-active (as well as passive/receptive) role in “getting out there” to attract and find startups to the program
  • accelerators as being like a “mini-MBA at a practical level” (crossed with the Royal Marines :-D)
  • the importance of “solid” in Fintech and more generally why Fintech is unlike tech; how Fintech bifurcates into what one might label FIN-tech and fin-TECH
  • the funding of accelerators and what the practical benefits funders/sponsors get out of doing so; collaboration versus competition
  • the challenges to banks right now as less that there are masses of Fintechs who are capable of damaging/destroying them and more that they don’t know how to use new technology and embrace it to their own benefit; and don’t know how to partner with small startups who do know [cf LFP012 “Gluing Fin & Tech Together”]
  • Startupbootcamp Fintech’s global ambitions –  Singapore’s very recent launch and the next steps/ambitions/plans
  • what would happen if you ran the Accelerator programs themselves through a meta-accelerator program to accelerate their development – what does the future look like in terms of greater speciation/focused-programs?
  • what is needed for post-accelerator programs?

Plenty in there and we end up with one of the most interesting angles … in the context of Nektarios’ deep background in this area what have been his two main surprises in the 2014 program?

You’ll have to listen but they are definitely “inside track” points that you won’t come across readily elsewhere 😉