06 Aug 2014
There's yet more evidence of London's booming fintech scene this week with news that Google UK MD Dan Cobley is leaving the internet giant to start his own fintech incubator and investment fund. Cobley, who worked at Google for the past eight years, will take on the role of CEO of the newly-launched Brightbridge Capital.
The new venture will start out with GBP50m (USD84m) in funding and is backed by Blenheim Chalcot and QED investors, both of which are companies Cobley has worked with in previous roles. The firm says it will use the cash to invest in and build businesses that "promise to redefine how financial services are delivered through the smart use of internet technology." It will be based in Blenheim Chalcot's Hammersmith offices.
Speaking of his decision to strike out on this new path, Cobley says: “The decision to leave Google is a really tough one, and I will miss the place hugely. But I have always wanted to run my own thing, and having secured the support of such amazing backers there will never be a better time to make the leap.”
It’s not news that London is a fintech hub, but the growing number of startup incubators bodes well for the city as it continue to cement its position at the heart of financial innovation. Back in February another startup incubator appeared, Startupbootcamp, which was backed by a roster of financial services group including Lloyds, Rabobank and payment giant MasterCard. Meanwhile, back in December, we saw the Techstars-Barclays tie-up. Then there’s London’s Fintech Innovation Lab, which was launched back in 2012 and Level39 over in Canary Wharf - one of Europe's biggest tech accelerators.
Despite success from companies like Zopa, Mint.com and Nutmeg, London’s fintech community is still in its infancy and a lot of venture capital investments are still first round. However, the economic significance of fintech to the UK economy is expected to be huge in the coming years - which explains why politicians are throwing their weight behind it. According to Accenture, financial services and technology sectors in 2013 made up nearly 40% of the London workforce and London’s tech sector has seen more than 24,000 tech firms set up shop there, supporting some 48,000 jobs.
Although the US still leads investment in fintech, the UK is starting to close the gap. According to StrategyEye data, the US snatched 69% of investment in finance and payments companies in the first six months of the year. More than double the amount it generated a year earlier. An impressive amount and no mistake, but the data also reveals the US’ share of the pot has declined from 80% a year earlier and 88% back in the first half of 2012 as entrants from other regions start to pique investor interest.
The UK, now unquestionably the capital of European financial technology, generated around half of all investment in the region during the first half of the year. Companies including digital pawn shop Borro and wealth management platform Nutmeg were among the 14 companies pulling in a total of USD272m in the UK. Overall, Europe generated USD389m in funding during the period, making up just under a quarter of all investment. That’s up significantly from just 5% two years ago.
05 August 2014