Dubai: Anthony Thomson certainly has a track record, when it comes to taking on a presence in financial services served up digitally. He got that from being part of Atom, one of Europe’s first wave of digital-only banks.
Then, there is the the interest in Australia’s 86 400, another digital bank. (In the not too distant past (in 2007), there was also the Metro Bank, the UK's first high-street banking entity for some time - 100 years, to be precise.)
Now, Thomson is bringing all that acquired savviness to Dubai, through a fintech accelerator ‘Archie’, of which he will be the co-founder and Chair. In an interview to ‘Gulf News’, Thomson weighs in on the whys behind Archie.
Don’t you find the fintech space itself getting overcrowded. And with more cannibalising of ideas than new ones?
No, the more the merrier.
Fintech has been a force for good for many years – increasing competition, driving ingenuity, and bettering customer outcomes, which has to be the goal. Yes, some original ideas are now common practice, but that’s a good thing and ultimately drives up the sector.
There may be some market consolidation too, but often fintechs have failed and great ideas haven’t reached their potential – and that’s’ why we’ve started Archie; to offer the real hands-on expertise and support to help fuel these exciting fintechs to their next stage, and increase their odds of success.
But doesn’t that make your accelerator program just that much more difficult?
Archie is an acceleration and growth partner, not the usual fintech ‘accelerator’. While typical models have been known to ‘spray and pray’, our expert team is going to support a small number of fintechs – making high conviction bets, or ‘weigh and play’.
We’ll be making a small number of high conviction bets in the fintechs we have faith in. These will be with Series A & B firms at the most critical stage of their go-to-market strategy.
Archie brings together one of fintech’s strongest scale-up teams with deep expertise in delivering hyper-growth. Over the past 20 years, the team has been at the forefront of founding and scaling some of the world’s biggest brands and fintechs - including Steve Brennen as CEO, having scaled Uber, eBay, and Paypal.
We’ll bring that experience direct to the founders – parachuting in a team, bringing hands on experience, support, knowledge, network and tools to founders. We’ll work with them in partnership to drive success and avoid the pitfalls – but importantly, offer this in exchange for equity which we see as a key differentiator; aligning our interests for the long-term. When they succeed, so will we.
Accelerator funding - doesn’t that tend to be more limited than PE or VC support?
Archie will offer its intellectual capital to finctechs. We know that many founders need more than just funding. And in today’s environment, with less funding available, it’s even more important for the right choices to be made when spending. And that’s where Archie can be pivotal.
Why opt for Dubai when it comes to Archie? For your funding, do companies need to be operational or will you support ideas too?
Dubai and the UAE (and wider GCC) is on an exciting journey, with an ambition to be a leading global FS and fintech sector under the Digital Economy Strategy. The region has significant pools of investment, forward-thinking regulatory environment and is attracting significant talent.
Our team and I also have a depth of experience here – and we’re keen to play in markets we know and understand, where our experience is most valid. It’s going to be a key region for us along with the UK and Australia.
Some funding programs these days insist on something more than proof-of-concept. They need to know whether the idea has a chance of success. What would be your game plan?
We are looking for B2C fintech disruptors, with significant TAM, who are solving major customer problems. They will have achieved product market fit and now ready to scale. We’ll be making a small number of high conviction bets – ‘weighing and playing’, not ‘spraying and praying’ in the fintechs we have faith in. These will be with Series A & B firms at the most critical stage of their go-to-market strategy.
How about fundraising for Archie itself?
At this stage we’ll be investing intellectual capital and growth expertise. However, at a later stage we may look at how we can support fintech fundings – whether that be through our connections and introductions or through a more direct approach.