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NDRC FinTech Day 1

Guest blog by Thomas Duignan

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Day 1 of NDRC FinTech 2016 kicked off in superb fashion on Wednesday 2nd November.

After 50+ applications of start-up ideas, 16 shortlisted idea owners and 1 great interview by David Scanlon with Pascal Bouvier, the tantalizing build-up finally ended with Pre-Accelerator Manager Helen Fullen getting the programme underway.

CEO of NDRC, Ben Hurley, took to the podium to welcome all attendees and programme sponsors, Bank of Ireland. Touching on NDRC’s “knowledge of taking a fledgling idea off the ground”, with over “half of teams having succeeded in finding next stage investment”, Ben assured the audience that this programme “provides a pipeline of potential investees”.

Next in line was the ever-energetic Gene Murphy, Entrepreneur in Residence at Bank of Ireland, who spoke of how committed the 233-year-old Bank was to the future of start-up and Fintech. Encouraging everyone participating on the program to make the most of the resources provided, he emphasized that we were in the “Best Place To Start” at NDRC.

Developing on those coveted resources, Gary Leyden, Commercial Director at NDRC, highlighted that even though the idea owners know their business, NDRC “knows what success looks like”. He also advised skilled participants to pick the ideas that they want to work with and “invest personally” to add maximum value.

With the formalities over, the mic was handed to each of the 16 idea owners to pitch for 3 minutes. With backgrounds ranging from fine art painters and bankers to marketers and students, a similarly diverse range of ideas in the FinTech arena were presented. Ultimately, the power lay in the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ with each audience member having each one vote for their three favourite ideas.

Following a short break for light refreshments, the 11 finalists were announced and team formation got underway. It was now up to the skilled participants to pitch their skills, expertise and experience to the idea owners they liked most in order to join their team. The networking was fast and furious! With all the teams formed, it was time for the team photograph before getting down to business.

Start-up pre-accelerators, especially those provided by NDRC, are extremely valuable to Ireland’s next generation of entrepreneurs. The idea owners quickly form an extremely skilled team of invested individuals with a similar passion for their venture where they can generate immediate feedback and unbiased opinion. Conversely, the skilled participants experience the early stages of high potential start-ups that may go on to generate investment and become SMEs. What elevates the programmes run by NDRC above all others is the exposure all teams get to some of the best entrepreneurs and business expertise in that field for six whole weeks. Not only can the teams learn and take advice from the best experienced individuals, they can explore the vast network that these mentors have accumulated over their successful careers.

‘Lunch & Learn’ sessions are some of the most popular sessions of NDRC pre-accelerators. This is where entrepreneurs share their experiences of building a start-up. First up Derek Butler, CEO of Grid Finance, In a sentence, Grid Finance are solving the problem of access to capital and wealth creation through their own micro-finance platform. From his experiences of tiny micro-finance programmes in the most remote regions of Haiti and Uganda, Derek realized that there was no shortage of capital anywhere in the world but that the challenge was accessing it. Taking the philosophy of micro lending and putting it to work in Ireland, he encouraged people to “Get on the Grid”. A lively Q&A followed during which Derek pointed out a number of take-home nuggets. These were;

  • The Fintech environment requires an extremely quick ability to scale, which is reflected in the financial ability of the business.
  • Be ready to jump on a plane and sell really disruptive business models to VCs outside of Ireland.
  • Trust and credibility must be transparent across each part of your business.

Stephen Moran, Innovation Manager at Bank of Ireland, then gave an insight into the current and future trends of Fintech. With much attention being focused on  Automated Intelligence, PSD2 and Blockchain, there remains a huge amount of latitude to make the most of current technologies to be extremely disruptive. Taking a large amount of questions from the audience, Stephen’s insight and passion for all things Fintech was of great benefit to the teams.

After lunch, Venture Investment Leader at NDRC, Fergus O’Dea, took the programme’s first module, the Business Model Canvas. This allowed the teams to go back to very beginning, to understand who the customers and users were, what problems they needed to address and explore revenue streams. Although seen as revision for some idea owners, they were all able to tap into the experience and expertise of their team-mates. Energy and discussion levels were high in the room, with teams wasting little time in getting as much work done as possible.

Finally, Helen brought the busy day to a close with a preview of Day 2 of NDRC FinTech and tips for the week ahead. With the first high-octane coffee-fuelled day wrapped up and another high-profile day in the horizon, the programme has well and truly taken off.