Late Payment Culture | 4 Fintech Sectors | 10 Open Banking Startups | France: Reverse Brain Drain | UK Startup Successes | Stockbroker Blues | Government: Tech Nation + DCMS | Funding: IGF + Episode 1 | Tax, Accounts & Productivity
Digest of news and trends in the GRID marketplace in December 2017.
LATE PAYMENT CULTURE
Most UK businesses fail to settle bills within 30 days | Andy Bounds, Enterprise Editor, FT. December 30, 2017
Most businesses take more than 30 days to pay their suppliers, with the average term reaching as high as 113 days, leaving many small companies strapped for cash. Filings by about 200 businesses show that only 29 per cent of them manage to settle their accounts within 30 days or less on average, and that only 52 per cent of invoices overall are paid in that timeframe.
Companies that exceed two or more of the following — £36m annual turnover, an £18m balance sheet or 250 employees — are now obliged to report to the business department twice a year on how long it takes them to pay their suppliers.
UHY HACKER YOUNG, the national accountancy group, which studied the filings, said the figures showed the government’s transparency push has “yet to make any significant impact on the culture of late payment”. Richard Lloyd-Warne, partner at UHY Hacker Young, said: “Multiple governments have tried different ways to get bigger businesses to pay on time, including allowing them to levy interest on late invoices, and the much-delayed creation of a small business commissioner role.”
· DS SMITH, the paper, packaging and recycling group, had one of the worst records. Its recycling arm took 113 days on average to pay suppliers. It could not be reached for comment.
· WATERSTONES, the bookseller, took an average of 69 days.
· Football clubs were among the quickest to settle. Liverpool managed an average of 27 days, beating Arsenal’s 35.
· Law firms varied widely. … CLIFFORD CHANCE EUROPE took 73 days. Its London arm averaged 28 days.
· Some businesses had standard payments terms of 120 days, including CONVIVIALITY, owner of the Bargain Booze and Wine Rack chains, which averaged 56 days.
Companies have until January or April to publish the data. SMEs are owed £14bn at any one time, according to the government.
4 FINTECH SECTORS
Fintech Brexit sectoral analysis report: Four things revealed by government papers | Lynsey Barber, City A.M. December 21, 2017
The government published the sectoral analysis papers for more than 50 sectors in relation to Brexit - including fintech. Here's what we garnered from reading the fintech sector report.
1. IT'S NOT PART OF FINANCIAL SERVICES
They clarify that it is "not a sub-sector of financial services in the traditional sense of describing a particular activity or business model within the wider financial services market. Rather, it is a label applied to firms operating across a wide range of financial services sectors, which use new technology to provide services in new ways".
2. THERE ARE FOUR MAJOR FINTECH SECTORS:
· Investment advice and neo banks;
· Back-end systems and compliance;
· Payments and technologies underpinning digital currencies; and
· Alternative finance.
3. FINTECH COMES UNDER A SERVICES TRADE DEAL CURRENTLY
Fintech is classed as a trade in services, using World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules as a starting point.
4. THERE IS NO DIRECT "FINTECH" REGULATION
Regulation of fintech comes under rules associated with their activities - eg, banking - rather than specifically as fintech, it notes. It also points towards there being no current regulation when it comes to alternative finance and digital currencies, though, the European Commission is exploring whether it's needed, while also pointing out that rules on data protection largely apply to fintech's activities.
10 OPEN BANKING STARTUPS
Open Banking: Meet 10 startups that just won cash for innovative ideas | Lynsey Barber City A.M. December 13,
Nearly a dozen startups have been chosen for a cash prize totalling £5m for their innovative ideas for making banking easier for small businesses. … 10 firms identified by experts as having significant potential when it comes to Open Banking ….which will be in with a chance of landing a further £2.5m.
1. BUD - An app that aggregates bank accounts and finances from different sources in one place.
2. CAPITALISE - A loan comparison platform.
3. COCONUT - A current account aimed at freelancers which includes tax and expense features for the self-employed.
4. CREDIT DATA RESEARCH - Behavioural models for assessing credit risk for small firms.
5. FLUIDITY - Using artificial intelligence to analyse cashflow.
6. FRACTAL LABS - An AI-powered financial assistant bot.
7. FUNDING OPTIONS - Small business lending marketplace.
8. HANDLE - Big data insights for small business.
9. IWOCA - Alternative lender.
10. TELLER - A bank account API tool
Due to come into force in the new year, the Open Banking rules have been brought in by the markets regulator and are designed to open up competition in the market, letting smaller firms take advantage of the huge amounts of data held by banks.
As part of that, a competition focused on getting startups to design new products and services for small businesses was launched by NESTA. Each of the startups will receive 100k to develop their ideas further. ….Nesta's challenge prize leader Chris Gorst.
FRANCE: REVERSE BRAIN DRAIN
Macron sparks return of ‘Les Pigeons’ | Harriet Agnew in Paris, FT. December 13, 2017
US scientist and inventor Professor Newton Howard - the chief scientist at ni20, which is working on the next generation of brain prosthetics - is typical of a growing number of scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers and financiers who are moving or returning to France… Some of them are French nationals living abroad, while others are foreigners. Collectively, they represent tentative signs that a multiyear brain drain from France may have reached a turning point.
… the French national statistics bureau estimated in 2016 that about 3m people who were born in France now live abroad. Under Socialist president François Hollande, entrepreneurs who faced punitive taxes and stiff regulations called themselves Les Pigeons, slang for suckers. They fled France for London or Silicon Valley, drawn to a “can-do” mindset and a large pool of potential investors and customers.
However…a special fast-track tech visa, introduced by Mr Macron, has already received 1,000 applications and there have been “several hundred” more from scientists who want to move to France, says Mounir Mahjoubi, France’s minister for the digital economy.
So far in 2017, France is, for the first time, raising more venture capital than the UK. After the first eight months of the year, France had raised €2.7bn of venture capital, compared with €2.3bn for the UK and €1.1bn in Germany, according to Dealroom, a European venture capital database.
More than one in two US investors plan to recruit new employees in France in the next few years, compared with one in five in 2016, according to a recent report by consultants BAIN and the AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE in France. THE FAMILY, a platform for entrepreneurs that is at the heart of the French start-up scene, says that since Mr Macron was elected, it has received weekly requests about job opportunities in France.
“French tech was already gaining ground before the macro situation changed,” says Rand Hindi, whose start-up SNIPS runs an artificial intelligence-powered voice assistant that can be added to different devices. He cites the 2012 creation of BPIFRANCE, a public investment bank that has poured money into French start-ups, as well as STATION F, a giant campus for new companies funded by billionaire entrepreneur Xavier Niel. Snips, which originally planned to hire 20 people in New York and 30 in Paris, has hired 46 in the French capital and only three in the US.
Olivier Bonnet, a Frenchman who returned to Paris this summer to join ride-sharing platform BLABLACAR as vice-president of engineering, after 13 years at Apple in California. “There is a first generation of successful tech companies that is giving self-confidence to France as a start-up nation.”
Jean Meyer launched ONCE, a dating app, in London in 2015. …but after the vote for Brexit, it became almost impossible to hire such staff in London, so Mr Meyer moved back.
Solomon Hykes set up an IT infrastructure business, now called DOCKER, in 2008 from his mother’s basement in Paris. After securing an investment from YCOMBINATOR, a prominent Silicon Valley seed investor, Mr Hykes moved to San Francisco at the end of 2010 and built up the company into a unicorn (a privately held company worth over a billion dollars). But a year ago Mr Hykes changed his mind on France, partly because of its strong engineering talent. “It would be extremely hard to grow Docker only by hiring engineers out of Silicon Valley. They’re just not affordable. In France there’s an expertise that is hard to find at any cost in Silicon Valley,” he says.
UK STARTUP SUCCESSES
The UK ranks top of all major developed economies for establishing new businesses | Lucy White City A.M. December 11, 2017
The UK outranked all other major developed economies in terms of the number of businesses established last year, according to figures from accounting group UHY HACKER YOUNG. It became home to 218,000 more businesses in 2016, a rise of six per cent over year-on-year. The UK ranked sixth of the 21 countries studied by UHY, behind China, Pakistan, Vietnam, Malta and India. Across all the 21 countries, there was a 7.7 per cent rise in established businesses.
Meanwhile, other major developed economies including France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US saw an average two per cent rise in number of businesses over the year. The US in 13th place, with a 2.1 per cent rise to 11m.
UHY credited alternative funding sources, such as crowdfunding and peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, with helping to boost the entrepreneurial environment. The Conservative plan to lower corporation tax to 17 per cent by 2020 may also be helping to attract firms to the UK.
While the UK had a total of 3.9m businesses within its borders as of the end of 2016, China – which saw a massive increase of 19 per cent – had 26.1m.
These are the UK's 100 fastest-growing startups: Transferwise and Deliveroo top the list | Lucy White, City A.M December 7, 2017
Investment platform SYNDICATEROOM has today revealed the UK businesses which grew most rapidly in terms of value between 2014 and 2017. With some well-known names on the list, the impressive 100 companies span 12 different sectors, employ around 10,200 people and generate more than £600m in revenue. Yet a major gender gap is present, with only seven female founders finding their businesses on the list.
London can boast with renewed vigour of its startup credentials today, as new research has revealed that the capital is home to 71 of the UK's 100 fastest-growing startups.
COMPANY / Multiple by which its value has grown / What it does:
1. TRANSFERWISE - 57x - Peer-to-peer money transfer
2. DELIVEROO - 56x - Takeaway delivery
3. THE CULTURE TRIP - 36x - Online travel guide
4. DIGITAL SHADOWS - 31x - Cybersecurity software
5. SONOVATE - 30x - Finance and back office outsourcing for contract recruitment agencies
6. HILIGHT SEMICONDUCTOR - 21x - Chips for high speed fibre optics-based communications
7. SWOON EDITIONS - 19x - Online furniture store
8. EDIXOMED - 18x - Nitric oxide-based healthcare technology
9. CREDIT BENCHMARK - 17x - Financial data analytics
10. KANO - 16x - Computer and coding kits
Forget Goldman Sachs and Bitcoin, I’d rather start my own business | Peter Evans, The Sunday Times. December 3 2017
A survey last year by Phoenix University found that 55% of under-30s wanted to leave their jobs to start a business. Angel investors and venture capital firms say they are seeing a steady rise in founders who offer a glittering CV as a reason to back their businesses.
After studying at the universities of Zurich, Harvard and Oxford, Alessandra Sollberger, 29, worked for Goldman Sachs and the private equity giant Blackstone. … founded her own business, EVERMORE HEALTH, in Shoreditch, east London, last year. The company, which designs bespoke nutritional supplements, has raised £500,000 from angel investors.
Sometimes the transition from corporate to start-up works. Many of the UK’s fastest-growing tech companies, including the takeaway app DELIVEROO and peer-to-peer lender FUNDING CIRCLE, were started by former City high-flyers. The digital bank REVOLUT, which raised $66m (£48.9m) this year, was co-founded by a former Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse trader, Nikolay Storonsky. Understanding finance and technology clearly has some advantages.
Yet a career at a multinational is no guarantee of success, and some of those leaving corporate life do so for the wrong reasons. They may think they are heading for a more carefree life, but investors are on alert to spot these “lifestyle businesses”. “Those who think working in an early-stage business provides a better, well- balanced lifestyle will go through a steep learning curve or return to corporate life,” said Alex Macpherson of OCTOPUS VENTURES, which has backed the mattress maker EVE SLEEP and upscale travel agent SECRET ESCAPES.
An increasing number of entrepreneurs are testing the waters before taking the plunge to work full-time on a start-up. Just over 20% of founders hold down a job while working on a new venture at home, according to a survey last year by the small business network ENTERPRISE NATION.
Some founders thrive when released from the corporate shackles. David Levine, 40, quit his high-ranking post at Vodafone four years ago to start DIGITALBRIDGE, which uses virtual reality to help suppliers sell home decor and furniture.The Manchester business won £100,000 backing from John Lewis last year after taking part in the retailer’s JLab accelerator programme. Levine will hire 10 more staff in the new year and has plans to take the technology o America.
Shine taken off UK stockbroker’s rapid rise after several flotations struggle | Hannah Murphy, FT. December 10, 2017
UK stockbroker ZEUS CAPITAL is facing increased scrutiny after several corporate clients have suffered high-profile controversies in recent months, taking the shine off its rapid rise to prominence.
The broker was launched in Manchester in 2003 …..opened a London office with a new team in 2012. Zeus has occupied either the first or second spot in the bookrunner rankings on London’s junior Aim by deal value since 2013, according to data compiled for the Financial Times by Dealogic. It ranked 17 in 2012.
This year, the 70-strong broker has raised £351.2m from Aim flotations, a 14 per cent share of the total deal value across the junior market, coming in second to London-based CENKOS SECURITIES. Its prize client, online retailer BOOHOO.COM, is trading up around 250 per cent since its £300m initial public offering in 2014, while shares in kettle safety controls maker STRIX GROUP have risen 37 per cent since August.
….this year the broker has attracted attention after a number of companies it brought to market have encountered difficulties:
· Toilet roll maker ACCROL was temporarily suspended from trading after it downgraded earnings, and ….resumed trading in November, announcing an £18m fundraising, but its share price fell more than 60 per cent.
· logistics group DX has suffered a profit warning, legal action by its drivers and a police probe.
· Another client since 2014, home improvement business ENTU, suspended trading and went into administration in August
· GYG, a superyacht maintenance company it helped float this July, issued a profit warning a fortnight ago.
The UK’s broking sector more broadly has struggled with tough market conditions, including a fairly subdued IPO market — linked in part to Brexit-related uncertainty — and forthcoming European regulations that could squeeze revenues. Zeus’s pre-tax profits fell 67 per cent to £2m, from £6.1m the previous year, according to filings this week with Companies House. The group cited Brexit worries among corporates and did not pay a dividend to directors, while in 2016 it paid out £9.3m.
GOVERNMENT: TECH NATION + DCMS
Tech City wants to spread its wings, but doesn’t want to be told what to do by London | Peter Evans, The Sunday Times. December 10, 2017
Theresa May hosted a Downing Street reception for the bright lights of the tech sector last month. She told luminaries including lastminute.com co-founder Brent Hoberman and Sherry Coutu, who chairs the ScaleUp Institute, that a “thriving tech sector” was central to the country’s future prosperity.
The event’s showpiece announcement was £21m of extra funding for Tech City UK, the semi-public body set up in London by David Cameron in 2010 to promote digital start-ups. The funding boost will see Tech City UK rebranded as TECH NATION from next year, with a remit to create a countrywide network of 11 tech clusters based in towns and cities such as Belfast, Reading and Leeds. The aim is to attract attention — and funding — to the regions, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
….it was announced that TECH NORTH — a sister project to Tech City with a focus on digital businesses in northern England — would be subsumed into the new organisation. For some, the conclusion was inescapable: far from creating a national network, the new funding would further centralise power in the capital.
Since Tech North was set up in 2014, it has been dogged by suggestions that London would not let it make its own decisions. …..when it was launched, it was structured as a subsidiary. Claire Braithwaite, formerly chief operating officer and head of finance at the social enterprise investment bank ClearlySo, was appointed chief executive and resigned after barely nine months. It is understood she objected to the centralised control.
There have been other hiccups for Tech North. Plans to create a £30m co- investment fund, uniting government and private finance, have not come to fruition. It was hoped the chancellor would announce money for the project in the latest budget, but it did not happen.
….within days (of the announcement), Herb Kim, chairman of its advisory board, a northeast entrepreneur, announced he was standing down. Last week, Richard Gregory, director of Tech North Gregory told The Sunday Times he would go part-time when Tech North becomes Tech Nation in April, and will look for roles in the private sector.
Some believe TECH CITY has been at the forefront of the UK’s tech explosion, which has seen the birth of success stories such as online retailer ASOS and flight comparison site SKYSCANNER. London attracted £13.8bn of digital tech investment between 2012 and 2016, according to a report by Tech City, more than triple that of Paris, the nearest European rival.
An alternative view is that Tech City claims credit while doing very little. It does not invest, nor even provide workspace for promising start-ups. It does carry out research, host events and provide mentoring. Since its inception, it has moved headquarters several times between the shared workspaces of Old Street and Shoreditch, on the City fringe. Before last month’s announcement, it received just £2.1m last year from the government.
The Tech City consolidation comes at a critical time for the industry. Failure to make use of talent across the UK could have disastrous long-term consequences. Politicians in France and Germany see the chance to attract tech companies from the UK after Brexit and are investing heavily in building clusters. In the summer, President Emmanuel Macron opened STATION F in Paris, said to be the world’s biggest start-up campus.
Tech City’s new structure is being seen as a litmus test for an organisation that has divided opinion. It has received millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, but is yet to prove its worth as anything more than an effective lobby group for London’s tech community. Will the rebranding deliver a boost to the regions — and value for money?
Small Business Saturday: Celebrating the firms that make our country thrive | City A.M.'s opinion pages - Matthew Hancock, Minister of state for digital*. December 1, 2017
Some 75 businesses are started every minute in the UK. Small businesses …From the oldest traditional manufacturer to the newest tech startup… generate a combined annual turnover of £1.8 trillion.
Our goal is to make the UK the best place in the world to start and run a digital business, be it large or small. Every day millions of small business owners make an invaluable contribution to the UK economy.
Tomorrow is the fifth Small Business Saturday. In the past five years, the number of digital tech businesses has swelled by 28 per cent, with growth more than twice as fast as their non-digital equivalents.
We are increasing the amount central government spends with small business. Central government contracts above £10,000 are openly advertised on the government’s procurement website, CONTRACTS FINDER, and by 2022 the government will spend £1 in every £3 on goods and services with SMEs.
Our digital strategy, published early this year, is designed to get the conditions right for these businesses to grow, from infrastructure to skills training. Its requirements are being met via a whole range of initiatives, such as TECH NATION, the DIGITAL SKILLS PARTNERSHIP, and the TECH TALENT VISA.
More than four million free digital skills training opportunities will be created as part of our landmark strategy. We are always keen to hear from the business community on what their needs are.
As a consequence, we are continually developing and adding new measures, in partnership with industry. Recently we launched a pilot scheme whereby local companies will be offered vouchers by broadband suppliers to pay for gold-standard full-fibre connections. This should help revolutionise our digital infrastructure, and make it fighting fit for the future.
* Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, elected in 2010. Since July 2016 he has served at the DEPARTMENT FOR CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT (DCMS) as Minister of State for Digital and is responsible for broadband, broadcasting, creative industries, cyber and the tech industry.
EU ePRIVACY CRITIQUE
ePrivacy: a fatal blow to the diversity of information in Europe? | City A.M. opinion pages: Pierre Chappaz, executive chairman at Teads.tv December 8, 2017
…. the EU’s planned “ePrivacy” regulatory package. Expected to come into force in May 2018, the draft is currently being discussed by the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament.
“What you see” are the project’s perfectly respectable intentions. It aims to protect the data related to internet users’ browsing histories. Currently, people give their consent for each website they visit to install cookies – those small bits of code specialized in saving browsing data. The new regulation would require internet users to authorize cookies only once, when they first connect to their browser. It’s a lot simpler. As the default choice is to refuse, it is likely that few people will make the opposite choice. ePrivacy, if its current version is approved, would lead to the near disappearance of cookies in the EU.
“What you don’t see” is this change’s impact on the Internet economy and the diversity of information. Indeed, this directive’s implementation would involve an unprecedented and decisive advantage in terms of personal data collection for the celebrated GAFA – Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. Secondly, we’ll see a – perhaps fatal – blow to the diversity of information. Indeed, blocking the media’s cookies (and therefore its ability to deliver targeted advertising) would destroy its business model.
GAFA, the true beneficiaries of ePrivacy. To use services such as Facebook, Apple, Gmail or Amazon, you must sign up, provide your details, then accept the rules and conditions – which include authorizing the collection and mining of personal data. These services don’t need cookies, so they’re not affected by ePrivacy.
Google, Facebook and Amazon would therefore be Europe’s only online players able to massively collect personal data and mine it for advertising purposes.
The media’s business model relies to a great extent on targeted advertising, displayed by specialized agencies such as the one I run. By doing away with cookies, you are inevitably reducing the online advertising market to the players that collect data without relying on cookies. The economics and financing of the media is at serious risk.
In the age of fake news, the existence of independent, influential, reliable and economically viable media should be a priority for the EU. The ePrivacy project goes exactly in the opposite direction. It would reserve access to diversified and professional information to paying subscribers, leaving the open Internet under the complete domination of the US-based giants.
Let us hope that the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament will see everything that you don’t see. And that they will stand by the European media to build a free and diversified Internet.
FUNDING: IGF + EPISODE 1
British Business Bank steps up funding to small businesses with £30m committed to asset-backed lending | Lucy White City A.M. December 4, 2017
BRITISH BUSINESS INVESTMENTS (BBI), the commercial arm of the state-owned BRITISH BUSINESS BANK (BBB), has committed £30m to asset-backed lending in an effort to shore up small business funding as Brexit approaches. The commitment from BBI follows chancellor Philip Hammond's announcement that a new BBB fund would be established, seeded with £2bn of public money, to help scale up UK businesses. BBI chief executive - Catherine Lewis La Torre.
The new funding will be provided through INDEPENDENT GROWTH FINANCE (IGF), a firm which makes loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) secured against assets they already own such as property, equipment and inventory goods. In the 12 months up to September, IGF had provided £53m to UK businesses – a 180 per cent increase year-on-year. IGF chief executive - John Onslow.
Carwow backer Episode 1 revs up with new £60m venture capital fund | Lucy White, City A.M. December 1, 2017
EPISODE 1, the software-focused venture capital firm, has launched a new £60m fund to seed UK entrepreneur-led companies. The Enterprise Capital Fund is 60 per cent larger that Episode 1's first, and received investment from the likes of the BRITISH BUSINESS BANK and later-stage venture capital firm DRAPER ESPRIT.
Simon Murdoch, former Amazon UK chief executive and Episode 1 managing partner, himself has invested in businesses which have since become household names, including ZOOPLA and LOVEFILM. Episode 1's first fund will be hoping to recreate this success, with portfolio companies including vehicle retailing platform CARWOW and biometric recognition company AIMBRAIN.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be particular areas of interest for the fund, along with blockchain – although Murdoch is less keen on the bitcoin currency which is its most famous application.
Meanwhile SYNDICATEROOM, a platform which matches startups seeking investment with its high-net-worth members, has launched a new Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) fund. The fund will invest in select best-performing companies in SyndicateRoom's portfolio, allowing high-net-worth investors access to Series A and B funding rounds usually reserved for institutions.
TAX, ACCOUNTS & PRODUCTIVITY
From Xero to Hero: Gary Turner has his head in the cloud | Elliott Haworth, City A.M December, 4, 2017
A recent survey from tax consultancy Accounts and Legal … found nearly a quarter of small businesses in the UK are sacrificing higher rates of growth and productivity by running their internal accounts through outmoded systems. Out of 10,000 surveyed, some 22 per cent chose paper over something as basic as Excel, or accounting software.
Gary Turner, co-founder and managing director of XERO - Accounts software - is confident that his firm’s platform can go some way to addressing the UK’s flagging productivity by helping the little guys – the UK’s SME sector. “Small businesses and startups generally have really bad systems and processes,” says Turner. “They’re on spreadsheets and scribbled notes, and they kind of lose track of things.” By freeing up time shuffling bits of paper around, it allows firms to carry out higher value work, which seems obvious, but says Turner, is a product of a dearth of digital skills among smaller businesses.
“The survival rate – if you look at the Office for National Statistics – out of 100 business startups today, only 40 of them will still be here in five years. And we look at the longevity of businesses using Xero, and 88 per cent are still here five years later. Obviously we cannot claim causality there. But I’m happy with correlation.”
The coming years will be tough for UK businesses – Turner describes the “perfect storm” of approaching legislation threatening small firms. MAKING TAX DIGITAL is just one of the myriad of incentives and regulations small businesses have to worry about. The idea is to abolish paper, as HMRC catches up with the digital age. Rather than filling in reams of forms annually, “like the sixties,” paying your tax will be an ongoing event.