Why I’m a Fintech entrepreneur

I’m a serial entrepreneur who believes in leveraging my many years at a senior level in IT into new opportunities as they arise. I have designed a VOIP system that led the vanguard in this field, developed a Global SIM solution on a travel platform and created a unique platform for online advertising using a ‘One Click Solution’. I’ve also worked on mobile/web apps based on proximity and geofencing.

With my extensive IT experience, it seemed logical to me, as well as exciting, to move into Fintech, particularly the development of new platforms based on the blockchain. This is the field that really inspires me, because I see so much potential in the whole world of the blockchain technology.

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What is Fintech?

Some people still aren’t sure what Fintech is when I talk about it. I define it as the segment of the technology startup scene that is disrupting sectors such as mobile payments, money transfers, loans, fundraising and even asset management. It’s a growing business: a recent report by Accenture found that “global investment in Fintech has skyrocketed from $930 million back in 2008 to over $12 billion by the beginning of 2015.” And, in terms of regions where Fintech has made the most gains, Europe is leading the way, according to Accenture.

As I said, my special area of interest is in the blockchain and how that can disrupt specific financial areas, such as money transfer, personal loans and fundraising for business startups.

Crowdsourcing and fundraising for startups

For example, Initial Coin Offerings, or ICOs as they are usually called, have made it possible for new businesses and some well-established entrepreneurs as well to raise the funds to take a product to market within a matter of weeks, or minutes in some cases. These ICOs use a combination of crowdsourcing (or some call them crowdsales) and the blockchain technology to raise the money. In the past it typically took months of presentations to venture capitalists and banks before funds were available to take a business forward – now an ICO cuts through all that red tape and the investors in the ICO, which can be anyone, not just accredited investors, can make a return on their investment. You could say that ICOs bring power to the people and allow everyone an opportunity to get involved in investing.

Fintech offers efficiency and lower costs

Fintech also allows businesses to work in more efficient and less costly ways. The major banks are slowly, but surely realising that blockchain products like Ethereum and Ripple can enable them to work faster and smarter and reduce costs. Ripple, for example, has been designed to replace the bank Swift system for international transfers. Instead of it taking days to send money from one country to another, it can happen in minutes.

The Ethereum platform

Ethereum is also of particular interest to a wide range of businesses because its platform includes a ‘smart contract’. Unlike a ‘physical’ contract, the smart contract is programmed in a way that removes any chance of fraud or third-party interference. Its role will become even more prominent as new startups begin to demonstrate the agility of using the Ethereum platform in a traditional market.

What’s next?

Right now I’m working on a project that taps right into a market that has been in existence every since man created money as an exchange for goods. The blockchain is undoubtedly the next step for this particular market, and as an entrepreneur with the right background to understand the technology, I simply had to get into Fintech. I’ll be writing more about this entire field over the coming weeks, so stay tuned to discover more about it and my specific project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business Etiquette Around the World: Brazil

In my experience, Brazil is a very exciting country to do business in. It’s a country on the move and an important member of the BRIC emerging economies. It has a promising future and that is a green light for entrepreneurs like me. It also has an amazing culture, which makes doing business there equal parts pleasure and work. However, if you’re planning on putting Brazil on your business map, I’d suggest you learn about its business culture and etiquette before you set foot in the country, which is why I’m sharing some lessons I learnt from my own Brazil experiences.

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The art of small talk

First of all, Brazilians are a very friendly people and they like to build friendships alongside any business relationship. Politeness is very important to them; rudeness will get you the cold shoulder. They like to negotiate with people rather than a company, therefore it is vital that you accept that social small talk will play a part in any discussions. Favourite topics for small talk are family, football and music. Learn something about samba, Brazil’s important musicians, and of course its legendary footballers before you arrive. Topics to steer clear of are poverty, politics and Argentina. The latter is considered a trading rival.

It can be hard for entrepreneurs from cultures where getting down to business straight away is the accepted etiquette to get the hang of making small talk, but it will pay huge dividends if you do. Always make good eye contact with the person you are talking to and accept that there may be a lot of touching of your arms and backs during discussions; Brazilians like to be physically close to the person they are talking to. Also, be aware of non-verbal signals; slapping the back of the hand against the palm means they are not interested.

Be patient

Indeed, please hide any feelings of impatience at the proceedings as Brazilians will see this as reflecting poorly on you. They admire people who show self-control, so you will score points if you appear to be relaxed with how things are going. You will also need to exercise your patience when waiting for decisions to be made; Brazilian business is very hierarchical and the highest ranking person in a company makes the final decisions. It can take a while for that to filter down to you.

Formal greetings

Formal greetings may differ from your country. It is customary to shake hands with everyone on entering and leaving a business meeting. Also, shake hands with the men and kiss women on both cheeks. If possible, learn some basic Brazilian phrases in advance.

Business entertaining

Entertaining is an important part of business culture and Brazilians are quite relaxed about it, but very fashion conscious, so dress smart and don’t wear anything considered outrageous. If you are hosting a dinner, don’t be surprised if your guests are 15 – 30 minutes late; punctuality is not a strong point, However, you should be punctual, even if you have to wait.

Enjoy the culture

Rio

And, when you are in Brazil, don’t miss the opportunity to sample its vibrant culture: go to a football match; visit Copacabana beach; enjoy the view from Sugarloaf Mountain if you’re in Rio, and if you have the opportunity to experience the greatest carnival in the world, don’t miss it.

Doing business in Brazil is hugely pleasurable if you adapt to their customs and it is a vast country with huge potential, so understanding its new business culture is very much worth your while.

I hope you enjoyed this and found it useful. Please subscribe to my blog if you’d like to receive an alert when I post new content.

 

London – a home for entrepreneurs and entertainment

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London is the world’s leading financial centre and has been for some time. A 2017 global study by Z/Yen of the world’s finance cities shows that London still holds the top spot despite the uncertainty about the future after the ‘Brexit’ vote to leave the European Union. In response to the findings of the report, which placed New York, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo behind London in the top five places, London’s deputy mayor explained why the city continues to dominate the financial world: “No other city can provide its unique environment for business success: access to the best talent from around the world, an abundance of high-quality office, co-working, start-up spaces, excellent connectivity, and an entrepreneurial and innovative environment.”

For me, his description captures the essence of London and why it attracts people from all over the world to work there. It has been able to recruit and retain the best global talent and there is a key historic reason regarding that.

Why London became a leader in finance

London got in early at the birth of modern capital markets and English Common Law was the first to impose regulations on the dangerous practice of fractional reserve banking. At the same time, the City of London boys were always looking at innovation in finance. The establishment of the Bank of England in 1694 turned the City into a financial centre and it is the place where modern banking was born, even if we have to go back a few hundred years. The development of Britain’s Empire helped it to gain great wealth and its aggressive traders and money men created an environment unmatched in other places.

Now London also has Canary Wharf annexed to the City and its financial businesses have continued to benefit from being located between America and Asia. Plus, its language is English, which is the international language of business, it has excellent centres of education and it’s in “a country with a high level of technological innovation and well-developed infrastructure, being in a country with a recent history/tradition of liberal economics and being in a country where the Law is strong and corruption, though ever present, doesn’t entangle business with too much risk and uncertainty,” says City analyst and writer Richard Guy.

There are also three good reasons that London will maintain its status after the UK leaves the EU. These are, says Simeon Djankov at Biznews:

  1. The pre-eminence of the British court system in upholding the rule of law, including the protection of creditor and shareholder rights.
  2. The superiority of the UK’s university education in economics and finance over its continental counterparts.
  3. The UK’s tax and employment regulation that is conducive to the industry’s health and profits.

London’s culture nurtures entrepreneurs

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I would add a fourth reason: London is extremely conducive to nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit; there is a vibe in London that anything is possible and people flock here to make their dreams happen. This is all supported by the rich culture of London: you can attend the Royal Opera House and on the way home drop into the currently fashionable ‘speakeasy’ bars opening up around Hoxton and Shoreditch, a hub of modern art and high tech start-ups. It has its West End theatres with world-class shows on the doorstep of Chinatown and Soho’s piano bars, some of which date back to the 50s when jazz became popular. Most of all, it has a kind of cosmopolitan mix that seems to spur people on to make what might seem impossible elsewhere happen. And, London has always welcomed this attitude and celebrated it, and I feel confident it will continue to deliver both a top-class service to finance and business, as well as make a major contribution to global culture.

 

 

 

 

Tips on startup cash

Tips on startup cash

As an entrepreneur I am well aware that managing your cash flow in the early days of a business startup can be challenging. Not everyone has the comfort of a generous investor who provides a safety net, and those that don’t have sufficient liquidity need to take a ‘bootstrapping’ approach. This has saved many a new business from failing before it has barely begun and in my opinion, if you can rescue your business by yourself, you will be better prepared for what lies ahead. Therefore, I have put together 8 tips about the various ways in which you can bootstrap your business.

  1. Generate cash quickly

A business model that has the potential to generate cash rapidly is most likely to succeed if you’re bootstrapping and relying on your own finances. Not all business models will do this, so from the outset look at how you can bring cash in from the start.

  1. Watch your expenditure

Open a business bank account at the first opportunity. Using your personal bank account is risky because it is harder to keep track of incoming funds and outgoings. Discipline yourself to watch where cash goes and what demands more of it and when. There are free tools available that track spending and you should be monitoring your expenditure on a daily basis.

  1. Reduce personal spending

This is just common sense. You may have your own business but that doesn’t mean you can immediately start living the high life. You don’t have a salary as such, so think very hard about every purchase and only buy what is absolutely necessary. If possible, look at other ways to save money, such as reducing your rent by sharing with a friend.

  1. Do the job yourself

It would be lovely to outsource some tasks, but this is both an unnecessary expense and one that stops you from learning more about your business.

  1. Learn a new skill

This is related to the previous tip – if you don’t know how to perform a task that is required by your business, learn it rather than ask somebody else to do it. If you need to write code but have never done it before, now is the time to acquire the skill. You’ll save money and have a new skill.

  1. Learn the art of thrift

Apart from reducing personal spending, look at ways to reduce business expenditure. Make good use of all the freebies available, such as free versions of Dropbox and other online tools. Do you really need an office or can you work from home? Choose the latter first until you actually need to pay for premises.

  1. Invest in your website and business incorporation

This is one exception to the being thrifty tip. Make sure you use a respected incorporation service, because in the long term a shoddy service may come back to haunt you. Also, buy the web domain you want from Day One and build your brand around it from the start. It won’t cost less if you wait and you’ll miss the opportunity to establish your branding.

  1. Refuse to take ‘No’ for an answer

You might find that when you are small some suppliers don’t want to work with you. It’s essential that you build a personal relationship with these people, because by doing so you are more likely to get the service at a price you can afford. Tell them your story and what you are trying to achieve – appealing to people’s emotions is all part and parcel of running a business.

I can tell you that none of this is a walk in the park as they say, but if you follow these tips, the pay-off is considerable and you’re more likely to find you have a solid, long-term business.

I hope you enjoyed this and found it useful. Please subscribe to my blog if you’d like to receive an alert when I post new content.