20 VC 017 Nektarios Liolios of Startupbootcamp on Fintech, Pitching and London's Tech Scene

Summary Notes


In this episode of the 20 Minutes VC, host Harry Stebings interviews Nectarios Leolios, co-founder and managing director of Startup Bootcamp Fintech. Nectarios shares insights from his transition from the corporate world to the fintech accelerator space, emphasizing the importance of a solid team, coachability, and a unique product for startups seeking to join accelerators. He stresses the distinctiveness of Startup Bootcamp Fintech's model, which serves both startups and corporate clients without direct funding, relying instead on a network of investors. The conversation also touches on the competitive nature of the London tech landscape, the selection process for accelerators, and the future of blockchain technology over cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Nectarios offers advice on crafting effective pitches and the necessity of research, while also discussing the excitement of working with innovative startups and the dynamic nature of his role.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Nectarios Liolios and Startup Bootcamp Fintech

  • Nectarios Liolios is the cofounder and managing director of Startup Bootcamp Fintech.
  • Startup Bootcamp Fintech is a leading innovation program in the financial industry based in London.
  • The program provides access to a global network of investors and VCs for fintech startups.
  • Nectarios has over 15 years of experience in the business, with the last three at Inner Tribe Swift.
  • Inner Tribe Swift is an initiative for collaborative innovation in the financial industry.

"He is cofounder and managing director of startup Boot Camp Fintech, the leading innovation program in the financial industry in the heart of London, providing access to a global network of investors and vcs for up to ten lucky startup in the fintech space."

This quote introduces Nectarios Liolios and the role of Startup Bootcamp Fintech in the industry, highlighting its significance in providing opportunities for fintech startups.

Nectarios Liolios' Background and Transition into Accelerators

  • Nectarios does not have a traditional background in financial services, technology, or entrepreneurship.
  • He studied political science, media, sociology, and French at university.
  • Nectarios' entry into the financial industry was through a central securities depository in London in the late 1990s.
  • He worked with Swift, a network used by banks for transactions, and was involved in the Inner Tribe initiative post-2008 crisis.
  • Inner Tribe aimed to bring innovation to the financial industry and educate members about necessary changes.
  • Nectarios managed the Inner Tribe Startup Challenge, a global competition connecting bankers with fintech startups.
  • In 2013, he transitioned to supporting startups directly through Startup Bootcamp Fintech.

"I have no background in financial services, technology or entrepreneurship... I ended up working for a central securities depository here in London in the late ninety s... And within Swift, after the crisis in 2008, some of my colleagues there founded something called Inner Tribe."

This quote describes Nectarios' unconventional path into the financial industry and his involvement with Swift and Inner Tribe, which ultimately led him to the accelerator world.

The Role and Function of Startup Bootcamp Fintech

  • Startup Bootcamp Fintech is an accelerator within a larger innovation program for large corporates, especially banks.
  • It serves as a tool for banks to access innovation, observe trends, and collaborate with startups.
  • For startups, it offers the chance to quickly find customers and conduct experiments, proofs of concept, and pilots with larger organizations.
  • Unlike traditional VCs, Startup Bootcamp Fintech does not directly fund startups or have an investment fund.
  • The program connects selected startups with a network of angel investors and VCs to help them get funded.
  • A demo day is held at the end of the program for startups to showcase their products to potential investors.

"Startup bootcamp fintech specifically... is an accelerator at the core of something bigger, which is ultimately an innovation program for large corporates, for the banks... we don't fund startups ourselves, we don't have a fund behind, we don't put any money into the startups."

This quote explains the dual function of Startup Bootcamp Fintech as an accelerator and an innovation program, its relationship with banks and startups, and its role in facilitating funding through its network rather than direct investment.

Demo Day Format

  • The fintech program in London experimented with a new demo day format.
  • Startups did not pitch on stage to a large audience but had mini stages.
  • Each startup pitched five times consecutively to groups of 20-30 people.
  • Investors had to choose five out of ten startups to engage with in this intimate setting.

We actually didn't have the startups pitch on stage. We had for each startup a mini stage where they had to pitch five times consecutively and the investors in the room had to pick five out of the ten startups that they really wanted to talk to.

This quote explains the unique approach taken during the fintech program's demo day in London, emphasizing the more personalized and repeated pitching process to smaller groups of investors.

Elements of a Good Pitch

  • Natural presenting skills do not guarantee a good pitch.
  • Essential components include a solid product, a clear reason for the venture, and realistic goals.
  • Founders must know their metrics, be focused, and convey excitement about their vision and team.
  • It's important to balance ambition with realistic expectations for what can be achieved and when.

You need to have a solid product, you need to have a reason why you're doing this, and you need to be convincing, you need to be able also to show during the pitch that you know your metrics, you know where you're heading with this.

This quote highlights the critical factors of a successful pitch, emphasizing the importance of product viability, clear purpose, and knowledge of business metrics.

Startup Bootcamp Fintech Selection Process

  • The selection process involves pitch days across the globe and proactive startup hunting.
  • Startup Bootcamp Fintech requires a decent team, a viable idea, sector understanding, and some form of a prototype or MVP.
  • They operate in various locations, including the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
  • The selection process goes beyond online applications, emphasizing face-to-face engagement.

We run pitch days in all locations where we know that there's fintech activity... Another thing we do is we actually hunt startups... We need to have a prototype or an mvp of sorts.

This quote describes the multifaceted approach to selecting startups for the accelerator, detailing the criteria and the global scope of their search for promising fintech ventures.

Preference for Founding Teams

  • Startup Bootcamp Fintech does not accept single founders.
  • They look for teams with at least three diverse profiles, including product knowledge, sales, and technology expertise.
  • Even if two founders are accepted, there is an expectation for the team to grow.

We need a team. And a team ideally should have at least three different profiles.

This quote explains the accelerator's preference for founding teams with a diverse set of skills, reflecting the belief in the strength of a multifaceted team.

Common Reasons for Rejection

  • Incomplete or non-existent teams, especially single founders, often lead to rejection.
  • Lack of humility and coachability in founders is a significant factor.
  • Founders must balance confidence with openness to feedback from mentors, accelerators, advisors, and investors.
  • Sometimes, the product may not be sufficiently developed or innovative.

One of them is that the team is not complete or not existent... We also need to have an element of humility... Maybe a third one would be that very often what we see is a product that it's already b.

This quote outlines the most common reasons startups are rejected from the accelerator, highlighting issues with team composition, attitude, and product development.

Unique Ideas and Research

  • Many people believe they have unique ideas, but often these ideas have been built elsewhere.
  • A strong team can pivot and turn a non-unique situation around.
  • A weak team can be a dealbreaker, leading to rejection from investors or accelerators.

"So people don't do the research, think they've come up with something unique, and in the end it's not that unique. A good team can turn this around, but if the team's weak, then we have to say no."

This quote emphasizes the importance of conducting thorough research to ensure that a business idea is truly unique. It also highlights the significance of having a strong team that can adapt and overcome challenges, as opposed to a weak team which could lead to missed opportunities.

Building a Complete Team

  • Networking is crucial for finding the right team members.
  • Attending meetups and conferences within the relevant industry can help.
  • Being open to serendipity and luck plays a role in team formation.
  • Proactive exposure to networking opportunities increases the chances of finding the right people.

"Do everything and anything, go out, go to meetups, go to conferences that are relevant for the industry you operate in. Also, just expose yourself to the possibility of, I don't know, serendipitous moments are important."

This quote suggests that actively seeking out networking opportunities is essential for finding the right team members. It also acknowledges the role of luck and serendipity, which can be facilitated by putting oneself in the right environments.

Preparing for Pitch Day

  • Research on what makes a good pitch is often overlooked by startups.
  • Key elements of a pitch must be included and tailored to the audience.
  • Rehearsing pitches and understanding the audience (investors, competition, accelerator) is critical.
  • Concluding a pitch with a clear ask or reason for selection is a common omission but is very important.

"First of all, there's a lot of research on what constitutes a good pitch? And people don't do that. There's YouTube clips, there's advice as blog posts."

This quote points out the abundance of resources available on how to craft a good pitch, and the fact that many startups fail to utilize these resources to their advantage.

Resources for Crafting a Perfect Pitch

  • There are many online resources, including YouTube clips and blog posts, on creating the perfect pitch.
  • 500 Startups has a notable write-up on pitching.
  • Startups often don't take advantage of the readily available information on pitching.

"Well, 500 startups have got a very good write up that's probably about three or four years ago. But seriously, it's as simple as googling perfect pitch."

This quote provides a specific resource for learning about pitching and also emphasizes the ease of finding such information online. It highlights the importance of doing simple research to improve one's pitch.

Excitement About Technology Markets

  • Internet of Things (IoT) and its applications in smarter cities and living are of particular interest.
  • Cross-industry applications of technology, such as blockchain in government and insurance, are exciting developments.
  • The trend of technology transfer between industries is an area of enthusiasm.

"I think anything that will go into the level of small data, not just big data devices talking to each other, a lot of things that will automate various aspects of our lives are very exciting."

This quote reflects the speaker's excitement about the future of technology, specifically the potential for IoT to enhance automation and efficiency in daily life.

Future of Bitcoin

  • Discussion about the future of bitcoin should differentiate between the cryptocurrency and the underlying blockchain technology.
  • Blockchain is seen as the key technological advancement.
  • The focus should be on blockchain's potential rather than the sensationalism surrounding cryptocurrencies.

"My thoughts are that we should separate the discussion to some extent between the currencies and the underlying technology."

This quote emphasizes the need to distinguish between the hype of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and the substantive technological innovation of blockchain, which has broader implications.

Qualities of a Favorite Entrepreneur

  • A favorite entrepreneur is defined not by their identity but by their qualities.
  • Vision, willingness to listen, drive, and resilience against criticism are key traits.
  • The entrepreneur's commitment to pursuing their goals despite personal sacrifices is admired.

"My favorite entrepreneur is not a specific person, but somebody with a vision, somebody who listens, somebody who has the drive to give up some of the comforts of his life just because, or her life just because they want to do something great and is not deterred by the naysayers and the people who think he will not succeed."

This quote describes the ideal entrepreneur as someone who possesses a clear vision, the ability to listen, and the determination to succeed despite challenges and sacrifices. It underscores that success is not solely about who you are, but about the qualities and mindset you bring to your endeavors.

Career Satisfaction and Professional Highlights

  • Nectarios Liolios expresses high regard for individuals who sacrifice to pursue their dreams.
  • He finds his happiest professional moment since joining Startup Bootcamp, due to the contrast with his previous 18-year corporate experience.
  • The excitement, inspiration, and immediate satisfaction from working with entrepreneurs and operating in a startup environment are key to his fulfillment.

But I have a lot of respect for people who give up stuff just because they want to follow their dream. That's since I've joined startup boot camp.

These quotes highlight Nectarios' admiration for entrepreneurial spirit and his personal satisfaction in his current role, which contrasts with his past corporate life.

A Day in the Life at Startup Bootcamp

  • Nectarios describes the unpredictability and impactfulness of his role as MD at Startup Bootcamp.
  • He contrasts the quick decision-making in a startup with the slow corporate process.
  • His days are varied, managing different layers such as corporate partners, investors, mentors, and startups.
  • The work is cyclical, with different quarters focusing on recruitment, selection, and hands-on work with startups.

I don't really know how many decisions I will have taken by the end of the day. The other thing that's exciting is that running a program like ours runs on multiple layers.

These quotes reflect the dynamic and multi-faceted nature of Nectarios' role at Startup Bootcamp, emphasizing the contrast with his previous corporate experiences.

Working with Startups and the Selection Process

  • Nectarios enjoys the intensity of working with startups, describing the need for a balance between firm guidance and being inspired by their creativity.
  • He recalls the highlight of the selection weekend, where the final ten startups are chosen for the program.
  • The selection process is described as intense and magical, indicating a high level of engagement and excitement.

Working with the startups is very full on, so it has its highs and it has its lows. ...one of the highlights was actually the selection weekend...

These quotes convey the emotional investment and the rewarding experience of engaging with startups during different phases, especially the selection process.

Investment Perspectives and Startup Potential

  • Nectarios has been cautious with personal investments since the dot-com crash in 2000.
  • He acknowledges the potential in some of the startups from the program, mentioning InvestUp as a company with promise.
  • He likens his impartiality towards the startups in the program to a parent's non-favoritism among children.

Personally, actually I haven't invested in a company since I burnt my fingers in the.com area era in 2000. ...there's been a few teams that I would actually consider putting my own money in.

These quotes reflect Nectarios' cautious approach to investment due to past experiences, yet he recognizes the potential in the startups he works with, suggesting a belief in their future success.

Show Closure and Resources

  • Harry Stebbings thanks Nectarios for his participation and expresses a desire to have him on the show again.
  • Harry directs listeners to the show's website for resources and encourages suggestions for future questions and guests.

Well, Nick Taurus, thank you so much for coming on the show. ...do head on over to www.thetwentyminutevc.com...

Harry's quotes serve as a polite conclusion to the interview, offering gratitude to Nectarios and providing listeners with information on where to find additional content related to the show.

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