Global fintech funding reached $111.8 billion in 2018, a 120% increase over 2017. That is good news for startups, but the picture isn’t all rosy.
Without question, non-traditional financial service companies enjoy high growth potential. They also crash and burn at a rate much higher than startups in other sectors.
What newcomers need in this volatile market is a helping hand.
Fintech incubators and accelerators are there to provide assistance aid— if you have what it takes to meet their tight requirements.
Incubator vs. Accelerator
Incubators offer new players seed funding, help to develop a business model, provide connections with development expertise, and often a place to work.
Accelerators look for new companies that are further along in the process. Their services focus on connecting startups with investors and influencers.
The payback is usually an equity stake in the companies they nurture. Depending on the company, this may range from 0.5% to 50%. In some cases, you will not need to part with equity, just some second-round funding.
In either case, involvement can mean mentorship from qualified experts in different fields like finance, business law, and marketing. The list goes on.
Getting onboard can mean the difference between success or failure. Knowing how to get hooked up can be a challenge in itself.
Here are 10 organizations, located throughout the world, that are looking for new companies like yours.
Read on to see how to tap into one.
Top Fintech incubators and Accelerators
Y Combinator targets early-stage startups twice a year with small seed capital of $150K. Their objective is to help innovators mature their offerings to the level where larger investors will be interested.
In return for seed capital, Y Combinator gets a 7% stake in the startups they fund.
Here is a brief list of the services Y Combinator offers:
coaching innovators on how to pitch their ideas to more-established startups and investors
helping startup founders get incorporated
suggesting ways to improve the startup’s product idea
helping startups to hire their first employees
Y Combinator’s alumni network helps fledgling startups benefit from the experience of those who have already reached the market.
This incubator has helped more than 1,900 companies see the light of day.
The online application page describes the process and provides a wealth of information on what you can expect if you are accepted.
Plug and Play
Plug and Play Fintech runs a 12-week accelerator program twice a year. The goal is to connect early-growth fintechs with the world’s largest financial institutions.
The in-house venture investment team invests in more than 260 startups every year. Checks can range from $25,000 to $500,000.
Plug and Play Fintech offers the following to new startups lucky enough to be invited in:
workspace in the company’s 180,000 square foot building;
world-class mentors who are experts in their fields;
daily networking events;
exposure to 220+ of the world’s largest corporations.
All sizes of startups are welcome to apply, regardless of what development stage you are in.
With offices in NYC, Paris, Abu Dhabi, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Singapore, and China, this accelerator has the footprint to help you scale up at a national level.
An online application gets the ball rolling.
Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator
Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA) is a New York-based company that runs a four-month-long accelerator. Accepted companies receive $100,000 in seed investment, with the potential for follow-on funding later on.
To be accepted, your founders must be willing to set up shop in the Midtown office during the program.
With access to 500+ of New York’s top investors, technologists, product specialists, marketers, and other domain experts, it may be worth the plane ticket.
ERA provides startups with the following:
up to $120,000 in Azure benefits;
discounted legal services;
plus over $200,000 in additional services needed to grow your business.
An online application starts the process.
Fintech Innovation Lab
The competitive program helps startups to refine and test their value proposition. Here’s what they offer:
mentoring by leading experts;
assistance with potential deployment of proofs-of-concept;
workshops and panel discussions related to a wide range of financial industry topics;
Workspace, if your company needs it.
If accepted, you will surrender a 0.5% stake in your company.
To apply, your offering must be at least at the beta level, with an existing customer base.
MaRS helps Canadian startups to achieve their potential. Depending on where you are in your growth stage, you may fit into one of three levels of support offered by MaRS: Start, Grow, and Scale.
To be accepted in Start, you must have an existing product with early customer interest. You must also have raised the seed funding you need for product trials. If you already have a product in the market with strong demand, you may be accepted into the Grow program. If you are in a fast growth phase, you might qualify for the Scale program.
The program offers the following set of benefits:
market Intelligence reports;
grant and funding guidance;
1-to-1 expert mentorship;
The benefits available to you from the list above depends on your growth stage.
Completing the online application is your first step toward consideration.
Accelerator Centre is an award-winning Canadian fintech accelerator that offers a 2-year program to help startups optimize their growth cycle.
The milestone-based program is divided into four stages: Explore, Build, Grow, and Scale.
The Explore phase is designed to help you refine your idea and define your market. In phase two, you learn how to brand your business and discover how to utilize human resources.
When you reach the Grow phase, you will refine your business model and develop long-range plans. The last phase focuses on scaling your business model and obtaining funding.
The accelerator offers the following:
sessions with industry leaders;
access to VC funding;
office space with meeting rooms;
$400,000+ in tech company discounts.
The one-page application gets you started.
TechStars invites 300 startups per year to join its three-month program.
With a heavy emphasis on mentorship, the program provides:
3-5 mentors who will guide and inspire you to reach your goals;
preparation to help you sell your idea to investors;
training with the Managing Director to help you set and achieve milestones;
Demo Day, where you give your first presentation;
ongoing mentorship after the program ends.
Applications are accepted four times per year. If accepted, your company will receive a $100,000 convertible note.
F10 is a Zurich-based fintech incubator and accelerator that helps startups become successful companies.
With connections to SIX, the Swiss stock exchange, and leading financial institutions, F10 has a proven track record of connecting startups with international finance organizations.
The six-month-long “Prototype to Product” program takes startups from prototype to marketable product.
If accepted, you will receive the following benefits:
working space in the F10 facility;
comprehensive programs designed for your particular growth stage;
access to a global network of financial institutions and VC’s;
intense coaching by internationally renowned mentors.
ING Fintech Village
ING Fintech Village assists fintech startups with Proof of Concept testing and Proof of Value assessment.
Experienced bankers, entrepreneurs, VC’s, and industry experts are on hand to help ensure that your product is ready for market.
The program offers:
the opportunity to execute a PoC/PoV with a top tier bank;
access to top-level experts and influencers in the financial industry;
assistance with VC funding applications.
When applications are being accepted, an apply button will appear on the organization’s website.
Seedcamp is a U.K.-based VC accelerator. Founded in 2007, they offer seed funding and mentoring for new fintechs.
If accepted, you will receive your initial seed, plus help making your company a success.
Seedcamp offers the following to accepted startups:
access to a global network of industry experts;
collaboration with a vast network of founders;
The program typically offers £100K for 7.5% equity.
Your first step is to reach out through the company’s contact page.
How to Apply for a Fintech Incubator or Accelerator
Applying for acceptance in an incubator or accelerator program is fairly straightforward.
You begin the process by submitting an online form. The information required by each program varies, but you should be prepared to provide the following:
your company name;
the names of your company founders;
a brief description of your product;
an explanation of where you are in your funding efforts;
a description of your customer base, if any;
proof of customer interest, if any;
proof of your expertise;
a description of the domains in which your founders have expertise;
a summary of what you hope to get from the program;
a reason why you should be selected.
Your submission may result in a phone interview, in which you are further vetted for acceptance.
Tips for Getting Accepted
Regardless of the program, you apply for, you need to come prepared if you are to have a chance at consideration. Here are five steps you should complete before you even apply:
Have your idea extremely well defined. If you don’t fully understand what your fintech product is, you can’t explain it. While some programs will help you define your idea, you cannot afford to be vague when describing it in the application.
Know your target market. It’s not enough to have a plan for a new personal finance app. You must know who will use it.
Demonstrate interest. Some programs require you to show proof of customer interest, others do not. In either case, you should be able to produce at least some market research to prove the potential appeal of your product. If you haven’t done your homework, you will be passed over for those who have.
Be hungry. Every program has a limited number of seats. Sponsors do not want to waste them on innovators who are satisfied with mediocre success.
Think before you speak. If you cannot demonstrate that you can communicate effectively with program sponsors (in writing and verbally), they will not feel comfortable introducing you to financial industry leaders.
To sum up
The financial industry offers both opportunities and challenges. The fintech startups that will solve tomorrow’s problems must be prepared. Incubators and accelerators offer them mentorship, funding, and skills they need to step ahead of the pack.
We hope this article helps you join the select few who can benefit from them.