The Barclays Accelerator: ‘Ireland punches well above its weight’

23 Sep 2019

Barclays’ Rise London office. Image: Barclays

As applications open for the Barclays Accelerator, Martin Cass, director at Barclays Private Bank Ireland, spoke about the success that Irish start-ups have had in the accelerator so far.

Applications are now open for the Barclays London Accelerator, run in collaboration with Techstars, which provides emerging fintech businesses with an opportunity to get hands-on experience, quality advice and support from industry experts over an intensive 13-week-long accelerator programme.

Speaking to about how well Irish start-ups have done in the programme to date, Barclays Private Bank Ireland director Martin Cass noted that three of the 10 start-ups selected for the accelerator last year were Irish.

“To get three out of 10 from Ireland in a cohort is extraordinary, because we get about 800 applications for those 10 spaces and they come from 70 to 75 countries each time. There’s definitely something happening in fintech in Dublin, or more generally Ireland,” he said.

‘Ireland punches well above its weight, whether that’s in music, sports or industry. It’s no different in fintech’

Why is this the case?

“Dublin is somewhat unique in Europe as a compact capital city that is home to 20 of the 25 largest financial services companies in the world, 17 of the top 20 banks and the five top software companies in the world,” Cass added.

In particular, he noted Google’s move to Dublin in 2003 and all that has been developed since then.

“You have a generation of entrepreneurs who have experience in either financial services, technology or both. They’ve got deep experience and ideas on how to solve problems, and they’ve founded businesses on the back of that. We’re seeing a whole generation that are standing up very strong on the world stage.

“It’s very clear that Ireland punches well above its weight, whether that’s in music, sports or industry. It’s no different in fintech.”

Building international contacts

One of the reasons why the Barclays Accelerator is so beneficial to start-ups, particularly those based in Ireland, is that it provides businesses with a huge network of contacts, according to Cass.

“Dublin, by definition, is always going to be a small market, both from a customer perspective and from a funding perspective just by virtue of the size of the economy,” he said. “From the point of view of scaling, from a customer perspective and a capital perspective, going international early is very important even in any of the big Irish tech success stories that we have seen already.”

While there’s a $20,000 equity investment for all of the businesses that make it to the Barclays Accelerator, Cass believes that access to the global networks of Barclays and Techstars can provide start-ups with even more opportunities.

Irish fintech in 2020

Every year there are new trends emerging in the fintech space, to the point where the label itself no longer refers to the traditional definition of payments and lending tech. The Barclays Accelerator welcomes any fintech company that can find a unique opportunity to disrupt financial services or address problems within the financial services industry.

“Generally speaking, what we’re looking for are excellent founders that are doing things right across the broad church of fintech. When we say fintech, we mean fintech, proptech, legaltech, regtech, insuretech, anything that touches off financial services in general. It’s not just about payments and lending,” Cass said.

Just last week, Huckletree announced plans to launch Ireland’s first fintech hub, which is set to be located in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. We asked Cass if he thinks this is just the beginning for Ireland’s future in fintech.

“I think it is. It’s great to be working in collaboration with Andrew [Lynch] and the team at Huckletree and I think it’s fantastic to see the first delegated fintech space in Dublin.

“It’ll only serve to further create collaboration and synergies between all the different players and we’re definitely sure that as Irish fintech companies go from strength to strength, I think it’ll become a focal point for the industry both from a company and investor perspective.”

If you’re interested in applying to the accelerator, you can do so here.

Updated, 2.24pm, 23 September 2019: This article has been updated to clarify that the sum of money provided in equity investment is $20,000, and not $25,000 as previously stated.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic