The European accelerators helping start-ups to crest the fintech wave

20 Apr 2016

A start-up is only as good as the ground swell behind it, and getting one off the starting blocks can be a colossal challenge. Throughout Europe, accelerators and incubators are making things just a little bit easier.

Fintech Week graphic

Fintech is riding high on the wave of a ground swell of its own at the moment, but no sector is immune to the difficulties of launching a start-up.

And accelerators and incubators will be needed. In March of last year, Minister Simon Harris announced the ‘Vision and Targets for International Financial Services (IFS) 2020’, which aims to create an additional 10,000 fintech roles by 2020. Many of those will come from start-ups.

But, of course, the sector isn’t just blossoming in Ireland – it is truly global, and opportunities for start-ups are spread across continents.

The biggest boons are in the US, where it’s far easier to get financing than anywhere else – American companies are still getting the bulk of global investment. This is a problem for European start-ups as, beyond the money, investors can also provide fledgling companies with essential networking and mentoring opportunities.

That’s where accelerators and incubators come in, nurturing and mentoring start-ups, as well as helping them seek and secure funding.

For European companies, there are numerous avenues for incubating or accelerating a start-up. These are some of the best:

FinTech Innovation Lab

City of London

City of London. Image via Shutterstock

The FinTech Innovation Lab, powered by Accenture, operates in two locations in Europe: London and – since 2014 – Dublin.

Bringing together innovative start-ups and mentors from some of the world’s largest financial and tech institutions – like Bank of America Merrill Lynch, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, RBS and Citi – the 12-week programme is focused on finding early-stage companies and taking them global.

The accelerator also runs in Hong Kong, where applications have just opened for this year’s programme, and New York.

Kickstart FinTech


Zurich, home to Kickstart FinTech. Image via Shutterstock

Begun partly to inspire an interest in start-ups and entrepreneurship among Zurich’s old money, Swiss-based Kickstart operates across four areas – fintech, internet of things, food and future tech – and is backed by DigitalZurich2025 and the Kick Foundation.

Reflecting the global nature of the sector, Kickstart’s fintech vertical is open to start-ups from around the world.

Given Zurich’s position as a financial capital, the accelerator is well placed to connect start-ups with multinational banks and industry partners, from EY to Credit Suisse.

The accelerator, which does not take equity from any of its participants, has a focus on applications of distributed ledger and smart contracts technology, innovations in wealth management, and digital identity and privacy.

Fintech Fusion


Geneva, home to the Fintech Fusion accelerator. Image via Shutterstock

Fintech Fusion is a 12-month accelerator programme based in Geneva. Taking in 10 start-ups per year, from all over the globe, the accelerator – Switzerland’s first dedicated fintech accelerator –provides workshops, training, and access to a network of mentors and industry experts.

Running for its second year, Fintech Fusion is now seeking applicants, particularly in asset and wealth management, blockchain, risk management, cybersecurity and data privacy, and insurance and commodity training.

Fintech Fusion does not take equity from its participants, intending simply to create a fintech ecosystem and bolster Switzerland’s reputation as a financial hub.

The new class of ventures will start in October.



Berlin, home to FinLeap. Image via Shutterstock

Describing itself as a fintech company builder, FinLeap is based in Berlin, with ventures in the UK, Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Poland.

The accelerator combines support from serial entrepreneurs, finance experts and tech specialists with access to funding and investment – up to €5m worth – to bring a venture to launch-readiness in six months.

FinLeap launches between four and six ventures per year.


Canary Wharf, London

Canary Wharf, London, home to Level39. Image via Shutterstock

Based out of London’s Canary Wharf – and owned by the Canary Wharf Group – Level39 is Europe’s roomiest accelerator, catering from companies ranging from four employees to 40.

Accepting applications from start-ups working in the finance, retail, smart cities and cybersecurity sectors, Level39 pairs companies with mentors from a wide variety of backgrounds, from serial entrepreneurs to fintech experts to investment strategists.

Like Kickstart and Fintech Fusion, Level39 takes no equity from its participating start-ups.

Startupbootcamp Fintech

City of London and Tower Bridge

City of London, home to Startupbootcamp. Image via Shutterstock

Startupbootcamp is a global network of start-up accelerators, operating in verticals from IoT and smart cities to digital health.

The network seeks a diverse group of start-ups for each accelerator, with each ‘class’ containing numerous ventures originating outside the host country.

In the fintech vertical (programmes run in London, but also Singapore and New York), Startupbootcamp provides start-ups with structured mentorship, office space in London, funding, and access to investors and venture capital funds.

Ten start-ups will be selected for the London programme, applications for which will close in June.

Updated on 22 April at 9.25am to clarify details about the Swiss accelerators.

Main image via Shutterstock

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic