An Irish start-up in New York: How to meet and greet the fintech elite

7 Jun 2017


Attending events, and running your own, is key to getting started in new markets, says the Gecko Governance team.

New York has an amazing wealth of financial institutions and business knowledge, with some of the hottest fintech start-ups based here in Manhattan. So, how can new entrants make an impression in this mecca of financial innovation?

A really important part of expanding into the US is building brand recognition in the local market. One way of achieving this is by partaking in industry events as either an audience member or a panelist and, in time, hosting your own event.

‘Within 24 hours of first landing in New York, we found ourselves pitching in front of hundreds of people’

The city has an endless number of industry events and networking opportunities. Although it’s not an entirely new concept to us in Ireland, New York takes business events to another level.

On any given day in New York there could be more than 20 fintech-related functions that might include a gathering of the world’s best entrepreneurs, founders, investors and mentors. It was within 24 hours of first landing in New York that we found ourselves pitching in front of hundreds of people at one of Digital Irish’s noteworthy fintech meet-ups. It soon became apparent that these events would become an integral part of our growth strategy in NYC.

Rubbing shoulders

Once we opened our New York office, our friends at Enterprise Ireland very kindly added us to all the appropriate event mailing lists. In addition to this, we signed up to numerous Meetup and Eventbrite groups that focused mainly on blockchain and financial technology. This is a great way for your company to gain momentum and muster up a following of like-minded individuals within your community.

A fascinating aspect of doing business in New York is its philanthropic culture. Leading industry experts are prepared to speak for free at many of these events, often offering up little gems of advice on how to overcome the typical problems faced by any start-up and how to take your company to the next level. Afterwards, you may well find yourself rubbing shoulders with business tycoons who are more than happy to share an insight into the story behind their success. You just never know where one of these chance encounters might lead!

Although some of the events might charge a nominal fee to attend ($10 to $15), you can rest assured that you will leave with your appetite well satisfied, thanks to the generous quantity and quality of the canapés and aperitifs provided. Think craft beer and artisan nibbles!

Most New York fintech events take place either (very!) early in the morning (7am) or after work in the evenings (7pm). We cannot emphasise enough the importance of both attending and hosting industry events in NYC, and it is paramount that these events are organised at either end of the working day.

Running your own event

In NYC, it is easy to create, design and host your very own business events. It is a great way to bypass many introductory meetings while bringing your virtual network and online followers to a corporate environment.

By organising your own event, you are able to reach out to your target audience while both promoting and marketing the business without the burden of the sales pitch.

A good first step is to set up a Meetup group. This is a good platform from which to advertise your business events. The likes of Eventbrite and Meetup are digital portals that provide all the online tools you need to help you run, manage and promote your event. For example, here’s the Gecko Governance Meetup page. We have used these networking platforms to great success for all of our events to date.

Many of the key start-up centres will allow you to use their facilities for free (including WeWork, Barclays’ Rise centre, Spark Labs etc). These can include fantastic audience spaces and state-of-the-art technology. For Irish companies starting out in NYC, Bank of Ireland have recently opened StartLab, an incubation centre for tech start-ups looking to scale into the States.

Highlight your expertise

Events are wonderfully flexible and can accommodate all kinds of business goals. Whether it’s creating and reinforcing your brand or using the exposure to position your company as a leader in your marketplace, these events are well worth the effort.

In the case of Gecko, we use these events to highlight our expertise and credentials within our industry. For our breakfast event in Greenwich Water Club, Connecticut, last month, we put together a short panel of notable speakers discussing topical items followed by a Q&A session, with ample time for networking afterwards.

Another goal when hosting these events might be to educate and inform your audience. As a company, we are currently marketing our blockchain-integrated fund governance solution and it is, therefore, essential that we educate and enlighten our market about the solutions that our software offers. This was the case when we were asked to host a webinar with Altoros, where we provided our insights on the latest blockchain trends.

Now, we are preparing for our first NYC function. Our blockchain funds event on 8 June is in the Barclays Rise centre, where we will showcase our software and look at how blockchain will revolutionise the funds industry, then hold a panel discussion.

By Andris Macs and Ciara Wilson

Andris Macs is a senior business development analyst and Ciara Wilson is a content designer at Gecko Governance, a multi-award-winning regtech blockchain solution to easily allow fund managers to monitor and manage their regulation and compliance requirements.

Over this series of articles, Gecko Governance have shared their war stories on the practical side of opening an office in New York. Next up, they will delve more into gaining traction in the States, and beyond into the Australian market.