Access to investors is rare, so when you have a chance to pick the brains of some of the best in the business, you shouldn’t pass it up. Jonno Southam, who leads Venture Capital Business Development for Amazon Web Services (AWS), sat down with Kartik Varma, Managing Director of the Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars, and Jai Juneja, Head of Tech Investments at SeekVentures, to talk about the state of the sector at the 2018 AWS FS:Insight event.
The investors said they saw a couple of key themes emerging among startups. First, unbundling the bank – separating functions like mortgages, current accounts, and so on – and, second, large enterprise investments, for example the technology for getting information to investors, such as startups disrupting products like the Bloomberg Terminal.
Juneja said many of these startups are focused on disrupting the user experience, but plenty of companies are also applying novel technologies to fintech problems. Distributed ledger technology, such as the blockchain, is being explored in several areas, as are artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Both investors said they look closely at a startup’s tech stack. “Architecture is destiny,” said Varma, explaining that early decisions can affect how the company develops and what it is able to do later. This is where cloud technology can preserve flexibility. Often, said Juneja, “our portfolio companies do due diligence” on a potential investment’s tech stack.
That’s important because, as anyone who has spent any time in startups knows, new businesses frequently have to ‘pivot’ – to change their approach, as circumstances evolve.
Varma said it’s always important to consider how big a pain point a company is solving – is the startup’s solution addressing a big market where the problem is deeply felt. A startup has little chance of success if it isn’t solving a customer’s problem. He said companies often consider ‘product-market fit’ – how well their product addresses the market in question, but they don’t often consider ‘founder-market fit’. In other words, why is this particular founder the right person to change this specific market?
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Juneja said that for early stage companies he is looking at “problem, team and market” but there’s room for change. With later-stage companies, business models are more of a concern. Asked about how his views on certain trends had changed, he said he is more skeptical of peer-to-peer lending companies than he was a few years ago. Conversely, he has been surprised by the potential of challenger banks and is now more optimistic about their potential.
It isn’t just startups that change their ideas as new information comes to light. Investors do, too.
Learn more about how AWS can support your fintech startup and register to be the first to hear when registrations for the 2019 AWS FS:Insight open here.