Why I shunned the US and started up in London

As an American, it might seem odd to many that I chose to launch my fintech company in London, rather than New York or San Francisco. There are more end customers in the US, more capital waiting to be invested and a bigger tech scene.

Of course my choice of location is partly driven by the fact that I live in London. But it’s also because London is at the centre of a fintech boom which is attracting international attention and capital.

 A winning combination

London leads the charge because it’s where all the elements vital to fintech life meet.

It has a long-standing, world-renowned financial services industry covering the whole spectrum of providers from retail banks to hedge funds, an innovative and supportive tech community, and a high quality technical labour force that can move within the EU without friction.

Combine these with London’s world-class, research-led universities and an entrepreneurship-friendly government, and you have a world-beating location for fintech success.

It’s this combination which made Joanna Shields, David Cameron’s digital advisor and another American-born, UK-based tech entrepreneur, argue that “what is unique about Britain’s digital success is the close interface between government, industry, investors and our great universities”.

Concentration makes a difference

Nowhere else in the world comes close to London’s, and indeed the UK’s, ability to excel in these areas.

If we look at the US, there are great universities, a thriving finance sector and the world’s most famous tech hub in Silicon Valley.

But these specialisms are spread across a wide geographical base, from Wall Street on the East Coast to Silicon Valley almost 3,000 miles away in the West. And the universities are scattered throughout the country, often away from major urban centres.

Let’s look compare the scene in London: universities within a few miles of each other compete on an international level in terms of technological research and business education.  Nestled among them are dynamic tech companies full of bright developers as well as banks, exchanges, hedge funds, private equity firms and insurance companies.

What’s next?

As an industry, we can’t be complacent: we need to act to ensure London maintains its position as the place to start a fintech company with global reach, and that the UK remains at least as supportive of its tech industry as it has been historically.

U.S. institutional investors seem to finally be recognising UK fintech as a VC opportunity and we need to encourage that flow of capital.

Our tech industry is thriving in the midst of a global marketplace, and we must make our voices heard to build on that momentum. The London tech scene is one of our crowning achievements – we need to fight to keep it that way.

Clare Flynn Levy is founder and CEO of Essentia Analytics.