Fintech featured

Goal setting | Adventures of a Unicorn

FintechFor the uninitiated, for the start-up community “unicorn” status is the holy grail of growth, the sacred £1bn valuation. They are a source of much mystique, and many a bad half-idea is a creaking rocking horse masquerading as the mythical being.

Even worse, the Shoreditch scene has become, for some businesses, a parody of itself.  Too much skateboarding to work with a good idea in theory, not enough actual action or sustainable profitability.  Alas, a lot of horse manure often contained therein.

Dacxi is the 6th disruptive business I have worked with from an early stage, and my 3rd in the blockchain space.  Two tech start-ups I have recently assisted, have recently achieved pre-money valuations of £15m and £5m respectively.  My blog posts will attempt to cut some of the sound business advice from the zeitgeist wannabees’ soundbite sophism.  Certainly, you have to think differently to create a unicorn.

Fintech, and specifically the crypto industry, is a microcosm for a number of broader social phenomena of our times. It is a perfect venn diagram of a number of themes: big data, a sense that the current financial infrastructure is not fit for purpose, the decentralisation and democratisation of wealth, the need for a vastly improved (cheaper, faster & more efficient way) to move value.

It has been seemingly unstoppable in its rise.  Numerous entities have come out in favour of blockchain technologies: from Central Banks working on digital currencies, such as our very own Bank of England, leviathan payment firms (Mastercard, Visa, Paypal) to titans of banking including BlackRock, DTCC and the New York Stock Exchange. Some of the world’s largest retail firms, also, have pinned their colours to the flag of crypto, including eBay, Starbucks and Uber.   More interestingly, recent trends have suggested that bitcoin is “decoupling” from traditional financial markets, and a number of substantial hedge funds are taking it seriously as an asset class.  Indeed, industry stalwart Paul Tudor Jones has postulated that it can be used to hedge against inflation.

There are some industry commentators suggesting we are in the “iPhone moment”, in terms of adoption, as it becomes the dominant technology, past the point of no return. Certainly, much like dog years, a week in crypto is the same as a year in any other industry.

I’m not generally a massive fan of platitudes, but I’ve always liked the phrase: “if your dreams and aspirations don’t scare you, then they are not big enough”.  Interestingly google suggests a number of folk who claim all credit for this wholesome advice!

I joined Dacxi in late February 2020, a business with aggressive aspirations: to build a leading retail crypto exchange, which seeks to provide liquidity on its community coin, list on the London Stock Exchange in the next 12 months and create the world’s largest female crypto community.  No small remit, and whilst we regularly make press comment, it felt right to capture some of the joys and frustrations on a detailed basis.

Hopefully this blog will provide a lively account of the roller coaster ride that is an early stage fintech!

In next week’s blog: Starting a new job during COVID and the newly acceptable business behaviour!

Adventures of a unicorn is a business blog documenting the daily life of tech start-up in hypergrowth.  Dacxi is a unique crypto business in the crowd lending space. 

Katharine WoollerAbout the author

Katharine Wooller is managing director, UK and Eire, Dacxi – a digital crypto fintech platform specialising in bringing cryptocurrency to the ‘crowd’.

Katharine Wooller has had a long UK fintech career, as Investment Director at industry leading peer-to-peer lender, and in senior roles at a specialist investment banking SAAS supporting tier one banks, asset managers and hedge funds.  More recently she has held advisory roles for blockchain businesses and is currently MD for a retail crypto exchange. She leads the Women Who Crypto initiative.


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desk-with-laptop-promoted-promotion-featured

A Need for Speed and Valuation Madness | Adventures of a Unicorn

desk-with-laptopIt is a truth universally acknowledged that speed kills, particularly in start-up land. Every new tech business is obsessed with the maximum addressable market and getting the “hockey stick” of hyper growth.

For most immature and cash-strapped businesses, understandably, the quicker they can scale, the better, and ideally aided by VC/PE funding. Timing can be live or die.

Interestingly, numerous fintech businesses that are not revenue generating or have a large client bank with non-viable account levels, have achieved eye-watering sale prices. It can be postulated that some of the tech industry valuations defy logic. Great for founders, not so hot for hype-driven investors.

It is therefore interesting to reflect on the speed of adoption, and the journey to becoming a dominant technology. Previously, there was much talk around the “first mover advantage”, where being the first business to dominate a niche was usually the victor. Interestingly, technology businesses tell a more subtle story, with good examples being Microsoft coming up with a tablet a full decade before the iPad which ultimately triumphed; and Friendster (amongst others) beating Facebook as first to the lucrative party that is social media.

Crypto is a particularly interesting case study in adoption vs value, and a quick google search will reveal as many evangelical fans as doom mongering naysayers. However, it is a fact crypto currency cannot exist if the local currencies are effective.

The most interesting tech businesses drive innovation and delivers something the world does not yet know it needs, thus making the market. Annoyingly, the word disruptive has been often overused. Uber did not invent cab rides, any more than eBay did not invent e-commerce, nor Airbnb the holiday let. They simply provide a better more fit-for-purpose version. Crucially, they provided the right product, in the right place, at the right time. Certainly, recent economic events suggest that the global financial infrastructure is not up to scratch, and the major crypto coins have recovered harder and faster than traditional assets.

What is more interesting is whether crypto is in its “iPhone moment” where it reaches the tipping point to become the dominant technology. Indeed, the attention from hedge fund managers, asset managers and tier one banks, who are finally taking it seriously as an asset class, would suggest so.

We must acknowledge there have been some heinously bad ideas in the crypto industry, toxic coins, poorly executed exchanges, and bizarre hybrid financial instruments. Crypto suffers, rightly, from an image crisis and increasing interest from regulatory bodies should provide a much needed clear out, particularly in the privacy tokens arena.

Bitcoin’s investment cycle to date has been complex; the major returns running to thousands of per cent, seen in late 2017 early 2018, were a quick burst bubble, motivated by hype rather than solid fundamentals. At one point during these heady times, Ripple’s co-founder, was richer, on paper than the founders of Google and Facebook. Hindsight is a beautiful thing!

The further bitcoin deviates from standard asset classes, and it is widely held to now be decoupled from traditional markets, the harder it is to analyse. Like the dot-com boom of the noughties, the previous explosive growth was based on irrational speculative values, but what it has achieved is to lay the groundwork for “2nd Wave” businesses. Interestingly, in the previous internet mobile tech boom, this created some of the most valuable companies in history. The second crypto wave, the evidence suggests, is here.

Adventures of a Unicorn is a business blog written by Katharine Wooller, Managing Director, UK & Eire, Dacxi.com. It documents the daily life of tech start-up in hypergrowth.

Katharine WoollerAbout the author

Katharine Wooller is managing director, UK and Eire, Dacxi – a digital crypto fintech platform specialising in bringing cryptocurrency to the ‘crowd’.

Katharine Wooller has had a long UK fintech career, as Investment Director at industry leading peer-to-peer lender, and in senior roles at a specialist investment banking SAAS supporting tier one banks, asset managers and hedge funds.  More recently she has held advisory roles for blockchain businesses and is currently MD for a retail crypto exchange. She leads the Women Who Crypto initiative.

 

 


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


Technology Leadership featured

7 tips on being a technology leader: Bridge the skills gap to create diverse, high performing teams

Technology Leadership

Deborah O'Neill: Head of UK Digital and Partner at Oliver Wyman

This month marks my five-year anniversary of joining Oliver Wyman Digital, the business I now head up in the UK and Ireland.

When I think about career progression, mine has been like a level of Chucky Egg – there are long ladders, but also places to hop off and sidestep onto another route. In my case, this was moving from working exclusively with financial services companies for six years into helping businesses across all industries deliver technology transformations.

I started late in technology, but this has not hampered my move into such an exciting and growing sector. I’m now keen to show others – women, non-binary, BAME, LGBTQ+, or any combination of minorities - how they can develop into technology leadership positions.

Click here to read the full blog


Deborah will be speaking at our WeAreTechWomen Conference in London on 22nd November 2019. Our aim is to inspire attendees by delivering bitesize learning sessions for our audience. With the help of our amazing speakers and panellists, we will provide the opportunity for our delegates to learn about a broad range of technology topics as well as interact through panels, hands-on activities and workshops.

You can buy tickets for this event here.

 

 


Women in IT

Why is there a shortage of women in IT?

women in IT
Image via Pixabay
Its 2017 and Britain has recently celebrated a record number of female MPS winning seats in the UK general election.

Women head up the Tate Britain, National Gallery and BAFTA, and across the country more women are getting accepted into university than their male contemporaries. However, when it comes to IT, the statistics look very different.

Women are wildly underrepresented in the IT world and with a shortage of female employees in managerial and technical roles, the industry is suffering. TechCrunch reported last year that only five per cent of leadership positions in the corporate tech industry are held by women and this is set to decline even further as the percentage of women in the US computing industry is projected to drop from 24 per cent to 22 per cent by 2025.  Even tech giants like Google have struggled to address this inequality with the company admitting that only 17 per cent of its technical workforce are female.

Alongside the glaring benefits of a more equal workforce such as more diverse viewpoints and wider skills sets leading to better business decisions, the most frustrating issue at play here is that there is already a dearth of talent in IT which desperately needs to be filled. The Guardian projects that if the current trajectory continues, there will be one million more jobs in the industry than graduates to fill them by 2020.

Cyber security in particular has been hit hard, with a decline in skilled workers that is set to leave the industry 1.8 million short by 2022 according to a Frost and Sullivan report, and in the current climate, this is an area that cannot be ignored. By encouraging women to pursue these roles and consider IT as a viable career option, this demand could easily be met and the industry would benefit as a result - after all, women use technology as much as men so to use their skills in innovation will widen the market and help to fill product gaps for female consumers.

However, moving towards a more gender equal workforce in IT industries is easier said than done. Widespread change is required in the perception and attitude towards women working in tech, with many females facing unfair stereotyping and discrimination for choosing what is perceived by many in society to be a male career. We see that girls are less inclined to pursue technical subjects from a young age as although 57 per cent of US college students are female, 82 per cent of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) are male and this comes down to education, with a shortage of female STEM teachers and role models to influence students.

The women that do end up in a technical careers often face greater challenges than their male counterparts as they struggle to fit in as a minority in the workplace. It is also speculated that in general, female employees are less boastful of their contributions, letting male colleagues step in and take credit for their work in a professional environment, meaning that their victories go unnoticed by management and they are less likely to be promoted.

It is clear that there is a need for wider societal change to redress the gender balance in the tech workplace. We may be wise to take tips from countries like Russia who boast high percentages of females in technology roles compared to the rest of the world and put this down to strong role models, a gender neutral school curriculum and an attitude towards science as a national priority, and an area that all citizens can be proud to work in. However, there are already movements across the UK to move towards a more equal attitude towards tech jobs, with the Girl Guides pioneering new badges for coding and computer skills for its members and companies offering a wide range of  IT positions for girls considering a career in the industry.

About the author:

Rowan Chernin writes about Tech and outdoor activities including a life-long obsession with the English coast line.


Why diversity matters in technology

 

Why diversity matters in technology should be fairly self-evident. In any business,diversity in any business has a clear, economic, and measurable dividend.
diversity
Image via Shutterstock

Businesses with greater gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to outperform the industry median financial output in their sector, and for businesses with ethnic diversity that statistic rises to 35 per cent (McKinsey 2015).

Thirty-five percent more likely to outperform your competitors – and guess what? The McKinsey report also suggests that even making more of an effort to head towards greater representation within your business has positive financial implications stating:“In the United Kingdom, greater gender diversity on the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in our data set: for every 10 per cent increase in gender diversity, EBIT rose by 3.5 percent.

The business case for diversity is obvious because it has a direct impact on your bottom line, but diversity isn’t just about profit, it’s about how you spend your money too.

If you’ve ever designed or commissioned a website, leaflet or experience, diversity should matter to you. Unless, of course, you were planning on designing for a monoculture. The current Captcha I keep being served by Google requires me to identify something within an image (presumably to help build Google’s AI rather than to confirm I’m not a robot).

Imagine that something is a piece of rock from Mars. Now, having not been to Mars, I cannot differentiate Mars rock from any other type of organic matter. If Google had implemented the Mars rock Captcha and tested it exclusively with the team at NASA, some world-renown geologists and maybe the Mars robot itself – they might have passed the usability testing and now everyone is required to perform to the same standard. That doesn’t sound incredibly fair.

Obviously, that particular example is a tad stretched, but it speaks to the point that the user experiences we’re creating have a level of bias that we need to be conscious of in our design practice. Here’s another example: say you’re developing an online voter application tool and you’ve chosen to focus your efforts on delivering an awesome user experience on mobile.

Let’s go one step further and say that your intended delivery platform is the latest iOS, but you’ll also make it work on Android because you kind of have to. My nana can’t use your system. Why? Because she’s got an old Windows phone with a big button display that’s perfect for her – but not for your website. Despite being pretty tech-savvy, my nan now needs to go down to the local post office to register to vote. Is that an accessible, good experience? Not really.

So how do we design for diversity? We make sure that diversity is represented at the table. Either within your team, so the Windows phone owning developer can bring everyone’s attention to this hurdle, or in your QA process, or in the audience personas you’re designing the experiences for.

Or better yet, all of the above. Principles of diversity and inclusivity should run throughout design and development, otherwise we’re heading for a future that propagates existing structures of unconscious bias and segregates minority groups.

When we’re creating technology, as much as when we’re creating art, we bring all of our inherent biases along with us, and there’s a pretty neat reminder in most of the code we write. If you’re reading this, the chances are high that the code on this site is all written in American English. The majority of open source code is.

There’s also specific character accents that are common in Latin languages such as ‘ã’ which tend to throw our software completely off kilter (the removal of these being required to fit into 7-bit ASCII for the techie readers), needing to be replaced by an Anglicised version. So if you’re a Spanish developer, conscientiously commenting your code, there’s every chance you’re coming across these little biases every day. And if you’re committing code to an international organisation then you’ll probably just be asked to do it in English. I can’t help wonder whether inclusion and diversity standards within the foundations of our programming languages would have empowered us to create more flexible systems to begin with.

The people you are building for are diverse. The future you are building for is even more diverse. And your bottom line stands to benefit from diversity.

If you want to start by recruiting more women in tech, I’d recommend reading this.

About the author:

Natalie Lloyd, Brand Thinker/Strategist at Pixeldot

With a careermentor natalie lloyd that runs the gamut of the creative and digital industries, Natalie has been making her mark in the UK and abroad for the past decade.

As Strategist at Pixeldot Creative, Natalie draws on her experience to help businesses reach their full digital potential. Spanning the UK, New York and Montpellier, previous roles include Director of MOHARA (formerly Say Digital); Curator and Producer of TEDxBrighton; Director of Marketing at Orange Logic; and creative consultancy for high-end photographers in New York and the UK.

A seasoned speaker, Natalie regularly gives talks on management, startups, innovation, creativity and women in technology. Other projects include Manner, SheSays Brighton, iSPY Visuals and What Women Want 2.0.