London has long been a financial stronghold in Europe, with many companies in Asia using the British capital as a stepping stone to reach European markets. This trend appears to be continuing in the bustling world of fintech and crypto companies in the city. To get a more granular view of this growth, Etienne Brunet, an investor focused on the sector, highlighted several features of the blockchain ecosystem in London.
Follow the Money across the Channel
One of the most striking features of Brunet’s report is indeed how startups in the city raised their funds. Of the over $410 million gathered, very little of that was collected during the 2017 initial coin offering (ICO) rage. Thus, the so-called ICO “mania” left many investors relatively unscathed as only $63.2 million in total used the funding model.
Of the startups that fell into this category, TokenCard, which has since changed its name to Monolith, raised $12.7 million in May 2017. CommerceBlock announced a $6.5 million raise in November 2017, Codex $12 million in June 2018, FunFair over $26 million in June 2017, and earlier this year Fetch.AI was one of the first initial exchange offerings (IEOs) out of Binance’s launch pad. The London-based company raised $6 million in 22 seconds.
Making up much of the rest are heavyweight companies like Blockchain, SETL, and Elliptic. The wallet provider and exchange platform, Blockchain, is the biggest fish after having raised $70 million over four rounds beginning in 2014.
Blockchain, which was founded in 2011, is also the oldest company in the ecosystem, followed by BitPesa, Elliptic, Coinfloor, and Luno in 2013. These larger companies naturally command considerable workforces. Luno, another crypto wallet provider, employs 310 individuals, Blockchain 230, and Wirex 180. Still, these figures are low compared to most other well-established firms.
After that, the average age of a crypto startup in London is 3.2 years, further underlining the sector’s still-nascent characteristics. Brunet writes, “19 companies were founded between 2014 and 2016,” with another 20 being formed between 2017 and 2018 following the crypto boom.
The average number of full-time employees also drops off when analyzing the rest of the startup map. Brunet astutely points out, however, that these employment rates are closely tied to which sector each startup is working in.
For instance, an exchange platform like Blockchain will need a higher number of employees to help with compliance and customer service than another firm. The team behind Aztec Protocol, a privacy layer built on top of Ethereum, only needs a small team of experienced developers to operate, for instance.
Keeping these sector-specific parameters in mind is critical for understanding where and why employment opportunities are springing up.
Crypto Capital Material?
Without adding any context, it would be difficult to determine if such information is exclusive to London. Indeed the broad fintech industry is growing in leaps and bounds in London, but is this not also true in cities like San Francisco and New York City?
The influence of Silicon Valley has been felt worldwide after a long list of ‘unicorns’ stormed out of the bay area. Coinbase, Stripe, and PayPal are just a few of the mega-successful fintech companies based in and around San Francisco.
For its part, New York City boasts Digital Asset, Paxos, and Betterment among its fintech starlets. Moreover, Northern California also enjoys a steady influx of tech talent, whereas the financially-savvy young graduate tends to move to the Big Apple to sharpen their teeth. Both of these features offer a deep talent pool for all industries, not just fintech, in both cities.
And yet, in September 2019, London still beat out both cities to claim the title as the world’s top fintech city. According to reports, a total of 114 deals closed and earned London-based startups a total of $2.1 billion in funding. Although San Francisco raised slightly more capital, they achieved this feat in a smaller number of funding rounds.
One should also consider these statistics in the context of a never-ending Brexit situation. Despite the uncertainty of Britain’s future, which will remain open until at least January 2020, startups, VCs, and markets continue to flourish and grow in London. What more could one want from a crypto capital?
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