Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the 3D FinTech Challenge

Every week seems to bring the announcement of another accelerator for financial technology startups. But I was particularly interested to read that French software company Dassault Systemes will sponsor a FinTech accelerator in London later this year. Called the 3D FinTech Challenge, it will be held at Level39 in Canary Wharf.

This FinTech Challenge is a seven-week program for which half a dozen startups will be selected. The program is seeking applications from companies solving problems for asset management firms. It will provide mentorship from Dassault executives as well as from others in the London financial services community. Introductions to US financial services companies will be provided through its partnership with ValueStream Labs in New York.

The application period is already open and applications are due by August 29. The program runs from September 17th – November 4th. No equity is given up by those who participate.

This is the second program Dassault has sponsored. Last year’s 3D FinTech Challenge was for startups focused on big data. The six companies selected were: Conatix, Kusiri, ACE Consensus, Logical Glue, LBM and Intrepid.

Kevin Pleiter is the vice president globally responsible for the Financial and Business Services verticals at Dassault Systemes. He leads the FinTech Challenge for Dassault.

Q.   Kevin, please tell us about the 3D FinTech Challenge.

A.   The 3D FinTech Challenge is a 7 week long immersive FinTech Challenge, designed to accelerate solutions developed by high performance startups that address specific challenges set by senior executives from the asset management industry to address actual issues they face today. We’re looking for high performance FinTech start ups with a passion to innovate and shape the future of fund management – leveraging our history and following in the footsteps of Dassault Systemes’ founders

Q.   Who is the 3D FinTech Challenge open to? Should U.S. and Canadian startups apply?

A.   The Challenge is open to any high performance, tech savy FinTech startups, from anywhere across the globe. If they have a vision and passion to revolutionize customer investment experiences then should apply. In the 2013 3D FinTech Challenge, 5 of the 6 finalists were from outside the UK, including the US and Russia and were resident for the duration of the challenge.

Q.   What is the selection process like? What are you looking for from the companies you will choose to participate?

A.   Dassault Systemes will partner with the mentors to select the best applicants for the challenges set by the mentors, based on their real life, day-to-day challenges. A short list will be selected from a long list and the finalists will be chosen by the mentors.

Q.   What does the winner or do the winners receive?

A.   All the participants will receive value add, hands-on immersive mentoring as well as free access to the Level39 networking opportunities and facilities. They will also be able to leverage the ValueStream Lab community of entrepreneurs and investors in New York

Q.   Can you compare and contrast the 3D FinTech Challenge to the other London-based FinTech accelerators?

A.   Our challenge differs from the other FinTech challenges for the following reasons:

  • It’s based out of Level 39, the leading start-up accelerator hub in Europe so giving the participants the opportunity to network with the best of the London FinTech community.
  • We have specifically chosen to partner with ValueStream Labs, New York’s leading accelerator hub for FinTech which will give them access to the world’s largest FinTech community of entrepreneurs, mentors and venture capitalists.
  • Unlike on the other London based FinTech challenges, start-ups receive immersive, hands on mentoring throughout the 7 week period. We have also chosen the best experts to provide domain expertise that will help accelerate the start-ups’ businesses.
  • We also don’t take equity.

Q.   Does Dassault anticipate investing in any of the participating startups? Is Dassault an active venture investor outside of the FinTech Challenge?

A.   This is a possibility and depends on the fit with our business and the scope of the solution. Dassault Systemes has an appetite to acquire and invest in businesses across all the industry lines it serves.

Q.   What drove your decision to focus on the fund management industry for the 2014 program?

A.   We decided to concentrate on the fund management industry because this is where we perceive there’s a huge opportunity to innovate and transform the way the industry operates by leveraging the power of technology.

Q.   Are there particular areas you are more interested in than others? For example, are you looking for innovation in the investment process? In product? In trading? In distribution? Does it matter to you if the startup’s focus is retail or institutional?

A.   We are interested in ideas and solutions that address any industry challenge, whether it be in trading, distribution or otherwise. It’s all about enhancing the customer experience, delivering transparency and educating a new, upcoming audience and to instill trust in the shareholder and end customer. This has been lacking in the last few years

Q.   Has there been a discernible change in the asset management industry’s attitude and approach to innovation? I recall a senior partner at an investment counsel firm discouraging innovation because “the only thing a pioneer gets is an arrow in the back.”

A.   Dassault Systemes has partnered with a leading industry commentator, Amin Rajan, CEO CREATE Research. His study “ Upping the Innovation Game in A Winner Takes All World” clearly outlines the industry knows there a need for change and need to revolutionize the industry by leveraging the power of technology. They know they need to regain trust and shareholder value.

Q.   What’s your view of innovation in the global asset management industry today?

A.   If change doesn’t occur, then the industry will be 50% of what it is today in 10 years time according to Amin Rajan, CEO Create Research. We are already seeing new entrants like Nutmeg, empowering their customers with education and easy to use tools to increase transparency and trust. Traditional firms are taking note to the point that Schroders has recently acquired a 20% stake in the fledgling company.

Q.   Are you seeing more innovation from the retail or institutional sides of asset management? Is there one area in asset management that leads the others in innovation? Are the asset managers in one region of the world more innovative than the others?

A.   Neither retail nor institutional are innovative enough and there are opportunities to drive innovation on both sides to improve stakeholder value and increase efficiencies.

Q.   You’ll be working with ValueStream Labs in New York. What is their role and what is their relationship with Dassault?

A.   Their involvement is an exciting addition from the 2013 Challenge. They will provide pitching advice into New York, the largest FinTech community globally and the finalists will benefit from this exposure through ValueStream Lab’s networking opportunities.

Q.   Will startups selected for the 3D FinTech Challenge be traveling to New York?

A.   The Challenge is based for the duration in Level39. ValueStream Labs will be joining the participants in London for a week. However, if a start-up wishes to travel to New York after then Challenge, we would be more than happy to facilitate relevant introductions, where it makes sense.

Q.   What does Level39 bring to the program?

A.   Level39 is a fantastic space to host the Challenge. As the leading start-up accelerator hub for FinTech in Europe, and owned by the Canary Wharf Group, who manage Canary Wharf, a 100,000 strong community of financial services professionals, it offers the best FinTech networking opportunities in London across the investor and start-up communities. In addition InnovateFinance, the new Government backed trade body dedicated to accelerating the FinTech industry in the UK and making London the world’s FinTech capital, is also based on the floor And last but not least the finalists are given funky, dedicated workspace “The Sandbox” in the Level39 offices which coincidentally are designed by Gensler, of Facebook and Google office fame, with interactive art, iPad coffee machines in the Pantry – all helping to achieve one of the most creative work spaces in London.

Q.   Why London, rather than New York, Paris, or even Boston?

A.   London is the centre of financial services and as such provides a perfect location to connect with experts and bring in some of the best mentors that can add real value for the start-ups. In addition, our team running the programme is based in London.

Q.   What motivated Dassault Systèmes to sponsor a FinTech accelerator? What do you hope to get out of it?

A.   Innovation is at the heart of Dassault Systemes’ DNA. 35 years ago, our 12,000-strong work force was a start-up with a team of 8. Since then we have been voted as the 3rd most innovative software company globally and 1st in EMEA. We feel strongly that having delivered innovative solutions and embraced market issues in 12 other industries, it’s now time for us to help the financial services industry. Some of our senior executives are involved throughout the programme as they are to share their experiences and nurture the start-ups – like those that some of them once worked in! The pains, challenges and difficulties start-ups face are the very experiences they faced themselves when they started out!

Q.   How do applications look so far?

A.   We have received some strong applications but there’s still time to apply. The closing date is 29th August so if there are FinTech start-ups out there, no matter where they’re based, and they have a passion to innovate, revolutionize the world with their technology then we’d love them to apply.

Interested startups should go here to apply.