The second annual edition of Boston FinTech Week, organized by FinTech Sandbox, has just successfully concluded. There were 47 separate sessions held in 22 venues across five days. More than 3,000 people registered. They came from 15 states and 6 countries. Boston FinTech Week appears to be the largest free festival of FinTech in the world.
Matt Harris, of Bain Capital Venture, spoke to a full house at one of Boston FinTech Week’s signature events. I asked him later for his thoughts on the Boston ecosystem, and this is what he said:
“I continue to be bullish on the Boston FinTech ecosystem. Two of my favorite companies, Flywire and Corvus, are based in Boston and thriving here. I prefer companies that are trying to do hard things and innovate at the product level, versus just build digital distribution for traditional products, and Boston has decades of experience driving innovation that is more than just skin deep.”
As I think about the infrastructure and support systems a FinTech ecosystem requires—law firms, VC funds, advisors with domain expertise, educational institutions focused on entrepreneurship and technology, a strong financial services sector (potential clients and a source of talent), a pool of experienced entrepreneurs from all disciplines, community events—the one piece I’ve long thought Boston missing is a dedicated FinTech accelerator. While we do have several excellent general accelerators, included TechStars Boston, the needs of FinTech startups are unique, meaning a longer, dedicated program is required.
So, the official launch of MassChallenge FinTech during Boston FinTech Week feels like a big deal. The program is free, six months long, and based on the proven MassChallenge model. There’s extensive support from FinTech Sandbox and a host of incumbent firms, and cash awards for top participants. I intend to write a longer piece about this program in the near future. In the meantime, if you’re a startup, apply here.
Boston FinTech Week also served as a coming out party of sorts for Vestigo Ventures, a new VC fund based here and dedicated exclusively to early stage FinTech, which just closed its first fund with $59 million. In addition, there’s second new fund in town, Glasswing Ventures, dedicated to AI and very interested in FinTech. They recently closed their first fund with $112 million. These newer firms complement existing Boston-based FinTech investors including F-Prime Capital and Mass Mutual Ventures.
What else has happened here in the last 12 months?
- Funding for FinTech startups in Boston continued to grow, and the rounds have gotten larger. Thus far in 2018, we’ve had three local FinTech startups raise $100 million rounds, and two of these — Toast and Circle — achieved unicorn status. (See this post for a look at 2017 funding events.)
- We’ve also recently had two $1 billion exits, with the acquisitions of Cayan by TSYS and of Eze Software by SS&C.
Several cities around the world rightfully come to mind when you think FinTech hub. London and New York certainly, along with the Bay Area. Many will mention Singapore, Toronto, or Paris. But with more than 150 FinTech startups and a growing ecosystem, how long before Boston makes that list?