In Search of The World Capital of #Fintech

BiPlane Plane TravelThe First #Fintech World Tour

Over the last couple of months my team and I have been in ‘stealth mode’, as they say, quietly touring the world of #Fintech, joining the dots.

In two weeks time I will fly from one of the two world centres of Fintech – and rival for the title of world capital of Fintech – London to the other, Silicon Valley, and spend a couple of weeks with some of the world’s foremost exponents and thinkers there, in SF and on to LA – and a very different but equally important and fascinating frontier.

San FranciscoWhile they’re undoubtedly rivals – albeit in the case of silicon valley in a very laid-back Californian way – they could hardly be more different In thinking and approach as well as in history and starting point. London as a world financial centre of banking and finance (arguably THE world financial centre of banking and finance) is in effect ‘the incumbent’ – no matter how far behind we may be in ‘tech’ part.

Freewheeling Silicon Valley meanwhile has a clear lead in fresh thinking and disruptive technology and ventures supported by vast sums with VC investment rocketing in the Fintech field. Certainly what someone recently described to me as Boris’s ‘Magic Roundabout’ – his Sillycon – is making impressive strides but it has a long way to go to justify the hopeful hype being heaped upon it. The bay area has strength in depth and a long history of disruptively changing the world. Unicorns abound while in London they remain elusive and semi-mythical beasts.

London UK Taxi FlagOr so it seems at the start of this global odyssey (yes, there’s more to come). It will be interesting to see what new light travelling and talking to these pioneers might shed because there really is everything to play for. As you even begin to join those dots, it quickly becomes clear that it’s not just the future of banks and banking that’s at stake but we are entering an age when the game will change forever and more profoundly than anything the world has seen since the industrial revolution. We are about to witness the re-making of money, as well as finance and funding. More than that, as Steve Jobs once put it, “some people no smarter than you or I” are about to “move the walls around” make the rules and set the financial DNA, most probably for generations to come. My mission is to meets some of them, join come of the dots, and help us all make sense of what’s happening and the kind of world that’s being created and that we will all be living in before we are much older.

This is a revolution – and I have a long and accurate history of declaring them well in advance of even expert recognition, from the web and the internet throughs, social media and crowdfunding, it’s all on record. A revolution that will leave no one untouched. From the CEO through corporate ‘inmates’ to the under and unemployed. Because along with money and finance work and employment are in the melting-pot. The past looks a lot more ‘corporate’, institutional and monolithic than this cellular and networked future focussed on entrepreneurs and livelihoods rather than ‘jobs’ and unemployment figures.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 10.21.24 PMIt’s long been thought that if governments just look after such figures that the people would look after themselves. Which has inevitably led to a focus on managing, not to say manipulating, the figures to best effect. But is seems to me the opening of the economy and the dawning democratisation of finance, just hinting on the horizon, the stirring are already there and people and communities are starting to believe they can and should ‘look after themselves’ in whole new ways.

As I travel on from the Fintech quarter of San Francisco to and through another world – the economically deprived, left-behind, areas of southern LA – to meet and talk with grassroots entrepreneurs and communities keen to be empowered by crowdfunding to create their own projects businesses and livelihoods it will be fascinating to see and learn from this whole different perspective. Because as much as the technology itself this is what this revolution is about.

It’s just over a year since, all the data in, we were able to declare London, unexpectedly, as lead contender as ‘World Capital of Crowdfunding’ – a message that quite literally rippled almost instantly around the world. I can’t doubt that things may look very significantly different by the end of this world tour of Fintech and I hope to have some deeper insights to share on the nature of the new DNA we are building for the future and the new possibilities that are opening up for mankind – people everywhere.

In the light of such important insights and changes perhaps it hardly matters but I suspect more light will be shed on the two leading rivals and how they will each influence all the other outcomes in the race to be World Capital of #Fintech.


barry-jamesBarry James is a serial tech entrepreneur and technologist, founder, writer and conference creator Barry created TheCrowdfundingCentre, now a global resource for #Crowdfunding, and VentureFundingHubs an innovation to support entrepreneurs globally. He has a long history in #Fintech stretching back to the late 1970s. Founder of the UK’s first national conference, Crowdfunding:Deep Impact, he has been at the forefront of the development of Fintech and crowdfunding in the UK, and internationally, since its earliest days helping found the UK’s All-Party-Parliamentary-Group on the subject and influencing the nature and direction of regulation. As a pioneering systems and eco-system architect, he and his team remain active in creating new models and new technology, including the creation of more than 70 funding hubs worldwide.

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