By @SimonCocking. Great interview with Fiona Maguire COO of Startup Bootcamp Singapore, whom we met while visiting innovative FinTech startups in May

Your background briefly

A background of wearing many hats. Business development, marketing, branding, product development and generally getting stuff done. I’ve always focussed on problem solving and building things and never had a ‘real job’ so to speak; constantly meddling with startups from EdTech to FinTech.

How did you end up doing what you do now?

I came in to FinTech through the financial inclusion angle. Having co-founded a social impact startup in London, I’ve always been driven by the question of how can we build companies that interact with communities and the environment in a positive way? FinTech has such a heavy stream of social impact that’s often underappreciated whether it is supporting financial literacy or access to lending options for the unbanked. Take Hektor in our current Startupbootcamp cohort, as an example, they’re training millennials to develop a healthy relationship with money because 35% of them have $ZERO savings in their bank account.

FinTech Startup mentor! What tips do you give to those you mentor? Are there any that you find yourself saying more than once!?

Ok, there’s a common view of a ‘mentor’ being an ‘advice giver’, someone who imparts experience and knowledge. While this certainly helps, it is not the only shape a mentor comes in. The reality of often having less experience than the founders I work with means that my role as a mentor is not to give tips or advice but rather to ask questions and keep pushing if the answer I get isn’t satisfactory.

The question I’m often asking is; what makes you credible? The reality is that there are probably a dozen other startups working on your very idea right now, so what’s unique about your team that sets you up as the one that’s going to succeed? Why should investors bank on you and why should financial institutions partner with you? What makes you credible should be embedded into your sales messaging and pitch.

In the wider fintech world, what are you excited about?

FinTech turning into more of a layer rather than a vertical. Seeing bridges created across industries, and the smashing of difference concepts; how will FinTech merge with HealthTech and IoT for example? We are already seeing these merges quite clearly in the InsurTech space in fact. It is also interesting seeing new technologies moving into this space like AI.

Can traditional banks successfully innovate to deal with the rise of FinTech banking disrupters?

Banks are learning to change their culture, because they have to. They are hiring new people to board positions and from tech giants to drive fresh thinking. But this is challenging, they are burdened with legacy systems and antiquated infrastructure and in the meantime, tech giants like Alibaba are aggressively stepping into the ring.

What’s different / exciting about being based in Singapore?

Singapore is small but ambitious. It is a concentrated ecosystem and this forces you to take the approach of collaborating with your otherwise competition, or co-optition as some would put it.

Within the FinTech ecosystem, it is an exciting place to be given how active the banks and regulators are and the speed of change within the wider region is impressive.

What trends & FinTech companies should we look out for in southeast Asia?

Well, Startupbootcamp FinTech Singapore Demo Day is just around the corner in fact where we will be showcase 10 FinTech companies selected from over 360 applications from across Asia. There are a few term sheets on the table already so we should have some exciting stories to share.

These teams are pretty reflective of the APAC FinTech trends in general. During our 2015-16 recruitment, we saw an enormous increase in wealth management using machine learning technology, InsurTech startups, FX, Invoice Factoring, P2P lending.

If you could make everyone in Banking do what you told them, what would you command them to do?

Experiment and fail fast, break-up these internal kingdoms (I heard one CIO refer to navigating a bank as its own Game of Thrones) and go outside your building and talk to your customer. And again, experiment and fail fast.

Will bitcoin achieve wider adoption or not? What are your thoughts on the viability of wider adoption of cryptocurencies?

Bitcoin already has wide adoption and good proof of concept that it is working as a currency with a good degree of stability. It will be interesting to see how things evolve when all 21M bitcoins are created, how the price will change for example.

We are seeing more real world applications of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies particularly within the FX space with Ripple for example; however, regulations still stand in the way. Unless we see government backing cryptocurrencies, it will be hard to scale and until we see institutions backing it, there will still be limited consumer adoption. With the events of the last week with the DAO, cryptocurrencies and blockchain as a whole are in hot debate. This should only act as a catalyst for regulators to step up their attention on cryptocurrencies.

Which thought leaders do you like to read / follow?

Chris Skinner, particularly for his focus on financial inclusion.

I loved Dave Trott’s blogs on ‘Predatory Thinking’ before he left The Gate and I still follow his blog today. In fact his blog on Richard Branson, the Predatory Virgin, was pretty much a game changer for me. It was the spark that got me looking at problem solving from a whole different angle and I’ve never looked back.

And I’m always listening TED Radio Hour for my fix of bizarre stories and facts.

How do you manage online / offline, work/life challenges?

It’s the old cliche for a reason, I try to eat healthily, exercise and go to bed before 11pm. If I manage to get into a routine of achieving all of the above, the work-life balance comes naturally. I’m more switched on at work and don’t get the ‘closed laptop’ guilt at home (yes that’s a real thing). As soon as I let one of the holy trinity slip, I start spiralling into bad behaviour and work takes over as is the same with many of the founders I work with.

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked you?

Follow me on twitter @magfiona to see the snapshot of what daily life looks like in an accelerator.


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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