Open Up Challenge

  • Chris Gorst

    Chris Gorst

    Lead, Disruptive tech and Governments & Innovation team

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The Open Up Challenge was a prize fund backing the next generation of financial technology for small businesses.

We looked for products, services, platforms and marketplaces which shared our vision for radically better financial technology. 

We believe that financial technology has the potential to create substantially more value for small businesses, helping them to save time and money, access better products and services, reduce stress, manage risk and generate insights to grow revenue. Much of this potential remains unfulfilled, but several trends are combining to make now a good time for startups and other challengers to enter the market, including:

  • the increasing ease with which small businesses can securely share their financial data across applications, enabled in part by Open Banking;
  • the growing numbers of young company directors with greater openness to technology solutions;
  • stagnant bank lending encouraging, or forcing, small businesses to seek alternative credit providers; and
  • accountants turning to software to cut costs and offer higher-value advisory services at scale.

We awarded £4.5m in equity-free funding to 25 fintech companies, who are leveraging these trends, and others, to develop new products, services and business models.

The winners were:

Coconut is the current account that takes care of your accounting and tax, designed specifically for freelancers, self-employed people and small business owners. With over 3,000 accounts now open, Coconut combines banking and accounting in one simple product to automate accounting and tax using rich, real-time payments data.

Fluidly provides Intelligent Cashflow to help solve small businesses’ biggest problem – cashflow forecasting and management. Fluidly’s technology plugs into accounting packages and bank accounts and uses machine learning to predict and optimise business finances. Fluidly helps SMEs to sleep better at night by providing the tools to intelligently manage cashflow.

Funding Circle is the global small business loans platform, matching businesses who want to borrow with investors who want to lend in the UK, US, Germany and the Netherlands. To date, 56,000 businesses have accessed £5.6bn through the platform.

Funding Options is Europe’s leading online marketplace for business finance, each year raising £100m+ in vital finance, for thousands of UK SMEs, from 50+ active lenders. Funding Options scans the market to find the financing options that best suit a small business’ needs.

OpenWrks builds the technology that makes Open Banking work. Their toolkit makes it easy for people to securely share financial information with the businesses they trust, so those businesses can deliver better, more personalised products and services. The OpenWrks comparison service provides SMEs with a personalised comparison of banking products based on how they run their business.

Swoop is a one-stop shop for businesses looking to raise and save money. We simplify and speed-up access to loans, investment, grants and financial savings through a single automated process. Our technology analyses every funding opportunity in seconds and our team of experts stick with you when you find what your business needs. When it comes to savings, we analyse what bank and service providers are the best value for your business and we manage the switching process too.

Check out our case study story on the Open Up Challenge. 

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