Open Up Challenge Announces Winners

6 Dcember 2018 - Nesta Challenges has today announced the winners of the ‘Open Up Challenge’ – a prize fund designed to unlock innovative fintech products and services for small businesses, building on the UK’s ground-breaking open banking initiative.

The winning fintech businesses will each receive an additional £200k to take their products and services to market. Between 2017 and 2018 the Open Up Challenge has awarded £4.5m in funding to 25 technology companies, culminating in the six winners announced today.

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.

The Open Up Challenge is a powerful example of how public authorities are combining new approaches to regulation with targeted investment to make markets work better for UK small businesses and consumers. The Open Up Challenge is part of a package of reforms from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) designed to shake up retail banking, including the introduction of ‘open banking’. Open banking, in turn, fits into a broader set of government and regulatory agendas, including modernising consumer markets with smart data and tackling the “loyalty penalty”.

The Open Up Challenge prize was designed to encourage the development of new fintech products that demonstrate the power of open banking to tackle real problems faced by small businesses, through the secure, permissioned sharing of their data.

Chris Gorst, Challenge Prize Lead at Nesta, commented:

“The UK is the first country in the world to introduce ‘open banking’, and regulators, banks and start-ups around the world are watching closely to see whether the country’s reforms are a success. Ultimately the true test of success is whether consumers and small businesses get their hands on better products and services – and trust that their data is being kept safe.

“The Open Up Challenge is proof that ambitious, well-designed regulatory reform can be a driving force for innovation that puts real solutions in the hands of small businesses. Since 2017 the companies we’ve backed have been building a quiet revolution, transforming how small businesses find the best bank accounts and loans, manage cashflow, reduce financial admin and trade with one another. These tools are easier than ever to use and, as our Winners show, they are quickly growing popular with small businesses. We are confident that 2019 will be a tipping-point in the emergence of a new, more customer-focussed financial services market in the UK.

“Nesta welcomes the government’s commitment to modernising consumer markets with smart data. It’s critical that the UK learns lessons from open banking and continues to reform regulated markets. The result will be a better deal for consumers and small businesses in the near term – and more innovation in the long term.”

Bill Roberts, Head of Open Banking at the CMA said:

“We have seen some extremely innovative ideas as part of this competition, which we believe will help drive further improvements in small business banking and go to the heart of what we wanted to achieve when we set up this competition. I greatly look forward to seeing the winners’ exciting new products be developed in the years ahead.”

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