For Virgin StartUp, entrepreneurship runs throughout the whole team. None more so than Managing Director Andy Fishburn, who at the bright age of 11 was selling origami birds at his primary school.
“I’d charge £1 for two birds” that he would craft on the weekends. “I’d always sell on a Monday when the pupils had their tuck money. It gave me a great understanding of supply and demand!”
Who better, then, to be steering the ship at the not-for-profit Virgin company founded by Richard Branson. Since 2013 the London-based organisation has connected 3000 UK entrepreneurs with more than £40 million in funding, mentoring, guidance and hands-on business support.
Virgin StartUp helps founders create sustainable businesses which thrive. 74% of the companies Virgin StartUp has funded are still trading 3 years after launch, compared to a national average of 54%.
FinTech companies represent a steadily increasing percentage of Virgin StartUp’s portfolio, and the organisation can call on specific FinTech expertise amongst its hundreds of mentors. Fishburn believes it’s the breadth of the experience and knowledge at Virgin StartUp’s disposal that makes it so useful for the sector.
“Essentially we are sector and industry agnostic, but we have expertise in the core business fundamentals that supports this fast-growing ecosystem,” he says.
Recent Virgin StartUp alumni include Genuine Impact, one of the most exciting new FinTechs on the block founded by BlackRock alumni, who had established expertise in financial services but needed guidance in how to brand and market their investing platform.
Another start-up to have benefited from a number of Virgin StartUp programmes is Sustainably, a FinTech company focused on enabling charitable giving. Virgin StartUp has helped guide its growth from the earliest days - starting with its first stage Start Up Loans programme, to scale-up programme StepUp and recently through the CrowdBoost equity crowdfunding accelerator.
Watching and helping these companies grow is also what keeps Fishburn excited about his job. “I’ve seen first hand that what we do genuinely makes a difference to companies. Starting and scaling a business can be really hard. We’re committed to supporting those who will take the step and build a brand.”
As the UK FinTech continues to grow, it’s clear that Fishburn and his team will be busier than ever ensuring that Virgin StartUp is there to support this rapidly expanding sector.