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SVB UK Fintech Investment Trends Analysis

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Here at the Forsyth Group we have been working with a lot of Fintech startups in recent times, and we have really noticed a momentum building in the sector. Silicon Valley Bank have recently released a report on Investment trends in Fintech, with a lot of statistics that corroborate our recent experiences with Fintech companies.

The report opens by detailing the fact that the fourth quarter of 2014 was the busiest time in the history of this space, with 214 deals taking place globally. The biggest acquirers of new Fintech startups are more established Fintech and payments businesses, and this market saw 211 exits in 2014 alone, making it the most fruitful period of the last five years. Further stats also show that the UK is the hub of Fintech in Europe, with $539M of Venture Capitalist funding in 2014, amounting to half of investment in the whole of Europe in this area.

Perhaps the headline funding round in recent times has been Transferwise, with their recent Series C raising $58M, which is thought to value the company at around $1B. However, this is by no means the only big raise of 2014, with others such as Borro, Funding circle, Nutmeg, Zopa, Block Chain and Powa all raising large rounds as well (see graph below). With press coverage increasing, and the recent FinovateEurope 2015 conference showcasing numerous exciting UK Fintech companies, including our client Meniga who won a Best of Show award, we can only see this trend continuing into 2015.

More positive UK-related stats abound in this report. Fintech is currently worth £20B in revenue to the UK economy, with 18% of this coming from emerging businesses. Due to the City of London’s global reach and reputation, the UK has four Fintech incubators, and it is one of three sectors that the CBI predicts will be worth a combined £300b to the UK economy by 2020. The report points out that whilst Fintech may seem like a new ‘buzzword’, in fact the sector isn’t new. The UK has traditionally been somewhat behind in Fintech, but this is all changing now, with 60% of all Fintech startups in Europe now being based in the UK. With the current support networks in place, such as the aforementioned incubators and the large banking sector, this trend should also continue, and we look forward to watching this space grow.


The future of the Games Industry

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Our Friends at Digi-Capital have released their latest analysis of market trends, this time regarding the games industry. The Headline information is that 2014 saw a record $24B of game company exits across acquisitions and IPO’s, with more than half of this value being driven by mobile. $15B of the $24B was from acquisitions, with 5 ‘megadeals’ being responsible for $8.1B of this. The other $9B came from IPO’s, which was dominated by Asia. These statistics could be seen as representative of a bubble, but the analysis from Digi-Capital explains why these statistics have a more subtle meaning.

Digi-Capital hark back to an earlier report they prepared at the beginning of 2014, where they predicted that the games software market would reach $100B by the end of 2017. Having re-analysed the data from last year, they have revised this to happen at the end of 2018 instead. This is due to the fact that only mobile gaming is showing strong double digit growth, with the possibility that virtual reality could also become a breakout. This leaves their overall growth forecast for games software/hardware at 8.8%. While this is of course a healthy number, Digi-Capital point out that markets with single digit growth cannot be described as bubbles, as in these conditions “a rising tide no longer lifts all boats”. In this instance, not just any company can be guaranteed to grow exponentially on the crest of a wave, and the quality of the product and company is far more important.

Hit hardest by this single digit growth are the mid-tier games companies, according to the report. Big corporate firms with hit IP’s (Intellectual properties), user scale and cash flow are able to invest in infrastructure and marketing to compete in a stable growth market. Smaller independent firms may not have a hit IP yet, or the advantages that come from being a big firm, but their costs are far lower, allowing them too to compete. It’s the mid-tier firms that Digi-Capital warn could be in for a tough time. They may not have the hit IP’s yet, or the advantages from being a large-scale company, but they still have the costs associated with infrastructure and marketing. It isn’t the end for them by any means, as they of course still have the capability to produce a hit IP, but they seem to be in the most vulnerable position over the next few years.

A further challenge for mid-tier companies detailed in the report is the nature of acquisitions and investments in a stable growth market. The big corporate buyers are already managing their own cost bases, and so acquiring whole teams is low on their list of priorities. It is exceedingly difficult to overtake big companies when you are medium sized, and the investment amount of $1.5b in 2014, while not insignificant, is still 25% lower than it was in 2011. This all adds up to difficult years up ahead for non-savvy mid-tier games companies.

This analysis, while not overly pessimistic, means that companies have to be smarter to see success. KamaGames, who we have worked with, have a portfolio that currently reaches 70M users worldwide. They have now partnered with Manchester United, and will launch special edition s of their games with a Manchester United crest, imagery and theme. As they are one of the most supported teams worldwide, this opens up an opportunity to significantly grow their user base. Another way to keep up growth and attract attention is to focus on the highest growth area of the sector. Both KamaGames and another of our clients, Joybits, focus on the mobile side, as this is the only area with double digit growth. As detailed in a previous Forsyth Group blog, Games are the app segment with most frequent use after downloading, so there is scope for this area to continue to grow.

The report ends with a warning that until there is a new wave of innovation that can accelerate market growth, consolidation is the key. This isn’t necessarily bad news though, as it means that quality is more prized than quick, unwarranted growth.

Fulfilling those New Year’s resolutions – how are you doing?

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January is a Marmite month: on the one hand we love the fresh start, the inspiring resolutions, the chance to make this the most healthy, productive, educational year of our lives; whilst on the other hand, we’re struggling to resist those glasses of wine, and stubbornly refusing to wake up before the crack of dawn to crack on with our new exercise regimes. On January 1st we bounded out of bed with the determination of an ironman triathlete (after the hangover had subsided); now that it’s almost half way through January, the novelty of cruciferous vegetables has worn off, and the sharp reality of running on a dark wintry night is hitting us hard, we’re looking to re-energise our motivation by reviewing our goals.


We’re determined to beat the January blues with both company-wide and individual life-hacks.  We’ll keep you updated on our progress and we wish you the best of luck with your own. As part of this, we will be blogging about the different apps/tech/self-help programs we use to 1. Make sure we stick to those pesky resolutions and 2. Let you know which apps/events/self-help programmes we find most effective.  We’d also love to hear what is helping you achieve your 2015 goals, so do reach out to let us know!


Coming up in reviews:

5 New Year’s Resolutions from the Forsyth Group

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As it is the New Year, and by now everyone has returned to work, we thought we would write a list of our New Year’s resolutions, and how we are going to use technology to help to implement them.

1. Get some Headspace

I think we can all agree that January is not the best month. It’s cold, it’s dark, you’ve spent too much money on Christmas presents and parties, and summer seems a long way away. However, rather than letting it all get too much, we are going to use the Headspace app to clear our minds from stress, helping us to work harder and keep focussed, but also stay relaxed and beat those January blues.

2. Read More

In our busy modern lives, it can be difficult to either find the time or the motivation to read enough books, when it is all too easy to be distracted by a screen, be it the television, computer, tablet or phone. Mark Zuckerberg seems to have noticed this trend (which he is partially to blame for!), and has now started a book club on Facebook, which has already garnered over 180,000 likes, and the first book selected, “The End of Power”, has sold out on Amazon.

3. Learn a language

In our ever-increasingly global world, being able to communicate in more than one language is a vital skill. Now, thanks to apps like Duolingo, you can learn a new language on your phone, meaning it can be done anywhere. From the commute to the bath, there is now no excuse not to try to broaden your linguistic skills!

4. Drink better coffee

Here at the Forsyth Group some of us could safely be called caffeine addicts. This year, we’ve resolved to give up on instant coffee, and we have instead started ordering from Pact. With Pact’s algorithms, you can rate the coffee you receive and they will tailor future deliveries to your taste. The difference is unbelievable, with coffee now being a pleasure as well as a necessity!

5. Make small realistic changes

YOU-app is a new IOS app that aims to gently nudge its users into healthier daily habits by use of what they call “micro-actions”. Promoted heavily by Jamie Oliver, the idea behind the app is that to create sustainable change in one’s life, research has shown that small steps, rather than radical leaps, are far more effective. All of the above resolutions are achievable according to this small change principle, so let’s hope we can stick to them!


5 Tech Gadgets for your startup’s Secret Santa

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It’s the last full week in the office before Christmas, so spoil your Secret Sant-ee with one of these genius gifts:

1 The 3Doodle is a 3D printing pen, allowing the user to draw in 3D using heated plastic filament, which cools almost instantly into a solid structure. Perfect for the artistic genius, or even somebody with a creative mind and a steady hand.

2 Every start-up has at least one team member who is permanently high on espressos. For your caffeine obsessed colleague, a USB cup warmer is the ideal gift! Simply plug it into a USB slot in their computer, and their precious morning cup of coffee will stay warmer for longer.

3 Are your colleagues burning the midnight oil in the rush before Christmas? Show them you care with the Night-Write Pen– perfect for those late nights drafting business plans. This gift is both thoughtful and cost-effective, as the pen has 2 bright LED bulbs emitting light, so feel free to turn the lights off when you leave them in the office.

4 Your CEO has all the charm and wit of Bond (or so you tell him), and he loves a Martini. All he needs now is the secret agent DVR Spy Watch, which includes a video camera, and 4GB of internal flash memory.  He’ll be offering you a lift in his Aston Martin in no time.

5 And finally, for the person who has everything, or the nihilistic philosopher in your office, we have the Box of nothing. This is literally an empty box, designed to remind the recipient that “You have everything. You need nothing.” Available at €34, or €199 for a version where the proceeds go to charity. Only recommended for colleagues with a sense of humour, or a charitable side, or else you’re getting a lump of coal in return next year.

The Future Of Mobile Application Development

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A new infographic released by UAB Collat School of Business has given a small glimpse into the future of Mobile Application Development. Some truly astounding statistics are included, showing that the only way is up for the Mobile Application Development sphere.

One of the most eye-catching statistics is that 1,000,000,000 smartphones will be sold this year. This is double the amount of PC’s that will be sold, clearly indicating the way the wind is blowing. Furthermore, it is forecast that the world’s population will have grown to 7.3B by 2016, and there will be 10B mobile internet devices in use globally. This represents a clear opportunity for mobile app developers to gain billions of new customers!

This infographic goes on to forecast expected revenues from mobile apps. In 2014, the expected final revenue is $11.4B. What is interesting is their projection for 2016, which rises to $24.5B. This again is good news for app developers, as increased revenues means increased profits. It is estimated that by 2015, one in three consumer brands will feature integrated payment in their mobile apps, offering further opportunity for monetising mobile apps and increasing revenue.

The infographic goes on to show the percentage that an app was used in the past month among recent apps downloaded. Games had the highest percentage, with 60%. Will the launch of faltering Mind Candy’s World Of Warriors be able to take advantage of this trend?

Other interesting figures from this segment are Music at 43%, Social Networking at 47%, and shopping/retail at 24%. The reason I’ve highlighted these sectors are because they are the most obvious sectors to monitise and gain revenue growth. 24% for Shopping/Retail for example may seem quite low, but this means that there is a large proportion of people who can perhaps be persuaded to use their app more often, using a growth hack like offering an in-app discount for example. This could create more loyalty and more frequent use amongst customers. One of our clients, Styloko, are seeing fantastic success in this sector, and are poised for a strong 2014 Christmas season.

One of the trends pointed out in this report is that Mobile Social Networking is the fastest-growing consumer mobile app category. Another of our clients 23 Snaps, the leading private social network for families, has seen tremendous success with their customer acquisition strategy, helping to illustrate this point. Whilst this sector doesn’t seem the most obvious for monetising, the immense value of Twitter and Facebook amongst others shows that if you get it right the rewards are astronomical. With the projected increase in mobile phone use you would expect more giants to emerge in this sector.

Another emerging trend is for object recognition, with more sophisticated sensor and processing capabilities enabling exciting new functions. The Amazon Fire phone, whilst not currently a roaring success, has the capability for the camera to recognise an object in the real world, bring up web information about it, then offer to let you buy it on Amazon. This is a currently untapped market, which could explode and help mobile app revenue’s continue to skyrocket. Data analysis, too, will help increase revenues, for example in the mCommerce sphere, with data algorithms recognising people’s tastes and recommending similar items.

As detailed in a previous Forsyth Group blog, exit returns on investment from mobile internet companies have already reached $93B in the last twelve months. When combined with the ongoing increase in smartphone ownership, and the rise in projected revenue, it seems clear that the mobile application space is only going to rise.

Infographic found at

What Firing an Employee may Say about You

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A big thank you to Bretton Putter of the Forsyth group for Feedback and Editorial Input.

This post is not about how to hire or how to fire someone. It is about highlighting the potential reasons why employees relationships can fall apart and lead to a dismissal down the road. Hopefully this is post provides with your the necessary information for you to consider on how you can prevent this from happening by setting up an appropriate hiring process and cultivating an environment where employees are not set up for failure within their defined roles.

As you likely already know, hiring and firing are probably two of the most difficult things to do in a company. That’s why usually, for key hires, a company’s leadership is directly involved in the selection and interview process. Ideally, if done right, you never find yourself in a position where you have to lay someone off, but what if you do? Was it entirely the employee’s fault, or could you have done something to prevent it from happening?

Let’s start with looking at your hiring process and mistakes that can lead to an employee relationship breaking down:

Hiring Process Mistakes – These are mistakes you could have prevented before hiring
No defined internal interview process – By not having a clear process which a candidate goes through to assess the communication skills of the new potential prospect and their fit within the company culture, you run the risk of the employee potentially not fitting in.
Not geographically disciplined – In a startup everyone should be together, if it’s not possible, then people should spend time with the home-team at least 3 months. Having remote teams early on is very hard although some companies do manage to pull it off at the cost of their sleep.
Not qualified enough to do the job – In a startup, you don’t really have the time to train someone. Be careful about relying too much on training you could give the candidate, they should be self-sufficient pretty quickly on. Also, sometimes we can project a bit of ourselves and our ambitions onto people, so be mindful of personal biases when evaluating someone.
Not being able to commit to the company’s work ethic – Some companies have the expectation that you will be there from 9-5 or some regular schedule (think of customer services roles that require people to be at their desks by a certain time). Other companies have results oriented work environments where there is no need for someone to be there at a specific time so long as they get their work done. Make sure you define what your work ethic is so that people aren’t caught off guard later.

After the Fact Mistakes Analysis – These are mistakes you might have committed unknowingly that led to a dismissal.

Poor Role Definition –  If you or the hiring manager don’t know what the role this person will have (or main responsibility will be) within a company, you’re just setting up that new employee to linger in role purgatory, not knowing what they can control and what is someone else’s.
Poor Title Choice – If you give a new employee a title that is above their experience, particularly if you give them a C[x]O title, you set them up for potential failure if they can’t live up to it, because then you can’t hire above them to help them out and their ‘power’ position may create tension between other employees as their inexperience causes blunders. This may affect communication with peers as well. For more on the different philosophies on title choice, read the following
Poor Communications of responsibilities and expectations – Similar to clear role definition, poor communication of what is expected of them and by when, leads to that employee lacking direction and perhaps not going down a path that is necessarily the one that your organisation needs.
Not acting fast enough to rectify a situation – If something is going wrong, or an employee isn’t doing what they need to be doing according to their level, perhaps there is something awry in what they perceive things are they should be doing. Don’t wait because you feel awkward about it or want to see if it improves on its own. Jump in there and have a structured conversation with the employee to make sure roles and responsibilities are mutually agreed and that you both are aligned on what needs to happen next.
Poor Key Performance Indicator definition – defining how someone is doing well helps them to adjust their actions so that they reach the set goals. Not every employee will have a specific KPI tailored to their function, but if it is a key hire, they will likely have awareness of the company’s key KPIs and how their role aids the company in achieving them.
Poor management (in general) – Motivating people is not easy. Getting them to buy in to what you are doing is sometimes beyond just a pay check. You need to inspire them to do more not micromanage them if things aren’t going well. Read the book ‘Drive’ by Daniel H. Pink to get a feel for some of the latest thinking on motivational theory.
Other problematic employees – Sometimes organisations have bullies. You may hire someone that you think is a great fit for the job, and perhaps they would be if it weren’t to an already existing employee who ‘preys’ on others. Typically this bully can also be someone who is really good at their job so it isn’t always readily apparent from their performance. However, organisational bullies can create a reason for why new employees leave. Thus, never rule out this possibility as sometimes its hard for new employees to muster up the courage to report on a peer, particularly if they are senior to them.

So, some final things to consider –

As I mentioned before, when you see a problem that’s brewing, deal with it quickly. If you need to let someone go, let them go, but don’t be blind that it’s entirely their fault, review your company’s internal circumstances to see if they contributed towards the problem.

Verse yourself well with what the legal requirements are in your company’s jurisdiction. Don’t get yourself into a big mess by not going through the appropriate process, which typically requires warning before dismissing someone. You don’t want to find yourself in a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal.

In conclusion, when you hire, consider whether your hiring process is exhaustive, but also take stake and review your company’s situation so that you can prevent things from going wrong for your new team members once they are hired.

Additional Resources:

Recruitment service and application tracking
Are CEOs to Blame for Short CMO Tenures?
Startup Hiring: Why You Should Date Before Getting Married

Seedcamp portfolio company SocialBro raises $1.8m

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Seedcamp portfolio company SocialBro raises $1.8m

Congratulations to the team at SocialBro. We are heavy users at the Forsyth Group and love the product!

“The ability to drill-down and target specific groups of people on Facebook, based on their interests or affinity with your brand or a competitor’s, is sort of a given. The technology is already built into the platform. On Twitter, however, it’s not so easy. That’s the hole that SocialBro wants to fill, along with educating companies on how the 140 character-driven social network can be used as a tool to do business…. more

Peter Thiel & Valar Ventures

Peter Thiel has some interesting ideas on education and micro countries  , but Valar Ventures  is his best yet.

Valar Ventures is an internationally-focused venture capital firm backed by Peter Thiel. Based in San Francisco, Valar invests exclusively in companies outside of the United States. Valar believes that over the next decade an increasing number of transformative technology companies will be started outside of the US, and that the founders of those companies will benefit from having a US partner that understands their unique challenges and opportunities and can help them access US networks.

 Valar Ventures’ recent investment in Transferwise, which we wrote about earlier this week , is a great fit for Valar and Peter who is a member of the PayPal mafia.

 This is a great addition to the UK/EU funding ecosystem and a smart move considering how many companies on this side of the pond want access or relocate to the US market.

The worst part of working at Google…


The Quora  comment below, which was a response to the question ‘What’s the worst part about working at Google’, shows an interesting perspective on what it’s like to be a superstar, working alongside other superstars. Could working amongst geniuses in such a big company actually be a hindrance? If employees aren’t stretched intellectually by their work, but are incentivised financially to stay, does this create a negative working environment?

From a recruitment standpoint it is virtually impossible for start-ups to hire people from Google, not least because they don’t have the cash-flow to compete. But if the brightest and best want the opportunity to be challenged by building a disruptive product and working with entrepreneurs who have the passion and drive integral to the exciting, if somewhat unstable, early stage environment, then maybe the recruitment tide is about to turn…

‘The worst part of working at Google, for many people, is that they’re overqualified for their job. Google has a very high hiring bar due to the strength of the brand name, the pay & perks, and the very positive work culture. As a result, they have their pick of bright candidates, even for the most low-level roles.

There are students from top 10 colleges who are providing tech support for Google’s ads products, or manually taking down flagged content from YouTube, or writing basic code to A|B test the color of a button on a site.

Some of the downsides of so many overqualified people:

·         It’s hard to get promoted quickly, since the person above you as well as at your level both have great educations and strong work ethics. When it’s standard to be awesome, and the work isn’t particularly tough to begin with, it’s hard to differentiate.

·         The work may not be intellectually rewarding (read: boring). It can be tough to feel a sense of accomplishment about what you do, and that sense is actually quite important to the type of people who are ambitious enough to get over the Google hiring bar.

·         Some people end up losing their drive by working at Google. They get accustomed to not trying their hardest, but still having an awesome day-to-day life.

Some caveats: Many Googlers are clearly among the brightest in the world in their field, and they’re able to run full stride in their work. If you take your career into your own hands, you can find a role that challenges and stretches you as much as any other job in the world.

source: ‘I worked at Google.’

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