LAB FELLOWSHIP: Hear From The Pioneers

Last week we began our search for applicants to join the 2016 Finance Innovation Lab Fellowship programme. But you might be wondering; Why should I want to be a Fellow? How can the Lab support entrepreneurs?

So, to fire up your enthusiasm, we asked Bruce Davis, Brett Scott and Julia Groves, entrepreneurs who have worked closely with the Lab since its launch, about their experience and advice for future fellows.


Say hello to Bruce Davis

Managing Director of Abundance, Cofounder of Zopa & Lab Senior Fellow

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Tell us about your business. What makes it different and how did you come up with the idea?  

Abundance is a peer to peer investment company that finances renewable energy projects in the UK. The idea was the brainchild of myself and Karl Harder who met over coffee in the British Library and created the concept of crowdfunding applied to ethical finance (as opposed to start-up projects).

How did you get involved with The Lab?

I was invited to speak as an ‘entrepreneur’ relating to my role in helping to create Zopa.com, sharing experiences with the other members of the Lab and hopefully providing some inspiration to individuals who later went on to be Fellows of the Lab.

How has being part of The Lab helped you and your business?

Being a Fellow has raised the profile of our business and our point of view on investment, which is aligned with the Lab goals to create a financial system which serves people and planet.

What has been your biggest success to date?

Raising more than £2.5m in a week for 3 projects just before Christmas last year.

What would be your advice to someone who’s thinking about applying to be a Fellow?

If you are thinking about developing a business that does more than just make money, then you should talk to people who are actually doing it rather than consultants with lots of flashy powerpoint but no experience.

If you’d like to read more about all of our senior fellows click here.


Say hello to Brett Scott

Author of ‘The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money’ & Lab Senior Fellow

Tell us about yourself. What do you do?

I work on everything from student divestment campaigns to social banking, hedge fund regulation, alternative currencies and blockchain technology for international development. I write, run workshops, and collaborate on projects. I focus on the financial system but I look at it through the lens of anthropology, critical technology philosophy, history, geography and art.

Where would you like to see more innovation in finance?

The mainstream debate is often focused on creating ‘socially useful’ finance, which is generally a way of saying ‘a financial system that doesn’t overtly screw people over and helps them fulfil their basic life goals’. That said, such a vision is often very limited and conservative in scope, as if the most we can hope for is a pleasant financial system that allows you safety in retirement.

I am much more interested in systems that go beyond merely helping people to act out their pre-defined roles in a market economy, and that actually enable people to feel creative, engaged and responsible for things beyond their narrow individual interests.

What are the biggest challenges facing someone building a financial business?

Mainstream banks have become perceived as so utterly normal that any attempt to show a better way is met with automatic nervous scepticism from users, even if the alternatives are better, and even if people know the banks are abusive. HSBC can engage in mass fraud and people will carry on using it as if nothing happened – smaller alternatives don’t have that luxury.

If you’d like to read more about all of our senior fellows click here.


Say hello to Julia Groves

Cofounder of the UK Crowdfunding Association & Lab Fellow

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Tell us about yourself. What do you do and why is the financial system important to you?

My purpose is to make energy more sustainable – but I worked out about three years ago, that you can’t fix the energy system unless you fix the financial system. Money makes the world go round…

What do you think will be the biggest trends in finance this year? And what will we see for the first time?

It’s time for real partnerships between innovators and incumbents.

Where would you like to see more innovation in finance?

Diversity. The meetings I go to are getting a little too ‘old school finance’. We have a chance to have finance reflect society. If we don’t introduce diversity we have missed the opportunity of a lifetime.

What are the biggest challenges facing someone building a financial business?

Nothing makes much money until it is HUGE!

What would be your advice to someone who’s thinking about applying to be a Fellow?

When the s**t hits the fan, or when the 100th person tells you what you are trying can never work, these are the people you call. Do it.

If you’d like to read more about all of our senior fellows click here.


Full information and an online application form can be found at www.financeinnovationlab.org/fellowship.