Europe needs swagger

Four fintech start-ups to watch


Eleven start-ups took to the stage at a venue inside London's O2 arena on Monday to pitch their companies in front of investors and enthusiasts.

Hosted by Barclays and Techstars, one of the world's largest start-up accelerators, the event aimed to identify the next big companies, all with a financial technology or "fintech" focus.

London has become one of the hottest hubs for fintech not only in Europe but the world.

So could this group become future "unicorns" – or companies valued over $1 billion? CNBC spoke to four of the most innovative singled out by industry experts.


British start-up Cuvva allows users to buy car insurance for someone else's vehicle by the hour via a smartphone app.

"At the moment insurance is really inflexible and you have to buy this slab of annual insurance," Freddy Macnamara, co-founder and CEO of Cuvva, told CNBC in an interview.

"Why can't I just jump into a friend's car, drive it and not go to jail? It's difficult," he added, talking about the inspiration behind his start-up.

Users are verified by taking a picture of their driving license and taking a selfie via the iPhone app. An Android app is on its way. Different metrics are then taken into account to offer a user the price for their hourly insurance.

Macnamara wants to turn Cuvva into a marketplace platform which matches buyers and sellers, so consumers can shop around for the best price. And the co-founder said he is currently in talks with a major car insurer to allow people to buy hourly cover for their own car. Currently it's illegal in the U.K. to have an uninsured vehicle. So Macnamara said he is fleshing out details about how Cuvva could work on vehicles that people own.


Founded by an ex-JPMorgan compliance chief, Helm is a piece of software that can tell businesses when they are not meeting laws and regulation.

It's essentially a giant database of different rules which can automatically notify compliance managers at organizations when there is a gap, stripping away the need for an army of lawyers, with the aim of making it easier for smaller businesses to stick to the laws. If there are gaps in compliance, Helm can link you up with a company that can fix it.

"What I'm doing right now is making compliance possible for smaller companies," Paul McCulloch, founder and CEO of Helm told CNBC.

"There are articles talking about how small companies can't make it and get swallowed up because if they become too competitive, big banks point regulators at them and small businesses get shut down."

Helm also allows regulators to consult with institutions using the platform about upcoming regulations, so companies can give feedback about how it will affect their business. It is currently in talks on collaborating with regulators across the world.

McCulloch said he is looking to raise about $1.2 million to expand.


Imagine you could tap a point of sale terminal with your necklace and pay for something. This is DigiSEq's vision.

The start-up, co-founded by Terrie Smith, one of the architects of Apple Pay, helps companies producing devices with near-field communication (NFC) technology in them to offer payments.

"It's a platform that takes care of the complexities in your security, delivering secure application data across to a device," Terrie Smith, founder and CEO of DigiSEq told CNBC.

"We partner with organizations like chip manufacturers so when a device owner comes and says we really want to do this on our jewelry and watches, they don't understand how to do it, we can bring together parts of the service needed."


Heartbeats, fingerprints, eye scans. These are just some of the methods device makers are using to authenticate payments or unlock devices.

Zighra's approach is different. It recognizes a user's unique behavioral traits such as the way they swipe the screen of their smartphone, the pressure they tap the display with and the angle they hold their phone.

It is not a separate app but instead, it is built into applications created by other institutions such as banks.

"What we do is we learn at an invisible layer of security. If you are making a payment, you swipe the screen. By just interacting with the screen we start generating a score and if it's a good score we know it's the user. If not we can tell if it's someone else," Deepak Dutt, CEO and co-founder of Zighra told CNBC.

Dutt said Zighra is working with the top two banks in Canada and one of the top five insurance companies in the U.S. to integrate the solution into their apps. He could not name the firms due to confidentiality reasons.

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