FinTech matchmaker: TISAtech recruits UAE start-ups looking to expand to Britain

Digital marketplace says companies 'don't have to hop on the plane, you can you can hop on the platform'

United Arab Emirates - Dubai - Aug 11 - 2010 : The Dubai International Financial Centre. ( Jaime Puebla / The National )

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Digital marketplace TISAtech is recruiting UAE FinTechs looking to expand to the UK to help connect British investors with start-ups in the Emirates without getting on a plane during the Covid-19 pandemic.

TISAtech, which acts as a matchmaker for the FinTech sector, is a joint venture between Britain’s The Disruption House (TDH), a benchmarking and scorecard service for the financial sector, and The Investing and Savings Alliance (Tisa).

This is a new world and the new world requires new tools.

The platform, which went live in November last year, acts as a tech bridge to help corporates and FinTechs collaborate more easily during the crisis.

With six UAE FinTechs already profiled on the platform, including robo-advisory Sarwa, chief executive and co-founder of TDH Rupert Bull said TISAtech was looking to engage more start-ups in the Emirates and wider region.

“We are saying to UAE FinTechs, ‘here's a platform that can help you internationalise and access the UK market in a very short time and cost-effective manner’,” Mr Bull said.

The platform offers start-ups a chance to explore the UK market in a low-carbon manner.

“You don't have to hop on the plane, you can hop on the platform. Historically, companies considering the UK market would have gone to the airport, hopped on a plane and come to UK for meetings. That’s not possible at the moment but the platform still allows you do it," he said.

“This is a new world and the new world requires new tools. The fact we have this platform capability means that geography should no longer be a determinant of whether you can do business across borders.”

The joint venture between Tisa and TDH marries Tisa’s 220 corporate members with the 3,600 FinTechs TDH has assessed across the globe. This allows investors or start-up clients to judge the sustainability of a company, while FinTechs can access their next investor or mentor.

With most of the 3,600 FinTechs already on the platform based in the UK and the Americas, it is easy to understand why TISAtech decided to prioritise the UAE as a key market from the Middle East and North Africa.

Rupert Bull of The Disruption House, said FinTechs no longer need to 'hop on a plane' to meet potential investors. Courtesy The Disruption House
Rupert Bull of The Disruption House, said FinTechs no longer need to 'hop on a plane' to meet potential investors. Courtesy The Disruption House

Start-ups in the UAE attracted more than half of the $1 billion in venture capital raised in the region in 2020 and more than a quarter of the total Mena deals, Magnitt's 2021 Emerging Venture Markets report said.

With the UAE’s total share of funding rising 5 per cent to $579m, it means the Arab world's second-biggest economy received the largest share of the funds raised and ranked first in terms of the number of deals.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has encouraged investors to back high-growth industries, such as e-commerce and FinTech, which drew increased demand during the pandemic, the Magnitt report found.

To boost its engagement with the UAE’s FinTech sector, TISAtech this month appointed industry stalwart Fabian Vandenreydt as ambassador to the country.

Mr Vandenreydt said the platform offers options for both sides of the start-up space, with FinTechs able to look for financing and corporates able to hunt for disruptive ideas.

“It is still a very difficult process to put those two together so the marketplace is a great way to do that,” said Mr Vandenreydt, who is normally based in Abu Dhabi's Al Maryah Island but for pandemic reasons was speaking from his native Belgium.

“The big corporations are making sure they don’t miss the boat– they are looking for solutions that extend what they already have, or disrupt or renew the technology or processes they have. But the problem is, it's a big forest and not all the trees are in your own city ... so their issue is having access to a place that helps them scout and discover the right companies for their needs," he said.

The platform is not only about matching corporates with innovative FinTechs, it also curates the start-ups it profiles to ensure viability or due diligence processes are complete.

The work of finding out whether a FinTech is a good start-up or has the right credentials “is already done on the platform”, Mr Vandenreydt said.

“If you have a start-up in the UAE, or in other parts of the GCC, and you are mature enough to export … anything that helps them make the case to clients and investors abroad, such as in the UK, is a welcome addition.”

Mr Vandenreydt is looking to recruit post-Series A FinTechs to ensure the right companies, or those that are “fully functioning businesses in one geography”, are featured.

With 70 per cent of companies that raise at Series A never reaching Series B and 43 per cent that raise at Series B never reaching Series C, Mr Bull said, the platforms also helps its users understand the risks.

“For most businesses, your home market is not big enough to become a very valuable business, so you need to go overseas. But going overseas is very risky and that is what the platform has been designed for, to do risk,” Mr Bull said.

Pre-pandemic companies would have spent "tens of thousands of pounds with management consultants to find out whether the UK market is the right fit for them", Mr Bull said.

“Now you can get access to that same insight for a fraction of that.”

The entry-level cost for start-ups on the TISAtech platform is £3,000 per annum, which includes a TDH assessment and promotion on the platform.

The £4,000 silver package includes a meeting with an expert from your sector, while the £5,000 gold offer includes two meetings with interested parties, and the £6,000 platinum includes four meetings.

Mr Bull said the costs are similar to a business trip for two people flying to the UK for meetings once you factor in flights and accommodation.

However, that cost may be even higher with the UK’s new hotel quarantine rules for travellers from the UAE, which is on the red list.

With TDH assessing another 55 FinTechs in the UAE – including Now Money, a financial services platform for low-income migrant workers, and price comparison site – the UAE will soon have a greater presence on the TISAtech platform.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, 18 JUNE 2017. Ian Dillion, Co-Founder, of Now Money an app based start up that usese mobile technology to improve the lives of low income migrant workers in the UAE. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Alice Haine. Section: Business.
Ian Dillon, co-founder of Now Money, which recently raised $7m in a funding round led by UK venture investor Anthemis Exponential Ventures. Antonie Robertson / The National

Ian Dillon, co-founder of Now Money, which recently raised $7m in a funding round led by UK venture investor Anthemis Exponential Ventures, said the benefit for raising its profile through the platform was "being able to be seen and hopefully introduced to traditional regulated financial institutions that could partner with us".

“In terms of raising our profile in the UK, Anthemis is probably the leading FinTech-focused venture capital firm in the world based out of London. They led our round this time and we have a couple of other investors from the UK as well,” Mr Dillon said.

“London has become a massive hub for FinTech, so there's a lot of expertise there so although we are in different geographies, there’s a lot of understanding that goes with the industry and that means it can actually be a really good place for us to find potential investors.”

TISAtech is also looking to recruit UAE investors with a large portfolio of start-ups on their books that want to sign to boost their visibility in the UK.

“There might be investors in Abu Dhabi, for example, that are working on exporting their UAE services to the world that would be interested in having a wholesale agreement with TISAtech to bring their portfolio companies on,” Mr Vandenreydt said.

With the recruitment drive focusing initially on the UAE before expanding to the wider GCC and Mena region, Mr Bull said the platform was also attractive to the Emirates from an inward investment perspective.

If the UAE not only helps people grow “brilliantly in the Emirates” but can also “help them grow fantastically, internationally, into a market that's well-aligned with them”, then that is hugely beneficial for the UAE’s burgeoning ecosystem, he said.

TISAtech is now drawing up a list of FinTechs, investors and government organisations in the Emirates as it looks to grow the UAE segment of its offering.

Ultimately, TISAtech hopes its platform saves the FinTech industry time.

“It takes a lot of time to set up meetings for a start-up and very often you go into a meeting and then you suddenly realise that the person in front of you is not the right person or has a different expectation," Mr Vandenreydt said.

“With this matchmaking system, the chance of having a great meeting is higher.”