Open Up Challenge: Twenty winning Fintechs selected to shape the future of small business banking

Nesta, the innovation foundation, has today announced the twenty organisations* to participate in the Open Up Challenge – a £5m prize fund to inspire the creation of next-generation services, apps and tools designed for the UK’s 5 million small businesses.

Nesta announced the Challenge in February in a global search for organisations who would use new open banking APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to transform the way small businesses discover, access and use financial services. The Prize capitalises on the UK’s world-leading role in Fintech and open banking to stimulate customer-focussed innovations that will help UK small businesses thrive in a connected digital economy.

The twenty teams, who were selected by an independent judging panel, each receive a £50k grant, fully funded technical and business support and exclusive access to the Open Up Data Sandbox, containing one of the largest anonymised UK banking transaction datasets ever made available. There is an opportunity for them to win a share of a further £3.5m if successful during the Challenge.

Participants include both established fintechs and start-ups, adopting a range of data-driven approaches to creating value for small businesses – including in neo-banking, alternative finance and invoice financing, credit scoring, product comparison and selection, automated financial intelligence and infrastructure. A key theme is the appetite to use advanced machine learning techniques to help small businesses make better financial decisions and to streamline routine finance processes that consume entrepreneurs’ time.

Chris Gorst, Challenge Prize Lead at Nesta, commented: “We have been overwhelmed by the volume and quality of entrants for the Open Up Challenge. It’s encouraging to see how much energy and talent is focussed on fintech innovations for small businesses. We now have twenty teams who we firmly believe can build next generation services that will transform small business banking. By supporting these teams with financial rewards, expert support and access to the Open Up Data Sandbox, we hope to play a part in revolutionising a sector that has been slow to exploit new technology and respond to customer needs.”

Earlier this month, the Open Banking Ltd, the entity overseeing the development of the UK’s open banking standard, released the API specifications for account and transaction information and payments initiation, which will go live in January 2018. The Open Up Data Sandbox aligns with this specification and provides access to real anonymised data, enabling Challenge participants to build and test new services in readiness for this development.

Imran Gulamhuseinwala, trustee of the Open Banking implementation entity said: “Open banking is the catalyst that will accelerate the creation of an entirely new market for dynamic, rapidly evolving, financial services.

“From automating activity that currently takes valuable time away from businesses, to making access to credit and advice easier and smarter, it will revolutionise the way companies are run and grown. Nesta’s Open Up Challenge demonstrates the range and quality of innovations enabled by open banking and I look forward to seeing these develop into game-changing products for small businesses.”

The Open Up Challenge is part of a package of retail banking reforms which are recommended by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and aims to transform the way small businesses manage their finances. The Challenge is managed by Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, who deliver innovation through Challenge Prizes including the Longitude Prize and the Inclusive Technology Prize.

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Interviews with Nesta and the participating teams are available on request.

*List of 20 winners

  • Beyond Labs
  • Bud Financial
  • Coconut
  • Credit Data Research Ltd
  • DueDil
  • Fractal Labs
  • Fluidly
  • Funding Options
  • Funding Xchange
  • Growth Street
  • Handle by Bizfitech
  • Investly
  • Iwoca
  • Ormby Street
  • Runpath
  • Solo – Smarter Freelancing
  • Teller
  • Tide
  • Xelix

About Open Up Challenge – The Open Up Challenge is a new £5m prize fund to inspire next generation services, apps and tools designed for the UK’s 5 million small businesses. The Prize offers successful entrants development grants, cash prizes, technical and business support and exclusive access to a unique data set provided by UK banks.

The Open Up Challenge is backed by the Competition and Markets Authority with funding from eight of the UK’s largest providers of SME banking (Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, RBS, Santander, AIB Group (UK) plc., Bank of Ireland UK and Danske Bank).The Open Up Challenge is run by Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre (through its wholly owned subsidiary Nesta Enterprises Limited).

Nesta is a global innovation foundation. Our mission is to spark and shape new ideas to improve how the world works for everyone. We use our knowledge, networks, funding and skills to take on big challenges, working in partnership with others to make change happen. We are a UK charity and our work is enabled by a financial endowment. Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.

The CMA Remedies: – The Open Up Challenge is part of a package of retail banking reforms which are recommended by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).