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The art of acceleration

The Barclays Accelerator Project, powered by Techstars

What’s the best way to solve a problem?

This question has been asked time and time again. Being an innovative company, Barclays, ventures to be a problem solver. But it’s not just about us. Often the best way to find a solution – is to share the problem. And that’s at the heart of The Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars.

Born from Rise; a programme established by Barclays Bank where we partner with entrepreneurs to disrupt business models, innovate and create the future of fin-tech; The Accelerator is a programme dedicated to mentoring start-ups, to develop the brightest and best talent to help innovate in the payments landscape. And it’s a two-way street. By combining start-ups, who are incredibly agile, disruptive and challenge the status quo, with the expertise, scale and experience of Barclays, a formidable match is made in the marketplace.

Barclaycard team
Often the best way to find a solution – is to share the problem.

What’s keeping it all together? The mentors are the glue. Working with us and with the start-ups are leading market experts, entrepreneurs and likeminded individuals who passionate about developing fin-tech products and initiatives for the future. So we went straight to the horse’s mouth and spoke to one of the mentors, Executive Planning Director at global digital agency, AKQA. Meet Jourik Migom.

So tell us a bit about yourself Jourik.

Fundamentally I’m a strategist. I head up the planning department at AKQA and support and help businesses strategise on a breadth of projects such as branding, business transformation, campaign planning and a ream of other topics. I’ve worked agency side for the last 10 years and collaborated with travel and automotive brands, luxury products as well as financial services companies.

NFL pitch

And what part do you play in The Accelerator Programme?

I’ve been involved since its inception as a mentor. AKQA is an agency that’s focuses on innovation and disruption, so it made sense for us to work on this project. Our close relationship with Techstars and the start-up space really connected us to the Accelerator but more importantly, we want to make sure founders and SMEs have access to the same advice as big corporates. And that’s where Barclays have lent a helping hand. By bringing together mentors and founders in the fin-tech world on an intensive programme, they’re enabling them to succeed.

NFL-branded Barclaycard

What inspires you as a mentor?

It’s all about the experience of helping disrupters disrupt. Being a mentor isn’t about the theory. It’s about talking the talk and walking the walk. That’s in the culture of start-ups. They want to create and get stuff done within their business and being close to that kind of energy inspiring. I also have a fascination of founders. They want to fix a problem, have a fast turnaround and always want to action.

Collaboration is king in a project like this. What’s it like working with both the start-up and Barclays?

It’s all about having a holistic approach. As a mentor I really focus on the start-up and on supporting them strategically, but Barclays provides the context. They offer access; infrastructure and they have seized the moment to innovate. That’s what makes Barclays so unique. They strongly believe in open innovation for the benefit of the customer.

Person using tablet computer
Being a mentor isn’t about the theory. It’s about talking the talk and walking the walk.

Take Barclaycard’s mentorship DigiSEq. By mentoring a small company that has the capability to turn any wearable into a payment device, they’re working together to helps shape the future of payments. The Barclays Group has opened their doors, data and platforms to help SMEs grow and that backdrop means that the opportunities are endless. Partnerships, acquisitions, new business models and products arise from these kinds of initiatives. The Accelerator is really just the start of the journey.

Have there seen any bumps in the road so far?

All I really want is more time. There’s a direct correlation between the time you invest with a founder and the impact you can make on the business. If I can be immersed in start-up, I can help them better. Solving big or small problems doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve found that value I add rapidly depletes if I can’t spend enough time with the start-up to really understand their motivation and their challenges. That’s why it’s so important to just focus on two or three SMEs. And that’s why the Accelerator is so great. The programme focuses on a small group of start-ups for 13 weeks, so both players can get the most out of it. 

Any top tips for aspiring mentors?

You can contribute more than you think. You give a lot but you get so much back. And the one thing I learned from Greg Rogers, who is a part of the Accelerator at Techstars, is that it’s so important to be clear whether you’re speaking to a start-up from experience or if it’s just your own opinion. They need mentors for their specialties, so use your experience to your advantage and you can’t go wrong.

Want to know more about The Accelerator project? Find out more here.