Asif Faruque, the communications, brand and digital strategy lead for Level39 met us on thirty-ninth floor with an impressive London scenery. Europe’s largest technology accelerator for businesses in the finance and smart-cities sectors has a base in Canary Wharf, the city’s major business district. Level39 has become home to over 150 startups and is considered the biggest hub of Fintech talent in London.
What do you think Level39 has that other companies don’t?
Level39 is an accelerator that is laser-focused on businesses working in the financial, retail, security and smart-city sectors. We keep a clear focus on these verticals, provide a specific curriculum, access to investors and experts and a professional yet inspirational working environment – all designed for these businesses. We take no equity in our members, but give them space and support to grow.
How is Level39 shaping the industry?
We’ve worked tirelessly to become the epicentre of Fintech around the world – although there is much work to be done, we now boast more than 200 companies, many of whom are operating in the Fintech sector. We’re known globally for being home to some of the most forward-thinking small businesses, including Digital Shadows, organisations like Innovate Finance as well as up-and-coming disruptive businesses such as Revolut and Transfergo.
“We look forward to welcoming more industry-leading businesses and players.”
Can you tell us about the company’s mission & vision? Where do you see Level39 in five years’ time?
Our mission is twofold – to transform London’s finance and technology sector, but to also change the shape of Canary Wharf. Slowly but surely, we are well on our way to achieving both. Canary Wharf has steadily reduced the percentage of its financially-focused tenants over the past few years and has attracted some big-hitting tech players into the estate.
We’ve become synonymous with Fintech – and through our Cognicity Hub and Canary Wharf’s previous Cognicity Programme – we are strengthening our smart-cities vision, too. The plan is to keep on doing the great work we’ve been doing for the past three years – and have some fun while we do it!
What should anyone wishing to join your team consider before applying for your roles?
The Level39 management team is lean and efficient, we all get stuck in with plenty of other jobs that might not necessarily fit our job titles, or job descriptions – but that’s something we all love about the job. The opportunity to try new things, learn new things and become a better person for it.
The culture at Level39 is very important too. We’re all very passionate about technology and achieving great things – and that’s a great starting point for any new candidates joining the team.
What’s the biggest challenge that Level39 faces right now?
The same challenge that we’ve always faced – technology moves quickly, the markets change, the ideas and opinions, the key players – these all shift rapidly. We have always been on top of those changes, and in many instances, through the great work of our members, we are leading the way.
We look forward to welcoming more industry-leading businesses and players and we look forward to achieving this partly through our newest hire. The new Head of Level39, Ben Brabyn, comes from a background of business development, entrepreneurship and innovation. Former COO of UKTI Innovation Gateway, Ben will give us the direction and leadership to handle the fast-moving pace of this industry.
What does it take to be an innovator? How do you recommend a company can stand out from the crowd?
All of our members are interviewed a number of times before joining Level39. The ecosystem team, responsible for admissions and memberships, look for originality and potential. We’ve had more than 1200 applications – we currently have just over 200 members.
The entrepreneurs based at Level39 are deeply passionate about their ideas, and changing the industry, if not the world. They are geeky about the technology underpinning these ideas, and often have strong views on why the current system needs updating. We value that passion, as it means the business has a great foundation.
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