Part 3 of 4 series…
Founded: October 2010
July 2013: Launched first smart ring in world known as the “NFC Ring”. It could unlock doors, offices, start your car, and share information.
November 2015: Launched NFC Ring generation 2.
August 2016: Launched Payment Ring in Strategic Alliance with Visa at Rio Olympics.
2017: Showcased Payment Ring at Superbowl, Eurovision, FIFA Conferedations Cup.
July 2017: Raised $23m Series A with inter-conditional joint stock acquisition.
January 2018: Selling payment rings to banks and other issuers.
Disruptive home-grown businesses are always on the look-out for mentorship to shape their vision and a launch pad to expand internationally.
If you own a fast-growing, revenue-generating business in London in technology, life sciences, creative or urban infrastructure sector and are actively looking for a launch pad to grow internationally, the Mayor’s International Business Programme (MIBP) is tailored perfectly to fit this vision.
This exclusive programme provides a bespoke, on-the-ground mentoring scheme to SMEs. Expert advice is delivered by leading entrepreneurs and business leaders along with access to targeted trade missions, live leads and opportunities. Celebrating some of the fastest-growing, innovative companies in London, 2017 was a stellar year with cohort members expanding into new markets, creating jobs, closing deals and opening new offices overseas including Century Tech, Yoti Ltd, McLEAR & Takumi.
We caught up with Nicoli Prencipe, Chairman & Managing Director of McLEAR (previously known as NFC Ring and VegaOne), who shared his experiences from the programme, how it helped him connect with fellow venture builders, and more about his product.
Tell us about your disruptive fintech model McLEAR.
McLEAR introduces anonymous (tokenized) payment rings in strategic alliance with Visa, Gemalto, and the world’s largest banks. We provide to retail banks a wearable electronic ring that you can swipe in a store or on the metro to make payments. The ring is linked to your card or bank account through your bank’s app, which is in turn connected to a platform known as either Visa’s VTS and MasterCard’s MDES. Our mission is to use anonymity to end fraud and personal data theft and provide the best payment experience possible.
We offer our product directly to retail banks. We find that our offering is not provided by any competitor in the marketplace and is disruptive to mobile payments and traditional cash and cards. Some of our customer banks offer our electronic ring product as a premiere credit card to their top revenue-generating customer base. Others are using it to appeal to the millennial generation who expect a better experience from their bank.
Our hub offices are in London, Tokyo, and Los Angeles. We founded the company in 2010 and began selling the first electronic rings in 2013. This new offering was officially launched in August 2016 at the Rio Olympics.
How can fast-growing companies in London make the most of Mayor’s International Business Programme?
As a fast-growing company, responsibilities of senior management grow daily. Yet participation in MIBP should not be misunderstood. The opportunity which MIBP provides is vast and it requires top attention to be truly exercised.
MIBP is a key conduit for us to meet business leaders in the City and around the world. Through participation in the programme, our senior staff have travelled alongside MIBP to major events in our sector – from Madrid to Las Vegas. At key industry events, and in exclusive intimate gatherings, MIBP introduces us to leading enterprise decision makers.
In one recent event, we were provided a particularly exemplary opportunity. MIBP invited us to a City breakfast, which our COO and around 9 other MIBP fintech member entrepreneurs attended. Upon arriving, all of the members sat to have an extended breakfast roundtable with an EVP at a global top-5 retail commercial bank. Without being a member of MIBP, we would not have the opportunity which we now have to enter into a business relationship with that top-tier financial institution.
Moving forward, to fully exercise the high-value strategic opportunity which MIBP represents, we are hiring a dedicated staff who in part has responsibility to nurture and manage our MIBP relationship. I recommend that anyone who joins MIBP creates a role upfront, upon entering the programme, which has the responsibility to do the same.
How important was MIBP mentorship for growing your business globally?
Coming up with an idea is difficult. Building a company is hard. But building a global sales organisation, competing multilaterally against incumbents and innovators alike, is very hard. MIBP has been highly valuable in helping our company’s executives meet the right people and get into the right events so that they could focus on selling our product.
It gives us confidence to know that we are connected to important figures in the City. For an entrepreneur, her specialty may be as an engineer or lawyer, but it is not typically being networked with all of the right individuals in media or banking – that’s where MIBP offers us great support.
As an entrepreneur, how do you maintain work-life balance?
Our company’s work-life balance policy is simply ‘family first’. We provide to each employee the full independence to set their personal diary, including vacations, so long as they satisfy their responsibilities. Though, how this plays out in the high-responsibility high-growth enterprise is, in contrast, not very simple. We are careful to hire global experts with life-long experience.
Therefore, nearly all our employees have children. While I do not, I am myself married and have responsibilities to care for my extended family.
Looking to expand your business overseas in 2018?
Having already helped over 400 companies realise their ambitions for international growth, the programme is now searching for its next cohort of companies to take overseas. Open to fast-growing companies in London operating in four broad sectors: technology, life sciences, urban and creative, if you want to follow in the footsteps of McLEAR, make sure you apply to the exclusive programme via gotogrow.london.