London in 2017 was a city still making its mind up. Five years after it hosted the world of sport for the 2012 Olympics, and ten years into a tech start up surge in East London, some felt that London was losing its edge. Having voted for Brexit, the UK faced an apparently uninspiring choice between the staid Theresa May and old fashioned left-winger Jeremy Corbyn for Prime Minister. For the start ups of Tech City, there was a risk that London’s enthusiasm for tech might be fizzling out.
It was against this backdrop that Viktor Prokopenya, international tech entrepreneur and investor, moved to London, aiming to build an investment platform that could help to usher in ‘the third Industrial Revolution’. As a serial founder of companies, investor and tech pioneer, Prokopenya saw opportunities beyond the shared office spaces and app developers of Tech City.
In London, Viktor saw a confluence of tech innovation and financial expertise that could lead the way in the emerging field of fintech. The age of remote working and the flexibility of the tech industry has led some to argue that businesses can be based anywhere, and that all a team requires is a Wi-Fi connection, but Prokopenya has always seen the appeal in a London base:
"London has always been an exciting place for me. It is an old and beautiful city that has completely opened up to young and talented people in recent years.”
The UK, of course, has long fostered a positive environment for start-ups. With its strong entrepreneurial culture, the capital has attracted companies as it offers a flexible labour market and a pro-business culture fostered by successive politically liberal administrations. The government itself looks to software start-ups to keep London moving. As recently as last week, the transit authority Transport for London (TfL) hired Samdesk, an AI startup to help it detect disruptions in the vast London network.
As a financial capital, London attracts talent not just in investment banking and capital markets, but in related fields from venture capital to private equity and fund management, as well as high-net worth investors. This creates a healthy funding ecosystem to support successful companies at different stages of development, as well as a degree of rigour and discipline that is not seen in cities purely focused on start-ups. That makes London fertile ground for anyone looking to develop a business combining both finance and tech.
From a founder’s perspective, London has a lot to offer. With its political stability and world-class justice system, London is attractive to investors in search of legal certainty as well as a strong financial centre and buzzing start up scene. It is this combination of factors that makes the city so appealing to Viktor as a base to mount a fintech revolution, given his career as both a founder and an investor, with proven expertise in software and strong finance background. “What I think is exciting about London is that its commercial dynamism is accessible to everyone", says Viktor.
Recent relocations suggest that London is fostering the next generation of tech giants. For years, successive governments have fostered a start-up culture in London’s Shoreditch and Old Street neighbourhoods, but there are signs that the sector is now maturing and outgrowing its East London roots. A recent article from the FT explains how companies that used to be start-ups have now grown into large corporate groups with over 3000 employees, and are taking over the city, from Battersea to Stratford.
Viktor has been through the same transition himself, having founded and sold a string of successful software companies, most notably in 2012 when he sold his first truly international business and went on to found VP Capital to manage a portfolio of companies. He chose London as a base for his investment vehicle because, he says “diversity of talent is London’s secret weapon: a vibrant start up scene, a world class finance industry, and a magnet for international talent, topped up by an excellent education system. It’s a unique combination that combines to create an unbeatable business culture.”
Viktor is best known today as the founder of Currency.com and Capital.com – two fintech businesses on a mission to democratise finance. Unlike many operating in the cryptocurrency and blockchain sectors, Viktor does not subscribe to the speculation and ‘boosterism’ that has seen many take on risks which they cannot afford. Instead, he favours a measured approach, creating unprecedented access to the tools of high finance, but doing so through platforms that are secure and well regulated, allowing users to trade with confidence.
The companies Viktor invests in operate across different strands of the tech industry, but they are driven by shared values. According to Viktor, “VP Capital isn’t interested in fostering companies that seek to disrupt markets for the sake of disruption, but in building companies that harness innovation to transform society.”
"With VP Capital, what we’re doing is finding people working on technologies with exponential potential – potential for growth but also to change the way we live our lives. It’s our job to accelerate that innovation and build successful companies.”
With Currency.com and Capital.com both now qualifying as tech ‘unicorns’, employing hundreds of staff in London and across Europe, Viktor Prokopenya is becoming a recognised leader in London’s tech and finance communities. If his ambitions for his current portfolio of companies are realised, he could have an impact on all of our lives which goes well beyond the city serving as his launch pad to even greater success.