How I got from college to a Fintech Acceleration Programme in London

The first edition of Octopus Accelerator is about to begin. Created by Octopus Labs, it is an incredible opportunity for Fintech startups to further expand their reach into the UK adviser market. From an initial pool of 80 startups, only 5 were selected. And Advicefront was part of that group. Consequently, the whole team is moving to London for 3 months. I’ll come back to this in a second…

March 2016. There I was, completing the first year of my Master’s Degree in Software Engineering in Braga — Portugal’s third biggest city. And I wasn’t really enjoying it whatsoever. It was simply… boring. On the other hand, I’d been interested about Entrepreneurship for a long time, and reading books and articles and toying with things stopped being enough, which made me want to roll up my sleeves and jump straight into where the action was happening. The problem was: I didn’t know where to start. As such, when I found out about the 12 week-long Faber Ventures’ Summer Internship Programme, I applied straight away. Faber Ventures is one of the top VCs in Portugal and I’d get to work 4 days a week in one of their portfolio startups and on the remaining day I’d learn how to take an idea and transform it into an early stage business proposition alongside the other interns.

May 2016. I find out I was among the 15 selected interns. The startup from Faber’s portfolio I got into was Advicefront — a white-label platform that Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) use to provide “bionic” advice to clients (more on that here). Some excitement at last! I’d actually get a chance to be involved in one of the emerging European startup hubs.

From Braga to Lisbon

19June 2016. I arrive in Lisbon. The twelve weeks that followed were absolutely amazing. Not only did I get to explore what is now my favourite city, but the programme itself broadened my horizons. Firstly, I got to be a part of an amazing team (Advicefront) that was building an innovative product . Secondly, I started to begin to really understand what’s it like to create your own startup: It’s just not about having a cool idea…

What problem are you solving? How big is it? How are you going to solve it? Can you do it in a way that enables you to create a sustainable business?

These are just some of the questions you need to able to answer in order to create something that’s actually valuable.

Faber Ventures partners Alexandre Barbosa (left) and Felix Petersen (right) giving talks about digital business models and product development, respectively.

And although the startups we were creating were just for the sake of learning, we busted our asses off — which quite a lot of times meant going to Faber’s offices after work until late hours in the night— in order to present something we were proud of on the pitch day. Yes, it was tiring. Yes, it was stressful at times. But oh boy… Yes. It was fucking awesome. I had finally gotten a taste of what I was really looking for.

Faber team and the interns at the end of the pitch day

From Lisbon to London

2nd September 2016. The internship ends: I remained at Advicefront, I began having a PTSD-esque feeling — “What do you mean work ends at 7pm?!”, I decided to try and do the last year in college remotely and, most importantly, I had become way more prepared in case I wanted to build my own thing.

23rd September 2016. It seems to be a Friday like all others until the moment we get told that we just entered Octopus Accelerator. We knew our groovy CEO (Jose Supico) had pitched that very same day at Octopus’ offices. However, what we didn’t know was that it’d just take a few hours to know the results. We couldn’t believe it. Hell, I still can’t. But there was no point in staying in awe for long. We had 2 weeks to raise enough money to stay in London for 3 months. We had to take care of logistics. We had to postpone all sorts of events. And what about college? What abo… fuck it. It’s an incredible opportunity, we just have to hustle our way into it and work as hard as we can to make the most from it.

I can’t wait to meet you all: The mentors at OctopusLabs, the other participants — City Falcon, MOOLA, Squirrel and Freetrade — and, last but not least, the Londoners.

See you all in the UK!

From London to ???

What an incredible journey this has been. And what’s going to happen after London? Well, I have absolutely no clue. And the thing is… it’s actually much better than being in a predictable yet unsatisfying course.

Amidst this uncertainty though, I do know a couple of things. I know that I want to keep following this road. I know that I want to keep feeling as If I have a ton of things to learn. I know that I want to keep doing what makes me sit on the edge of my seat… all. the. time. I strongly suggest everyone to do the same.

PS.: A huge thanks to the Faber Ventures Team, the interns and all the guys at Advicefront!


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