Monzo needs a dose of Spotify boldness to go from UK unicorn to Silicon Valley titan

Manish Madhvani
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Startup bank Monzo is the latest British unicorn

The end of October saw startup bank Monzo confirmed as the latest British unicorn, hitting a valuation of $1.2bn three years after launching.

This isn’t London’s first unicorn by any means, with Deliveroo and Funding Circle leading the way.

But so far none have come close to the achieving the global domination or $100bn valuations of Silicon Valley’s tech titans.

And Britain is not alone. Currently, Europe’s most valuable tech company is worth around $30bn. To scale to the heights of the Valley giants, European tech needs to rethink its approach and reset its ambition levels.

US companies take ambitious risks to become the best, as they truly believe that they can disrupt a particular marketplace in an irreversible way.

European businesses need to replicate this approach – not only hoping that they can flourish, but knowing that they will.

They must take this confidence with them to every investor meeting or interview. With this attitude, the reward will be significantly higher levels of investment.

There is hope for Europe. Since 2013, the number of investment rounds worth more than $200m has increased four and a half times, with rising interest from Asian investors in particular.

However, the fact remains that, since 2000, the world’s six titans from the US and China have raised $57bn combined, compared to only $20bn for the top 69 European companies.

Investors are looking for more than just a concrete business plan. They want to invest in people who display the ambitious risk-taking mindset that is so essential to succeeding in the modern business landscape.

Spotify is an example of what that kind of world-changing ambition looks like – and how to achieve it.

Founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon were willing to walk away from some of the more established music labels in the world, even at the expense of a short-term loss to their library.

Refusing to bow to larger American companies, they succeeded in disrupting the entire music industry to the extent that streaming is now the dominant way of listening to music. With a valuation of more than $30bn, it is no surprise that Spotify is well on its way to becoming Europe’s first titan.

Moreover, Spotify has been unwavering in its drive to transform the music industry, no doubt turning down numerous advances from larger companies looking to acquire it, displaying the bold ambition that is required to catch up with Silicon Valley.

Rather than partnering with a US or Asian tech giant, Spotify prefers to go at it alone, observing the offerings of others and then improving on it.

Monzo should look to Spotify for inspiration as it continues its expansion plans and inevitably finds itself in the crosshairs of more established financial institutions, particularly in the US.

How this British fintech unicorn deals with the conflicts to come will determine whether it can truly disrupt the global financial marketplace and reach those lofty Silicon Valley heights.

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