Tech: Looking out for zombies, angels and unicorns

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Talking about the paranormal might get you some interesting looks in your next meeting at a bank. But in tech, talk of angels and unicorns is par for the course.

The assembled crowds at TechCrunch’s European-based Disrupt conference in London (following a similar event in San Francisco last month) heard from the panels about the significance of angel investors to get your ideas off the ground, the perils of investing in zombie companies, and questions over where the next unicorn will come from.

Most readers will be familiar with angels and zombies, at least when it comes to investing. A unicorn is something more magical: a tech start-up that has gone on to be valued at least $1 billion. TechCrunch’s own research shows there are now 39 of them. Some have even gone on to reach super-unicorn status, being valued at $100 billion.

Looking out for zombies, angels and unicorns
But the rarest sight at the supernatural two-day event was anyone from the banking community. Despite incessant talk about developing their digital strategies and wanting to be seen as the next great tech and big data innovators, not a single banking institution had a formal presence among the stands presenting everything from digital payment systems to apps that can solve maths equations. There might have been one or two wearing invisibility cloaks or mingling like Muggles under the guise of attendees, but the feeling was that there was little interest from the banking community in what was on offer.

Perhaps most tellingly, when discussing financing for start-ups, the entrepreneurs of tomorrow’s FinTech digital disrupters did not mention once the possibility of asking a bank for a loan. To get their unicorns of the future off the ground, the most commonly accepted methods remain crowdsourcing funds and asking family and friends for loans.