Starling Bank x London

Oct 22, 2017 · Guest post from Ben Chisell, Product Director at Starling Bank

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I’ve worked for some amazing technology companies in my career so far, but one of the things that excites me most is the opportunity with Starling to build a global technology company that’s based in the UK.

When I joined eBay back in 2009, the tech scene in London was relatively new. Since then, the environment has matured into one that is hugely supportive of new ideas, with a large community of passionate people who all want to solve the problems that matter most. To some extent, I feel that London’s evolution as a tech destination mirrors my own evolution as a product leader, gathering experience from the community of Silicon Valley, the culture of a London tech startup, and the ambition of Amazon.

Back in 2012, I was living in San Francisco and building a search engine at eBay, and every day — whether it was out for tacos in the Mission, for beers on Polk, or at a Giants game — someone would tell me about how their new startup was going to change the world. For a cynical Brit, it could get a bit irritating, but when I moved back to London in 2013, I missed the raw ambition and the fearlessness of the Bay Area, and developed a respect for the culture and community there that is still with me. After leaving eBay, I came back to London with the bravado of someone who had embraced the Silicon Valley culture; I wanted to help a company grow into an international brand like eBay, and be a part of turning the city into an internationally recognised technology hub.

When I came back, I joined Skimlinks, one of the ‘grandparents’ of the London tech scene. They definitely had the disruptive mentality, but it felt like London hadn’t quite reached the critical mass of companies and people needed to replicate the ambitious and fearless culture of Silicon Valley. The thing that sticks with me most about Skimlinks was the culture there (aka ‘Skimlove’). As well as tackling some challenging problems in the publishing and advertising space, the team at Skimlinks was full of people who brought their passions to work with them, which created a genuine, interesting and tightly knitted culture. Everyone shared the typical love of good coffee, beer and sourdough, but the culture was much more than that.

Even though I enjoyed my brief stint in the London startup world, I decided to move to Amazon in 2014 because I felt like I wanted to learn from the best. I had always been impressed with Amazon’s ambition, invention and customer obsession, and felt like a couple of years there would help make me better at what I do. Two years and 126 document reviews later, I’d helped launch a subscription business for Amazon Video, and launch Amazon Prime Video simultaneously in most countries in the world. I was a full Amazon convert. Even now I refer back to the leadership principles on an almost daily basis, and still write a press release and FAQs for most new products I work on.

So that brings me to Starling. There will plenty to write about Starling over the next few years, but so far I’m incredibly proud of what the team has achieved (though it is still Day One). We have built a bank from scratch and embraced PSD2 by launching a full suite of APIs and an in-app marketplace. We’ve done a lot in such a short space of time, and are solving problems that really matter – and we’ve done it with an incredible team who are focused on changing the banking industry and helping people live healthier financial lives (not least our CEO, Anne).

I think Starling really reflects the London tech scene at the moment. At Starling, we aren’t afraid to tackle the big problems; we have a fearless culture and we’re building a community around us by embracing open banking. I see the same thing all around London. There are companies around the city tackling important problems in the financial services, health and education with the same intrepid attitude, and a passionate and involved community that feels like it’s reached critical mass (evidenced by the fact there are so many of us travelling to Las Vegas to Money2020).

For those reasons, it feels like London is a great place to start and grow a business – and I’m really excited to see how things evolve over the coming years.

Check out our full interview with Ben here. Want to get your company involved with the Mayor’s International Business Programme? Click here to learn more!

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Ben Chisell, Product Director at Starling Bank

Ben Chisell is Product Director at Starling Bank, a challenger bank using technology to innovate in the financial services industry and help their customers lead healthier financial lives. Prior to joining Starling, Ben led large-scale product launches at Amazon Video, worked on machine learning-based search and recommendation systems at eBay, and graduated from Cambridge with a degree in Aerospace Engineering. Starling Bank launched their current account in May 2017, and is available in the iOS App Store and Google Play Store.

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