An innovative Manchester tech start-up is celebrating after being named as one of the 20 early-stage fintech companies joining the Tech Nation programme this autumn.
Airtime Rewards Ltd (Airtime) which is based in Cross Street, Manchester and has an office in Soho, London, helps large organisations to build customer loyalty by providing an innovative digital rewards-based service, which with relegate old fashioned loyalty cards to history.
Airtime joins 20 firms which includes some of the UK’s most promising fintech start-ups and reflects major trends in the fast maturing fintech sector where the UK is an acknowledged global leader. The companies selected offer innovation across the financial services sector from consumer solutions to business to business ventures, demonstrating how fintech has the potential to dramatically improve the provision of essential services like payment solutions and banking.
Airtime, one of only seven of those chosen, which are outside London, enables shoppers to be rewarded with a unique reward currency that can be converted into monetary credit on their mobile phone account or for additional mobile data.
Established by two Manchester entrepreneurs, Adam Ward, and Josh Graham, Airtime’s disruptive technology solution removes the need to carry multiple loyalty cards and instead intelligently capitalises on two of the most commonly carried items – an individual’s mobile phone and their bank card. This has created a linear, and unobtrusive loyalty scheme which provides instant rewards, at no inconvenience, for the customer.
Airtime CEO and co-founder, Adam Ward, 38, said: To be recognised by Tech Nation and the government by being selected on this programme is a firm testament to the tremendous effort and success we have had over the last 12 months.
“It’s also great to one of the companies based outside of London and flying the flag from for Manchester.”
The variety and excellence of the selected companies is testimony to the strength and vigorous growth of the UK’s fintech sector, which is developing rapidly right across the nation.
With capital invested in fintech reaching record highs in 2017 and poised to soar even higher this year, the fintech sector now boasts hundreds of start-ups keen to get a foothold in the financial services market. The Tech Nation Fintech programme is targeted at those rapidly growing early stage companies and is one of the key measures announced by HM Treasury in its Fintech Sector Strategy earlier in the year, to support the development sector at a national level.
Over five months, the cohort will get the chance to work with and learn from some of the most talented fintech entrepreneurs in the UK on key topics such as scaling challenges, partnerships with incumbents, regulations and international expansion. These insight sessions will take place in London, Edinburgh, Manchester and Leeds to encourage cross-country networking.
John Glen MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury said: “Our vibrant fintech sector continues to go from strength to strength, and it’s no wonder that UK fintech has received more investment so far this year than US fintech. I’m thrilled to see Tech Nation’s fintech programme launch with such a strong cohort of dynamic young companies – I have no doubt they’re destined for amazing things.”
Eileen Burbidge, Chair of Tech Nation, HM Treasury’s Special Envoy for Fintech, Chair of the Fintech Delivery Panel and Partner at Passion Capital, who was one of the judges for the programme, said: “The UK is an acknowledged world leader in fintech but having this programme, endorsed by HM Treasury, will help the UK to further accelerate the development of the sector. The calibre of applications for the Tech Nation Fintech programme was incredibly impressive with a wide breadth of business models. The companies chosen have already demonstrated that they are winners and will certainly have many more successes to come.”
Gregoire Michel, the Tech Nation Fintech programme lead, said: “When we devised Tech Nation’s first fintech programme we anticipated that entrepreneurs were increasingly building great companies in the regions. The number of applications we received from the regions bore out this hypothesis and while London remains the most important fintech cluster in the UK we are delighted that more than a third of the first cohort will come from outside London.”
Richard Theo, CEO, Wealthify and one of the judges for the Fintech programme, said: “The applications to the Tech Nation Fintech programme where quite fantastic but the six million dollar question is whether there’s a future unicorn lurking within the 20 companies. Given the great range of ideas, the strengths of the teams and the support they can now get – there’s a really good chance that there’s one in there.”
Chris Sier, HMT Fintech envoy for the North and Professor at Leeds University, said: “I’m delighted to see Airtime Rewards, who are based in the North in Manchester, selected for the first ever Tech Nation Fintech Programme. The financial services sector already has important hubs in the North’s biggest cities and Airtime Rewards demonstrates that you can build a great fintech business in the North of England where there are plenty of skilled tech people coming out of colleges and universities.”
With many recognised retail chains such as Waitrose, Missguided and Sunglass Hut already signed up, the solution rewards members every time they transact with their linked payment cards. Instead of collecting points, consumers receive a monetary credit back to their mobile account or can opt to take additional mobile phone data.
Airtime has agreements in place with all of the UK’s major mobile network operators; the company’s technology has been integrated into global payment schemes such as Visa and MasterCard. In addition, Telefonica is a strategic partner and an early investor in Airtime Rewards and has also participated in this latest investment round.
Adam added: “Opening Banking is transforming what we do as a business and the value our customers receive and we can’t wait for the next 5 months of the programme along with meeting the other business.”
Airtime’s benefits all parties by providing a simple and tangible way for customers to earn rewards for purchases, while enabling retailers and mobile phone operators to capitalize on increased customer spend and frequency of visit.”
For more information on Airtime, please visit