An early stage venture fund in downtown St. Louis is continuing to go global.
SixThirty, which launched in 2013 and invests in up to 12 startups a year, will formally announce this month that it’s opening a European office. It will be followed by a similar announcement in another part of the world.
The St. Louis seed fund has invested in 44 startups so far. In a recent conversation, Managing Partner Atul Kamra touched on plans to expand internationally and the importance of strategic partnerships with some of the biggest companies in the financial and insurance technology business.
“We’ll be setting up a new operation, or small presence, in Amsterdam. Next step for us past that is setting up a presence in Asia-Pac, as well,” Kamra said.
He added the growth is about building on the global pipeline of ideas that have gone through the St. Louis operation.
SixThirty has appointed Samarth Shekhar as regional manager for Europe. He is based in Amsterdam. Shekhar is the co-founder of FinTechForum, which is a European hub matching financial-technology startups and innovators with investors and financial institutions.
The announcement of a leader for SixThirty’s Asia-Pacific office is expected later this year.
“The focus for both our presence in Amsterdam and Asia-Pac is to deepen our pipeline of startup ideas and build relationships with founders in those markets,” Kamra said.
He also wants to take some of the companies SixThirty has invested in and put them in front of corporate partners in those areas.
“Step three — probably simultaneously with step two — is bringing in corporate partners from those parts of the world around the SixThirty table.”
SixThirty recently announced an agreement with Allianz Life Ventures — a unit of Germany's Allianz Life insurance company — to provide mentoring services and other advice to startup companies. The agreement follows similar partnerships with companies like Bank of New York, Commerce Bank and Reinsurance Group of America.
“I think Allianz coming on board shines a spotlight on the model we have in place to drive collaboration,” Kamra said.
He added such companies have the resources and expertise to help drive growth for smaller financial and insurance-technology firms that have just launched.
The Allianz announcement in late 2018 follows word last spring of similar partnerships with BNY Mellon Pershing, Detalus, and Enterprise Bank & Trust, and St. Louis-based World Wide Technology.
All of those connections should help St. Louis further solidify its growing reputation as a hub for the financial-technology sector.
But Kamra admits there is still plenty of work to do.
“When I want to get humbled about St. Louis’ position, I go to New York. When I want to feel good about it, I go to Tel Aviv or Amsterdam,” he said.
Kamra added the concepts developed in St. Louis to establish relationships between startups and large corporate partners have gained traction around the world. But he is not resting on what has already been accomplished.
“I continue to wake up to the idea that work’s never done.”
Some of that unfinished business could involve shifting beyond what many consider to be the traditional boundaries of financial-technology and insurance-technology companies.
Kamra stressed financial and insurance technology companies could be in a unique position to address personal health.
“It is around our financial health. It is about our medical health. And it’s about our information health, especially with issues around identity and privacy coming to surface,” he said. “If I look at the horizon of how I see SixThirty evolving is us having a point of view around how we get at personal health at a higher level,” he added.
He said data collected by financial services and insurance firms could be very valuable in trying to deal with the wide-ranging health issues.
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