From entrepreneurship@UBC to the Barclays Accelerator: the rise of Fostrum
Fostrum is an online platform facilitating the financing of the digital economy. They are a graduate of entrepreneurship@UBC’s Core Technology Incubator program and recently returned from the Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars, where Fostrum’s CEO, Kelso Curtis, made history as the youngest CEO to have ever been a part of the program.
Fostrum was born out of a determination to change an entire industry. As UBC students, founders Kelso Curtis, Ali Serag and Salman Alam capitalized on every spare moment they had to develop their idea, from hosting ‘code and meditation’ sessions in their dorm rooms to sneaking into classrooms to inundate white boards with software architecture.
Their idea? Building up the digital economy and closing the $20 billion financing gap for online businesses through their virtual banking experience. Fostrum saw an opportunity in the market for online businesses and had a shared goal of leveraging the data big banks were neglecting due to outdated processes that emphasized physical collateral. In an age of booming digital businesses, this was an opportunity Fostrum saw as truly powerful.
The team needed to quickly ramp up their entrepreneurial skills and better define their problem area; thus began their journey as part of entreprenuership@UBC’s Core Technology Incubator program in 2018. Working tirelessly to validate their idea, the team met with over 60 startup CEOs, banks and institutional investors to hone in on their product and market fit. They needed validation they were on the right path and were fuelled by the support of an experienced fleet of mentors encouraging them forward.
“entrepreneurship@UBC taught us that a successful startup is 1% idea and 99% execution.”
-Ali Serag, CTO of Fostrum
entrepreneurship@UBC’s focus on curiosity and failing forward helped launch the team to the next step in their venture building journey: the Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars. One of the top FinTech programs in the world, the Barclays Accelerator is notorious for being more difficult to get into than Harvard. After 6 rounds of interviews, Fostrum was invited into their 2019 cohort becoming the first team from Western Canada to be part of the international accelerator.
Fostrum had to overcome new challenges, most notably being significantly younger than their peers. The team, who averaged 24, found themselves working with a cohort in their late 30s and as part of an industry where a deep knowledge in finance and technology is imperative. Curtis, the CEO, was 23 at the time, making him the youngest CEO ever to have been a part of the Barclays Accelerator. In these instances, the team harkened back to what they learned in the incubator; leaving any trace of an ego at the door and being ready to have an “ask” in place for every conversation.
Fostrum ended their Barclays journey in an exhilarating demo day pitch, captivating an audience comprised of 400 FinTech leaders, CEOs, banks and industry experts. Off their Barclays success, the team has returned to Canada to start their next major chapter, setting up a new office in Toronto. As their CTO Ali Serag puts it, Fostrum has a lot to look forward to:
“With official backing from one of the world’s largest banks and top accelerators, Fostrum is positioned to become the Neobank of the Digital Economy, providing a data-driven banking experience to all digital and web-enabled businesses.”
RSVP to entrepreneurship@UBC's next Innovator Meetup, September 25th, to hear from Fostrum CEO, Kelso Curtis and CTO, Ali Serag, on how Fostrum is building up the digital economy.
Learn more about Fostrum, here