Flying high in Abu Dhabi, Hub71 speaks to US-firm Securrency co-founder John Hensel
We had the opportunity to speak to the Co-Founder, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Revenue Officer of fintech firm Securrency, Inc., John Hensel, who has been living in the UAE since 2017 with his family. John has worked hard to expand the company, founded in 2015, to what it has become today: a fintech and regtech technology company with 20 full-time employees in Abu Dhabi that has attracted over $26M in funding to-date from investors all over the world. In the last three months, Securrency has made several new engineering hires from across the world to be based in its international HQ at WeWork x Hub71.
Late 2019, Securrency applied to the Hub71 Incentive Program and was successfully admitted as an emergent startup, receiving 50% subsidies on housing, office space in WeWork x Hub71, as well as health insurance for up to three years, saving the startup on many fronts.
Securrency’s technology facilitates cross-border exchange of regulated financial instruments – which couldn’t have come at a more opportune time than now, when the world is shifting entirely to digital.
Established in the United States, and now based in the award-winning International Financial Center, Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), this fintech firm is surrounded by like-minded companies who seek ADGM’s strong and flexible regulatory frameworks. As one of 11 fintech companies and one of six US startups based within the growing tech hub community, Hub71, Securrency finds itself in good company. Fast on its way to achieving great things, the company is now looking to diversify its offering internationally, using Abu Dhabi as its springboard for global growth.
John attributes a large part of their success to having “optimum conditions”, provided by ADGM, in a “well-constructed way”. From participating in ADGM’s Reglab, a sandbox for fintech startups, to tapping into the investment network at Hub71; Securrency co-founder feels “well supported”.
John also highlights the ease of access to funding in Abu Dhabi, namely to the Ventures Fund from the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, from which they have benefited.
What did you do before you became a full-time entrepreneur?
I served in the United States Navy as a pilot for 25 years. In the later years of my military career, I spent less time flying aircraft and more time designing and fielding aircraft for the fleet as a program manager. When I retired from military service, I looked for new challenges that would leverage my leadership and management skills and experience. I decided to step away from the aerospace industry and tackle an emerging technology field focused on regulatory technology. It’s been a great experience and one I would encourage others to pursue. New challenges and opportunities can be incredibly refreshing and fulfilling.
What markets does Securrency hope to enter in the next 12 months?
Securrency Solutions Technologies Ltd, as the name implies, is the technology arm of Securrency, Inc., and is based here in Abu Dhabi. Our parent company is in the US, so we have already established a great deal of traction in that market. As a global financial services infrastructure company, we have plans to interconnect regulated financial centers around the globe. In the next 12 months, our focus will remain on the UAE and US markets, but we have already begun to develop initiatives in Europe, Asia, and Australia. Despite COVID-19, the conditions are fantastic at the moment, as regulators and established financial institutions see the need to modernize infrastructure and embrace the clear benefits of distributed ledger technologies, a digital system for recording the transaction of assets in which the transactions and their details are recorded in multiple places at the same time.
What would you say to a VC that’s never been to the UAE?
First and foremost, they need to make a trip to Abu Dhabi. Not so much to see the amazing architecture and surrounding natural resources, but more so to witness firsthand the energy and entrepreneurial drive present in these communities. Government and industry leaders have established a remarkable set of resources to support startups and SMEs. The conditions are incredibly inviting and as a result attract some of the best new ventures (both local and international) to call Abu Dhabi home. There are great founders and teams in the UAE to invest in; don’t underestimate the opportunity for great returns and impactful outcomes by investing in UAE companies.
What attracted you the most to Hub71?
When I first learned about Hub71, I knew immediately that we needed to be a part of this growing community. Being co-located with other startups, related industry partners, and tech giants like Microsoft was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. Now that we’ve been in the hub for three months, we have witnessed firsthand the synergies that come from having this access. Our company is growing, and our employees really enjoy the interaction that this environment offers.
How much funds have you raised to date and how much are you are planning in the future?
We are very fortunate to have a strong investor base and supportive shareholders. Since we were founded in 2015, we’ve raised a total of $26M. Our most recent raise was our Series A in 2019 where we raised nearly $18M. As a market infrastructure company, we seek patient investors that recognize it takes time to buildout the relationships and infrastructure needed to serve global markets. We look to conduct a Series B financing, seeking $15M or more in Q3 2020.
Describe being an entrepreneur, in one word.
What advice would you give anyone who’s considering starting up for themselves?
Be prepared for a long and arduous journey. If you’re married or have family that rely on you, be honest with yourself and with each other. If you’ve never participated in a startup adventure, multiply your anticipated level of effort by five; no make that ten!
It will be the most challenging and exhausting thing you’ll ever do (I’m told the second startup is less painful, but I won’t know until I try). That said, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done – and remember I flew airplanes for a living! The obstacles you overcome and the relationships you make along the way are both inspiring and sources of pride. Plan for a journey to the moon, surround yourself with people you trust and can be honest with, then jump in. If you never start, you’ll never finish. If I can be of help to anyone on the path or thinking about starting, feel free to contact me. I’m always happy to help.
Securrency is a financial markets infrastructure technology company focused on enhancing capital formation and stimulating global liquidity. Securrency is driving change at the core of financial services via a patent-pending distributed identity and compliance framework and a state-of-the-art infrastructure designed to bridge legacy financial platforms to blockchain networks. One of the most advanced regulatory technology providers in the industry, Securrency has developed compliance tools that automate the enforcement of multi-jurisdictional regulatory policy. These tools provide transparency and consistency to strengthen investor confidence and provide regulators increased oversight of market activity. Securrency provides software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) delivery models to offer blockchain-based financial services infrastructure to banks and other financial services providers.