“Open Sesame” was the magical phrase that a poor mythical woodcutter named Ali Baba uttered to open the door of a secret cave in which 40 thieves had hidden bags of gold. The power of his voice, and using the right words, gave him access to that fortune, and changed his life forever.
Here at PYMNTS, we think that it’s quite possible that the future of payments and commerce lies in the power of the spoken word, too.
And perhaps, one word in particular: Alexa.
Alexa, of course, is the voice-activated ecosystem that Amazon has created to allow consumers to engage with devices in an easy, conversational, natural way. Alexa knows what to do thanks to an ecosystem of innovators who create skills that help her respond to what consumers would like her to do: turn lights on and off, set an alarm clock, play music, get the weather report and latest headlines, offer corny jokes, order an Uber and build a shopping list.
And very soon, deliver a variety of imaginative payments and commerce capabilities that 13 companies will spend the next five weeks perfecting.
Today, I am thrilled to announce the start of five weeks of an incredible “immersion experience” for these 13 companies – The 2016 PYMNTS/Alexa Challenge – a first of its kind competition.
Not only does this Challenge involve tapping into the imaginations of innovators who are passionate about a voice-activated payments and financial services future, but it does it by tapping directly into the Alexa braintrust. It’s amazingly special.
Each participating company will get up close and personal consulting and coaching on how to bring their new ideas to life from Alexa’s Chief Developer Evangelist, Paul Cutsinger. It’s an opportunity that’s out of reach for most organizations. As you can imagine, he’s a pretty busy guy, since Alexa and access to the ecosystem she has spawned is one of the hottest commodities in payments. We are so lucky that he has agreed to make his time available to our Challenge participants.
I’m also excited to make myself available over the next five weeks to offer feedback to the teams about their value proposition, positioning, as well as their business model and monetization. (Remember, I’m the one who ranted about the fallacy of “Free” in my piece on Monday – so I want to make sure that everyone has a clear path to revenue … )
It’s just Day 1 and already the 13 participating companies have blown me away with their creative ideas and passion for helping us all see what payments and commerce at the edge of innovation might look like.
Participating companies include BIG, DaVincian Healthcare, Discover, EXA, Feasty powered by Zipscene, FIS, Fiserv, ONvocal powered by People Power, PayButler, USAA, Vantiv, Visa and Western Union. Their ideas range from using Alexa to creatively move money to others, to making commerce accessible to the disabled to mashing up health care and payments in new ways.
On June 2, 2016, from 12 to 1 PM EST, we’ll show you the fruits of their labors – well, to be precise, they will – in a live webinar that you’ll be invited to witness. Paul and I will preside over this virtual Grand Finale, which will also include a few invited payments industry experts and myself, who will provide feedback on what was created over those five weeks.
There will be awards for Most Creative, Most Original, Most Likely To Change The World, Most Likely To Make Money, Most Easily Explained To (And Used By) Your Mom, and Most Complex. After these five weeks, the skills that each of these companies develop will become part of the Alexa ecosystem, out in the wild, and available for further fine-tuning and commercial deployment.
We’ll keep you updated each week as the Challenge progresses, and give you some sneak peeks as things evolve.
Alexa – we’re ready for you! Are you ready for PYMNTS?