What do St. Louis and Mexico City have in common?
They are two cities with emerging – and vibrant – FinTech ecosystems.
And the two newest cities to be added to MasterCard’s Masters Of Code Hackathon Series, a global program designed to match developers with great ideas with the tools, mentorship and, even funding, to bring them to life.
But Mario Shiliashki, MasterCard’s SVP and Emerging Payments Lead, emphasizes that what MasterCard is doing goes well beyond simply introducing innovators to the cool developer tools that MasterCard can offer them. In the six months that it’s been in existence, Shiliashki told MPD CEO Karen Webster that ideas coming out of the Hackathon are already getting their footing in their local communities, which only helps to fuel and expand the innovation ecosystem in the cities in which the Hackathons are hosted.
“We try to bring various ecosystem players together as judges or participants together for the event and we always try and bring the investment community into there. VCs, incubators. At every event so far we’ve have the participating VCs or incubators approach the contestants and team for funding — either during the event or after the event. In a couple occasions we’ve even had teams that have been funded,” Shiliashki said. “What a great validation that we are finding the best and the brightest and we are connecting them to the local ecosystem and we are providing them with the tools and the platforms to innovate on top and hopefully get these ideas that are coming out of the Hackathon to become real successful businesses.”
Those successful businesses are getting the attention of investors because they are inspired by the problems, challenges, and opportunities that exist in the cities in which the Hackathons are hosted. Each Masters of Code event has its own specific theme – one that can be expanded and brought to life with MasterCard APIs.
“It’s been very diverse,” Shiliashki said. “In each of the locations we want to come up and design the most innovative commerce experience using any of MasterCard’s APIs.”
That meant in Sydney, for example, the winning team designed an app that made it easy for consumers to save or donate to a cause by diverting their change to an account tied to that app. Another Hackathon finalist there created an app that connects with “smart shelves” via Bluetooth that could sense when a customer picked up an item, enable information and add it to the shopping cart automatically.
In Singapore, the winning group pitched an app that empowered women in business and women in tech by encouraging them to take interest in technology education through coding-centric games. In Hong Kong the wining team solved for solutions in cross-border payments; in São Paulo it was about using MasterCard services to drive financial inclusion and creating wealth.
The payoff for the innovators, of course, goes well beyond pizzas, all nighters and the chance to be recognized as a winner or a finalist.
“Through the Hackathon, we get the teams put together and get them through the initial funding and development cycle of the idea with mentorship toward partners, toward customers, to testing technologies and — and then get them into funding conversations with our VC partners,” Shiliashki said.
Shiliaski told Webster that every event has been sold out.
“So far it’s been a phenomenal experience for everyone involved, certainly from us at MasterCard, but also the feedback we’ve been getting from developers, entrepreneurs, designers and the kind of FinTech payments community around the world in these cities have been tremendous and really great validation for the things we’ve been doing with open API and opening up our platform and services for startups and developers to use and innovate on the top,” Shiliashki said.
Beyond city and region-specific themes, Shiliashki told Webster that MasterCard would like to focus even further on applications that innovate in particular verticals and to solve for particular use cases. “So I’m hoping we can drive real innovation in these use cases,” Shiliashki said. “Whether it’s transit, whether it’s travel, whether it’s general in-aisle shopping, financial inclusion, security and authentication, and a lot more areas – we would like to drive the kind of focused innovation that drives real business growth.”
Shiliashki also gave one sneak peek into something MasterCard has in the works.
“We have an exciting pipeline of new products we’ll expose via APIs to the broader startup and partner community,” Shiliashki said. “So without giving away the surprise — we’re focused on launching those very soon. A lot of those have to deal with new information services and other assets we have such as new enhancements to MasterPass and payments and other things.”
The Masters of Code Hackathon series launched in Sydney in Februrary. Since then it’s been to Hong Kong (March), Singapore (March) and São Paulo (April). The next stop is Tel Aviv, Israel, this week (June 11-12). Then it’s on to Mexico City (August), San Francisco (August), Montreal (September), Istanbul (October), St. Louis (October), New York (November), and London (November). The finale will be held in Silicon Valley on Dec. 5-6.
“We are hoping to use these two-day events as an anchor of that engagement with the local developer and startup community, but then certainly broaden it throughout the year,” Shiliashki said. “The idea is to reach every idea, every developer, every startup and every digitally native entity that is out there that is creating or thinking about creating the next big idea in commerce — the next big idea in payments.”
Senior Vice President, Group Head, Emerging Payments
Mario Shiliashki is senior vice president & group head, U.S. Emerging Payments Lead, responsible for U.S.-based development and commercialization of payment product platforms, including eCommerce, Mobile, Chip, P2P, Transit, PayPass, inControl and Bill Payment.
He was previously general manager of PayPal in Southeast Asia and India. In this role, Mr. Shiliashki built and led the business development, sales, marketing and product development teams in Singapore and India. Under his leadership, PayPal developed key partnerships across the region and launched products in key new target markets, including Japan, Malaysia and India.
Mr. Shiliashki began his career at PayPal as head of European Financial Planning and Analysis in London. He was then promoted to director of PayPal International and eBay North America Financial Planning and Analysis in California.
Prior to PayPal, Mr. Shiliashki was a Consultant at Bain & Company in London and a Financial Analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York.
Mr. Shiliashki holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and Economics, summa cum laude, from Bryant University.