Spring has arrived — which means flowers are blooming, birds are singing, sandals are emerging from closets — and startups are signing up with Mastercard to reshape the future of commerce.
Today Mastercard is announcing the five new startups to its Start Path Global —Mastercard’s program for later-state startups that are ready to rewrite the future of commerce. (To participate, firms must have raised significant seed or Series A funds.)
“Our starting point is FinTech companies, specifically companies that are innovating around financial services, but we are broad in that space in terms of what we are looking for. Our goal, our bigger goal, is to find the best of the best beyond the FinTech lens — who is a strong team, who has demonstrated and validated that their idea has legs, that there is a potential for a real market,” Mastercard’s Vice President, Start Path, Amy Neale told Karen Webster on the eve of the 2017 spring class’ first members being announced.
This year’s first five startup Star Path members represent a rather broad interpretation of digital financial services — three out of the five startups work with AI, while the other two startups have developed point-of-sale innovations to extend access and streamline the payments process.
“What we try to do is lean on the global network to reach into the other places to find these companies. We are not focusing on single markets — we are very globally spread in what we are looking for,” Neale noted.
The Spring Class
Regali, for example, makes it easy for consumers to manage bills and finances in the U.S. and Latin America, and “they have great traction. They have been working across markets already but thinking about consolidating their offering and helping banks to activate their customers through a mobile banking application,” said Neale.
A firm like Endor, on the other hand, which asks predictive questions and get good answers, is a more internal use–focused product.
“Endor is about the possibility of getting more results from less resources. Given you have data on your customers, this is a quicker and more effective way to better understand those customers and provide a better experience.”
Firms like Fluid AI and NetPlusDotCom both give Mastercard a chance to really push on their global network. Fluid is an Indian firm, and NetPlusDotCom is Nigerian, to builder broader world-class solutions.
“These are firms that can provide merchants a user engagement model in a commerce or eCommerce in a better environment when they might not have been able to before.”
And Divido — apart from offering a solid product for multichannel commerce through innovation in installment payments — also offers an opportunity for Mastercard to develop a talented team.
“We are definitely looking at found teams and who is going to be a future talent. I think installments is an interesting area and providing consumers better experiences around high-ticket items,” Neale said.
The five firms that have been selected to be part of the spring wave of Start Path will now experience an immersion week where they do a “deep dive” within the program to develop out how they will work with Mastercard and what projects they will pursue.
“We design a bespoke plan for each of the companies out of that deep dive — we are trying to design something collaborative that brings real value to the firm.”
Neale noted that because Start Path is geared toward later-stage startups, relocating to an incubator space is not really convenient — and so after the immersion week, Mastercard and its chosen programs will work together developing three to five projects via a six-month virtual accelerator.
Those projects can and have varied — some are developed further within Mastercard in beta tests for future offerings. Others, Neale noted, can be educational project designed to help startups move from their home markets to the wider world.
The firms chosen so far are the first five for 2017, but there will be more. Applications for the six-month virtual program are accepted on a rolling basis and are open until Sunday, April 23, 2017.
We’ll keep you posted on who else joins up — and what those firms do next.