Mastercard has accepted five new entrants into its Start Path Global initiative, a six-month virtual program that supports later-stage startups intent on reshaping banking and payments with new technology approaches.
The spring 2017 Start Path class includes Divido, which provides merchants and lenders with an omnichannel platform that allows their consumers to spread the cost of major purchases through installments; Endor, the first intelligence software platform that lets business users ask any predictive question and get high-quality results with unmatched accuracy and speed in any domain; Fluid AI, which combines artificial intelligence and augmented reality to help banks and retailers create next generation user experiences in-branch and in-store; NetPlusDotCom, an enabler of digital payments capabilities for retailers; and Regalii, which works with more than 30 leading banks and fintech apps to offer consumers new ways to manage their finances and pay their bills.
Mastercard also opened the application period for its 2017 Start Path summer class, which for the first time will accept applications from all over the world as part of the program’s effort to continue expanding across industries and geographies. Applications to join the next wave will be accepted through 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, April 23, 2017. Interested startups can access additional information and submit an application here.
Three out of the five startups mentioned are focused on using artificial intelligence to analyze consumer behavior, enhance in-store or in-branch customer engagement, and compute bill and payment data. That is notable as AI quickly has become one of the most significant technologies in retail and payments. It's an area Mastercard already has been very active in, announcing late last year a program to supply AI-driven chatbots to its merchant customers and banks, and also unveiling an AI-based fraud fighting solution.
In fact Mastercard also has worked with a previous AI-focused Start Path participant called Kasisto, which created the conversational KAI Banking AI platform, and is currently piloting a bank chatbot for Mastercard employees that allows consumers to transact, manage finances, receive contextual offers and learn about benefits via messaging platforms.
Mastercard said that through its first four Start Path classes, 20% of the participants have ended up working with the company in commercial engagements or pilots. Among them (in addition to Kasisto) are DigiSEq, an IoT payment device enabler that Mastercard is collaborating with to connect DigiSEq device manufacturer customers with tokenization services and enable payments on wearables. Another is RecargaPay, a mobile payment solution that enables Latin American consumers to top-up their prepaid mobile phones and pay for utility bills, which partnered with Mastercard to launch a card-on-file marketing promotion to attract new users.
Seemingly similar to startup accelerator programs like Target + Techstars, Start Path allows emerging companies to tap into the knowledge and experience of Mastercard experts, though this program may also go a bit further than others by allowing the startups access to Mastercard customers who volunteer to engage with the startups to get an early glimpse at what’s new in payments and banking. The examples of Kasisto, DigiSEq and RecargaPay show that the program isn't only about speeding their development with an assist from Mastercard: They could eventually become Mastercard partners, too.