11 March 2016

MasterCard Start Path Global wants to accelerate the APAC startup journey

Start Path immersion weeks are held in  different cities around the world.
Start Path immersion weeks are held in
different cities around the world.
The MasterCard Start Path Global programme has seen success in the Asia Pacific region and is intensifying its search regionally as a continuing reminder of the innovation potential of the area. The programme began in the US and Europe and is now focused on expanding both in the Asia Pacific and Middle East and Africa regions, said Stephane Wyper, global lead of MasterCard Start Path.

Since 2014, Start Path has provided more than 60 startups a variety of operational support, mentorship, and investment to develop the next generation of commerce solutions. In Asia Pacific, the program is currently working closely with startups such as Japan-based Moneytree and ViSenze from Singapore.

Moneytree joined the Start Path programme late last year. The startup’s cloud-based personal finance app and financial data aggregation platform lets users track their financial account balances. Through Start Path, Moneytree is exploring technology integration and new business opportunities with MasterCard partners in other markets. The programme also provides access to customised mentoring from MasterCard experts and connections in geographic locations where Moneytree is looking to expand.

ViSenze, a machine intelligence startup and a spinoff of from the National University of Singapore, makes advanced visual search and image recognition solutions to help businesses in e-commerce, m-commerce and online advertising. Using machine learning and computer vision technology, ViSenze addresses the challenges of keyword searches by recommending visually similar items to an uploaded image, either on e-commerce platforms, or on content publisher platforms like social media and video networks.

Today, ViSenze allows shoppers to use an image of a product to locate similar products on sale at major e-retailers such as Reebonz, Lazada, Zalora, Rakuten, and Flipkart, and is exploring the use of its AI visual search engine outside of the e-commerce space, such as with intellectual property databases. The company is working on a new solution that applies the same AI engine to search videos.

"I'm pretty happy that I participated in this programme. As an artificial intelligence (AI) company in visual search, payment is not our fore. Having them introduce different domain experts on different parts of the customer journey that we are not experts in allowed us to move faster," said ViSenze CEO and Co-founder Oliver Tan.

Tan shared that Start Path brokered introductions to the right people at the major firms that his core solution targets. "These conversations are very useful as I get to learn what problems they have. You can decide very early whether you can solve their problems," he said.

“Startups are actively experimenting with new solutions aimed at transforming the status quo across a wide variety of industries including financial services, retail, and healthcare,” said Wyper. “We can provide critical support through operational expertise and access to a steady pipeline of customers, channels and partners. In just two years, Start Path Global has a strong record of helping startups transform innovations into sustainable business propositions.”

The Start Path journey, Wyper said, includes an initial immersion week that gives access to a breadth of MasterCard's business lines, as well as to customers. "We bring (customers) in and try and create potential opportunities, define specific areas we are going to support," he explained. There is regular engagement thereafter, culminating in a second immersion week after 23 months that focuses more on commercial execution. Wyper noted that startups in the programme receive assistance tailored to their unique challenges and products. "We help with the payment process, conduct pilots with startups, and connect them with our own customers such as banks and telcommunications providers," he elaborated.

Start Path also maintains relationships for the long term with alumni. "A lot have continued to see solid growth," Wyper shared.

Wyper added that up to 15% of Start Path members are working on security and payments, MasterCard's traditional business offerings. Other companies focused on solutions before or after the transaction, he said, listing AI,  financial inclusion, wearables beacons and biometrics as some of the unique selling propositions of member startups. "We're making sure that we aren't just focused the traditional innovation markets," he said.

Tan advises startups aspiring to join the programme to be very clear about what problems their products can solve. "If you communicate that very clearly then MasterCard can put you in touch with the people you need to meet and there's very little time wastage," he said. "Be very clear and keep an open mind. You will be able to discover things you never knew, just by joining a programme like this."


Each quarter, MasterCard Start Path recruits a new class of startups to embark on a six-month virtual programme. The programme is currently accepting applications from non-US based startups for its next class up till March 21, 2016. Twenty companies will be shortlisted and invited to a Pitch Day in Toronto, Canada on May 11 and 12, 2016, after which eight companies will be invited to join the programme. Apply

Download the ViSenze app (iOS)

Hashtags: #startups, #StartPathGlobal, #startpath

posted from Bloggeroid