The Role of Canadian Financial Technology Startups in the Future of Commerce

Stephane Wyper is Global Lead for MasterCard’s Start Path program, an initiative to “build the future of commerce together.” 

I sat down with him at GROW 2015 in Whistler to learn what the program has to offer to Canadian financial technology startups. (Note: Deadline for applications to Start Path Global is Sept. 18.)

Much press has been written on the disruption fintech startups are creating for banks, payment providers and other traditional finance players. (For more, see my post: Marketplace Lending Disrupting Consumer Loans in Canada.) So it was interesting to see how one of the biggest traditional players is responding to this dynamic.

Interestingly, for a payments goliath, they are not just interested in payments startups. The Start Path program actually targets Commerce companies that extend from before transactions to afterwards. So how does a Canadian fintech know if they may be a prospect to partner with MasterCard? They need to create new solutions in the following domains:

  1. Loyalty technology
  2. Big Data/AI
  3. Security like biometrics
  4. Location based tech like beacons
  5. Payments

Why would Canadian fintech startups be wise to check the Startup Global program out?  The promise includes immediate and deep domain expertise to “help you navigate regulatory challenges, shape your ideal technology platform and build a clear brand strategy.”  Wyper emphasized the program’s goal to “help tackle very tangible issues” and broke down the support into three buckets:

  1. Operational support
  2. Connections to MasterCard customers
  3. Investment

The investments typically follow the collaboration and come later in the form of an option on the next round.  Wyper is passionate about startups and how Start Path can help them.  My impression was that qualifying startups really do receive invaluable access and support in a fashion that other accelerators are not able to offer. 

The Global Start Up program is largely delivered virtually based on learning from prior program work in Europe.  Uprooting the startups had as many drawbacks as wins. There are still immersion weeks for the startup team, including in Berlin in November.

What does MasterCard have to gain from supporting and engaging the fintech community? Quite a bit. My take is that it can keep potential competitors in the fold where they can help ensure their success while getting front line access to their talent, culture and future investment and acquisition.

The program’s reach to date includes Canada, US, Europe and Singapore. The first Canadian startup that was brought on board was Nymi, developer of biometric identification authentication for any application, device, or service.  Wyper showed his Nymi band, which resembled a smart watch, which was able to identify his unique heart patterns. Future applications include the ability to unlock laptops or other security.  Start Path led a Series A round and is helping to bring the product to market including a planned pilot with RBC and TD later this year.

Wyper wouldn’t bite on a query as to which startups do they have on their radar but he extolled the forum that GROW provided to “educate” and “open our eyes” to prospects.  GroupLend announced their $10M round at GROW and there were lots of other hot fintech players around like Koho, Borrowell, Payfirma, nTrust, Frontfundr and others.  Perhaps one of them or your fintech startup could be the next Nymi.

The ultimate vision for Start Path is to help define how the banking and payments model is going to evolve.  The strategy is to: a) push and engage global leadership in commerce, b) demonstrate success, and c) build strategic value leading to long-term ROI.  It will be interesting to see how other traditional commerce players introduce their own initiatives around disruptive innovation.

If you are in Vancouver and interested in learning more about fintech and crowdfunding and other venture funding then don’t miss VanFUNDING 2015: Crowdfunding Conference on Sept. 29.