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Visa brings its global innovation programme to Singapore

VEI, which reaches out to the startup community to solve payment and commerce challenges, invites proposals to solve Singapore-specific problems.

VISA'S Everywhere initiative (VEI) is coming to Singapore.

The startup programme looks to get proposals that solve problems that are unique to the Republic, with the launch expected on Nov 13 this year.

VEI is a global innovation programme that reaches out to the startup community to solve payment and commerce challenges.

The programme began in US in 2015, and has broadened globally, with participation from more than 2,100 startups. All in, these startups have raised more than US$2 billion in funding.

To reward top participants, Visa may provide monetary prize, access to Visa's products and services via APIs on the Visa Developer Platform, expert mentorship and support from Visa, and exposure to key fintech constituents across banking, merchant and government sectors.

Since starting in 2015, the VEI has awarded more than US$1 million and has mentored more than 130 finalists.

Singapore's VEI will be the first programme in the world to kick off 2019.

The aim is to call for submissions for startups to deliver solutions to address issues that are core to Singapore. The Republic will also be hosting the winners at its Asia Pacific VEI Regional Finals during the week of the Singapore FinTech Festival.

Kunal Chatterjee, Visa country manager for Singapore and Brunei, noted that working with the startup community is not entirely new to Visa in Singapore.

Visa had previously worked with another partner to introduce a startup competition in Singapore, where the participating startups competed to win a spot in the regional finals held in Hong Kong.

Mr Chatterjee told The Business Times: "Visa Everywhere Initiative in Singapore drives our involvement with the startup community to the next level.

"Payment innovation continues to bring convenience, speed, and security to merchants and consumers in Singapore, and Visa is committed to continuing this movement in partnership with the global startup community.

"We are excited to kickstart the VEI 2019 programme in conjunction with the Singapore FinTech Festival. The initiative not only leads to higher visibility for the contestants, but also brings profound benefits to the payment and commerce ecosystem in the region."

According to Visa, it evaluates submissions for VEI by looking at startups that have ideas relevant to Visa's business, a product in market, a traction with early customers, and early funding from external investors.

For Singapore-based fintech firms with ideas to pitch to Visa, there are three themes to explore.

The first is in transforming payment and commerce experiences for consumers. Visa is looking for ideas to use data and analytics to improve consumer experiences, introducing consumer loyalty solutions and encouraging new segments of consumers to adopt digital payments.

The second is in speeding up e-payment acceptance, and delivering new value for merchants and businesses.

Visa is keen to look at new ways to open up new acceptance channels, assist small and medium enterprises in going digital, and to create a cashless economy through cash displacement.

The final theme is in helping consumers go digital when they travel. This means finding new innovation to encourage consumers to use digital payments when they travel.

Visa also wants to cut the friction in the travel experience through digital solutions, and help frequent travellers manage their money across borders.

Each country's pitches are specific to the region's need.

For example, Vietnam's VEI sought for fintech solutions that leverage social media platforms to create seamless financial or banking experiences for millennials.

The winner in the Vietnam round was Eyeq, which sells technology in the area of emotion and face recognition to brands that want a better sense of how consumers are reacting to their services.

Over in Thailand, Visa awarded the top prize to Sellsuki, an omni-channel e-commerce platform that helps merchants sell and manage multiple channels through social media.

Besides Vietnam, Asia-Pacific markets such as Australia, China and Japan have also launched their country-specific VEI.

Visa said the programme has been expanded beyond the traditional country competition format to offer more ways for startups to participate in VEI, which may include immersion workshops at Visa's global network of Innovation Centres, networking opportunities within Visa's global partner network, and expanded regional competitions.