Growth-stage start-ups focusing on Web 3.0, global money movement, embedded finance and open banking can apply to the Visa Accelerator Program 2023 to avail equity-free funding, in addition to benefiting from other Visa services
In November 2022, start-ups across India were invited to apply for the third edition of the Visa Accelerator Program 2023. They can join their peers from Asia Pacific to collaborate on some pressing challenges in the payments industry.
The programme will focus on developing solutions in Web 3.0, global money movement, embedded finance, merchant and small business enablers, and open banking solutions.
Ramakrishnan Gopalan, Visa’s Vice President and Head of Products and Solutions for India and South Asia, tells Outlook Business how participation in this programme will benefit start-ups. He also reveals how Visa will support selected growth-stage companies to co-develop a minimum viable product with a validated market fit.
Why did Visa envisage Visa Accelerator Program (VAP) 2023 and how does your company stand to benefit from it?
The VAP was created to help start-ups unlock their growth potential and scale across the Asia Pacific region, by collaborating with Visa on solutions that address the biggest opportunities in digital payments. It supports growth-stage start-ups with a market-tested solution looking to expand their reach in the region with fast-tracked commercialisation.
The 2023 programme will focus on developing solutions in opportunity areas like Web 3.0, global money movement, embedded finance, merchant and small business enablers and open banking.
Visa’s brand and scale help start-ups grow their businesses, while they bring to us their fresh and agile thinking and access to their innovative, customer-centric solutions. When combined with the scale of our network, start-ups can connect with our banks, merchants and government partners across the region to fast track their growth.
What are the criteria for selecting start-ups for this programme?
The VAP supports growth-stage start-ups that demonstrate commitment to expanding in Asia Pacific, with a market-tested solution that addresses one of the identified opportunity areas. We are on the lookout for companies that fulfil criteria like mission alignment in the opportunity areas we have identified and have a market-tested solution that has gained traction, with a clearly articulated scope and business rationale.
Moreover, we are focusing on growth-stage start-ups with at least 9 to 12 months runway (Series A and above). They should demonstrate commitment to expanding in Asia Pacific and existing operations in the region is a plus.
There are resources available for Proof-of-Concept (PoC) testing with Visa where they can dedicate time and focus without impacting core operations. Applications are currently in progress and will close on 10th January 2023.
How will participation in this programme benefit start-ups?
At Visa, we aim to drive the next wave of momentum for global payments collectively across the industry. Our goal is to enable money to move seamlessly and safely and build positive payments experiences across every Asia Pacific market and around the world. To do this, the VAP will support participants in a range of ways.
The first is offering them scale of network, wherein we can facilitate introductions to our network of clients and partners as well as access to our partner Plug & Play’s global mentor network. Start-ups can also benefit from mentorship where a dedicated Visa sponsor and product lead will champion their organisation.
Moreover, we will extend them technical support to enhance and deploy their solution, supported by expertise from Visa’s solution architects. We will also help them with business development wherein a tailored path is created for each participant to continue engaging with Visa over the longer term after the program concludes. This could include follow-on pilots, partnerships, and commercialisation opportunities.
Then comes the most important aspect—funding. Equity-free funding support of up to $50,000 will be offered for running the PoC and building the solution. This can be requested by a participant and will be made available at Visa’s discretion in one or more payments, subject to the participant adhering to certain terms and conditions and applicable tax.
Which Indian start-ups participated in the first two cohorts? How does Visa support selected start-ups to co-develop a minimum viable product with a validated market fit?
The 2022 VAP saw the participation of Bengaluru-based Perfios’ automated credit assessment and underwriting solution for small business loans, which allows Plug and Play card programmes for instant disbursement of financing on Visa credentials. Two other Indian start-ups were part of the first cohort of the program in 2021—DigitSecure and Open.
Bengaluru-based unicorn Open, a neo-banking platform for small businesses, and DigitSecure, an omnichannel payments acceptance platform, worked to find new ways to support small businesses in managing and streamlining their operations digitally as they adapt to changing technology demands.
During the six-month programme, selected start-ups will work with Visa’s payments experts, product architects and business development teams towards a PoC and a business case pitch where they would consider a range of outputs across product, design and technology workstreams. The co-developed solutions are rapidly tested and iterated, leveraging Visa’s extensive network of financial institutions, merchants, and digital partners.
For instance, TallyKhata and Visa are enabling small business financing by leveraging the Bangladesh’s start-up’s merchant platform and data and our credentials for supplier payments and business expenses.
Does Visa also help them win client deals?
There are many ways that Visa engages with start-ups throughout its journey and the end point doesn’t always have to be a commercial agreement or investment. After six months, the start-ups have the option of entering into a post-programme engagement model, depending on a range of factors including the outcome of PoC test, as well as business requirements at the time.
Other ways we engage with start-ups is through our Fintech Fast Track Program, which is designed specifically to get fintechs up and running on the network and making payments at speed. The end goal clearly remains the same for us, we want to help start-ups and fintechs scale into new markets with our expertise and reach.
That being said, we did see very encouraging successes with the start-ups from the 2021 and 2022 cohorts who have gone on to secure nine commercial deals with Visa’s clients and partners in Asia Pacific.