Visa (NYSE:V), the world’s leader in digital payments, has selected a tech startup based in the United Arab Emirates as the winner of its Everywhere Initiative, a global program designed to encourage the development of the next big thing in payments. The winning mobile payment solution beat 12 other finalists selected from 190 entrants to emerge as the champions in the first ever Middle East and North Africa edition of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative program.
The program is structured around three real life business challenges: enabling electronic payment acceptance among smaller merchants and providing secure eCommerce solutions; transforming the transit experience at airports; and building customer loyalty through the right offers at the right time.
Qpal has developed a mobile payments solution to speed up payments for food and beverages at events compared with conventional cash methods, thus maximizing event revenues by shortening queues. The UAE-based startup won both the “Acceptance Challenge” as well as the overall prize for its idea. The company took home US$50,000 and the opportunity to work with the team at Visa’s Innovation Center in Dubai to develop the concept further.
Swvl, an Egyptian private commuter shuttle service helping travelers find the smartest routes across cities to airport hubs, among other destinations, for a flat fare, won the “Airport Transit Challenge” and $25,000.
Bebuzzd, another UAE-based startup, has developed a one-stop shop for users who can pay merchants directly from the mobile application while earning and redeeming points for their purchases. It also serves as a customer acquisition platform for small and medium enterprises. It won the “Loyalty Challenge” and a $25,000 prize.
Shiv Singh, SVP Innovation & Strategic Partnerships at Visa, said: “We have had the privilege of working with some of the best minds in the region over the last few months and have selected three category winners with the potential to truly change the way people pay in the region. We congratulate Qpal, Swvl, and Bebuzzd and thank all the finalists for participating in the Everywhere Initiative, and we wish them success in the future.”
He added: “The future of digital payments will be shaped through collaboration and we look forward to working with our startup partners to transform the payments landscape over the coming years to the benefit of consumers, merchants and issuers alike.”
Ihab Ayoub, GM for MENA at Visa, said: “Visa is proud to play its part in enabling a smart economy powered by cashless, secure digital payments across the GCC and the wider MENA region. We remain committed to this vision by collaborating with passionate minds across the region, and fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem in which innovators thrive. We are excited to build on the technologies that have secured the top positions in each of these challenges, and making them a reality for consumers in the near future.”
Pankaj Kundra, Senior Vice President, – Payments and Personal Banking, Mashreq Bank UAE also one of Panel Judges for the event, said: “It is a unique initiative from Visa to engage with the start-up community across the region. With innovation one of the cornerstones of our organization, Mashreq is proud to be part of an event that places such an interest in the region’s growth and talent development. With so many ideas showcased, that address real world challenges, I am personally excited to see them go live. With the success of these ideas, we are one step closer to proving that we have the right environment for innovation to flourish.”
Visa’s Everywhere Initiative is a global program designed to support the company’s goal of fostering the growth of next generation payment technologies. This is the first time Visa has rolled out its Everywhere Initiative in MENA. To date, nearly 1,500 fintech startups from across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia have participated.