Reading: Growth by Collaboration: Success Stories from Mastercard’s Lighthouse Program10 min
Growth by Collaboration: Success Stories from Mastercard’s Lighthouse Program
The world is changing at a pace like never before. When it comes to fast, flexible responses to rapid change – something that has been invaluable, especially this year – many large-scale companies have for long understood the value of increasing collaboration with startups in their field. Three startups and their company partners share the story of their Lighthouse-formed partnerships.
© Design, Suvi Majander
Lighthouse Program applications are open for another week to Fintechs in the Nordics and Baltics. They will focus on fully functional teams from legal entities that can enter partnerships with other program participants. If you would like to grow your business through collaborations with Mastercard and major banks, don’t forget to apply here!
The world is changing at a pace like never before. When it comes to fast, flexible responses to rapid change – something that has been invaluable, especially this year – many large-scale companies have for long understood the value of increasing collaboration with startups in their field. Being able to offer an agile, swift response to the changing demands of the markets is an essential quality for any company, big or small – and it is done best in the seamless collaboration of both.
At best, these collaborations are highly mutually beneficial: young startups get access to mature networks and seasoned experts’ advice on topics such as market entry strategies, team building, and fundraising. Besides giving startups a growth boost, the bigger partners get to move fast and break things in a way only a startup gets to.
Mastercard’s Lighthouse program aims to supercharge that growth for both counterparts. The program, currently running two tracks – one focusing on financial services and the other on impact – helps partnership-ready startups scale and ensures they possess all the skills necessary for making a successful pilot. Mastercard’s role, while also partnering with startups in the program, is to help both parties build lasting partnerships and facilitate meaningful discussions around the latest innovation amongst startups, banks, investors, and other stakeholders.
Three startups and their company partners share the story of their Lighthouse-formed partnerships.
Seamless payments, shared visions: ShopBox and Mastercard
ShopBox, an all-in-one AI application for merchants, aims to deliver not only a smooth payment method but an entirely new way of administrating a shop in the cloud offering everything from payments to inventory. The company, currently operating in the Danish and Norwegian markets, tracks customer behaviour and makes decisions based on their observations.
“We have always been encouraged to apply,” says Christian Zigler, Co-founder and the chairman of the company.
“We were looking forward to getting enrolled with relevant partners, and our expectations were exceeded by far. Such an effort was made to get the banks closer to us and be an active part of the dialogue. We engaged in deep conversations and accelerated our conversations with different partners, but especially having Mastercard as our strategic partner helps make the Shopbox experience as seamless as possible. This kind of innovative work together is the backbone of the POS business.”
“We’re always looking for innovative partners,” agrees Kerstin Falk from Mastercard. Payments are naturally at the core of Mastercard’s business, but payments are not the only part of a successful equation when it comes to serving merchants.
“Difference between ShopBox and some other players offering services to this segment is that while they are offering payments, ShopBox offers more. They are close to our merchants, serving them with a solution covering more than payments – which is, of our interest.”
The very essence of the partnership is the shared vision between the two parties: ShopBox want to provide their merchants with a service package.
“When you have your payment directly integrated to everything else going on in your business, and you know which payment went were, you start understanding both the payments and the business’s overall functions very well. When you know about the payment, you know about your business. It’s the integration, packaged, it’s a box – hence the name ShopBox,” Christian explains.
Having fast-track access to sparring, networks and relevant people has been invaluable for the ShopBox team. As a small partner, they think carefully about reaping the benefits of being connected to a bigger partner like Mastercard.
“Alone, we are someone far back in the value chain, but we’re already skipping many layers by working with Mastercard. It’s quite powerful to get an introduction from Mastercard. Access to people has been critically important for us.”
There are many opportunities for those who think outside of a box – or notice an underserved market segment where the market share is out there to be won.
“While bigger enterprises are treated like kings by some banks, smaller merchants aren’t treated as such,” Christian says.
Together, ShopBox and Mastercard have successfully attracted smaller merchants.
“We know what we can do together, and now we’re executing just that. We see many benefits with working with partners at the forefront of fast-moving technological thinking and close to the market. While we act and work through many kinds of partners, we welcome more and more partners in the fast-moving high-tech world – we work with companies like ShopBox to make Mastercard’s vision alive,” Kerstin says.
Christian and the ShopBox team have been happy with Mastercard’s proactive and forward-looking attitude.
“We’re happy that Mastercard has been courageous with their thinking. Even small steps forward in the value chain can be scary for some and drive them to make swift decisions out of fear. For us, Mastercard has been a courageous giant, staying close to the merchants, true to our vision. You don’t want to be part of the value chain – you want to be leading the value chain,” Christian concludes.
Easier said than done – but a whole lot easier when done together.
Keeping up the good work: Lucidtech and DNB
Lucidtech, a machine learning startup based in Oslo, works towards building intelligent software to close the gap between human and machine abilities. Utilizing complex image processing algorithms combined with neural networks, Lucidtech aims to automate processes across several industries – making these cloud-based processes highly secure, usable, and scalable everywhere.
The team decided to shoot their shot with the Lighthouse program to explore potential new partnerships and expand the already-existing ones.
“We were very excited to be accepted to the program, and it has lived up to our expectations,” says Ståle Zerener Haugnæss, Lucidtech CEO.
Lucidtech and DNB, Norway’s largest financial services group, were already partners before joining the program’s ranks. However, the new collaboration platform enabled them to explore new features while also finding novel ways to work together.
“We recognize that to accelerate innovation and develop leading products to our customers, we need partners to succeed,” says Olav Gulbrandsen, the Head of Digital Channels at DNB Retail Banking.
“Our collaboration with Lucidtech was initiated with this in mind. We were looking to solve a payment pain for our customers – and had a hypothesis that we could save time, increase quality, and optimize lifetime cost by collaborating rather than trying to solve that pain ourselves.”
When it comes to picking the right kind of partner, Afshin Rashid, the Product Manager in the DNB Mobile Bank team who works with Lucidtech on a daily basis, highlights one attribute over others.
“We need to collaborate with companies that provide end-user value, bring in domain expertise, and challenge us on our thinking and product. The last part can only be accomplished with shared ground values, such as mutual trust. That is why a good team fit is crucial for us in DNB.”
During the Lighthouse program, the Lucidtech team got to explore opportunities with different business units at DNB than the ones they work with on a day-to-day basis.
These kinds of alterations in their partnership were beneficial for both. As the Lucidtech team got an opportunity to showcase their experience and expertise to new DNB units, the expectations of what the two partners can accomplish together were set at new levels.
“Even though we had been working with them before the Lighthouse program, we managed to utilize the program to explore other new opportunities beyond the existing ones. Lucidtech came well-prepared with new and enlightening use cases for two other business units in DNB,” says Kathy, the Head of Fintech Partnership who runs the Lighthouse program inside DNB.
Besides the domain expertise Lucidtech has brought in, their hassle-free, smooth invoice scanner has quickly become one of the most-liked features in the DNB banking app.
“We will continue to leverage more of their products as well as increase our use by expanding the current offering to several channels across DNB,” Kathy says.
Lucidtech team hopes to continue the successful collaboration to identify and develop new applications of their technological solutions.
“We are very proud to have contributed to making invoice payment even smoother for DNB’s 2 million customers,” Ståle concludes.
“We look forward to continuing working closely with the bright minds in DNB to drive innovation, whether it be through enhancing customer experience or automating processes to increase efficiency.”
Challenge accepted: Feelingsteam and OP
For Feelingstream, an AI-driven customer interaction analysis platform designed to help leaders understand their customers and make data-based decisions to improve customer experience, joining Lighthouse was a no-brainer.
“Firstly, banks are in our target segment – we saw this program as a perfect match with all the big banks in the Nordics represented. Secondly, we were looking to scale up. Having previous experience from similar programs, we know these to be great opportunities for important introductions, cooperation, and networking,” says Terje Ennomäe, one of the Estonian-based AI startup’s founders.
At the program, Feelingstream was paired with OP Group, one of Finland’s largest financial companies. Terje recalls the first meeting between the parties, where the Feelingstream team took the opportunity to showcase their product by a live demonstration.
“At the beginning of the first meeting (back then when face-to-face meetings were a thing) in Stockholm, we politely asked OP representatives to play a game with us and call their own call center. After some awkward seconds, they accepted the challenge, and we created a storyline for Juha to ask for credit for his newly established company from OP’s B2B line. Since it was a live demo even we didn’t have a clear idea of the outcome of this challenge!”
Daring to go live right away paid off. The OP team was impressed by the crash course. The full-scope live demo gave them a full understanding of the product and concept behind the conversational analytics Feelingstream offers.
“It was the first wow-factor moment when they saw the quality of the transcript but also realized… what if all of their calls were visible to them? This awareness was a massive shift in understanding the power of analytical capabilities and visualization of the call. As the call included specific questions about the company credits, Juha was positively surprised by the particular advice he got from the Agent of OP Bank. On the other hand, there were certain customer experience aspects Juha challenged. As a customer, you appreciate a company based on competence, but also from the perception perspective. It was clear that there was room for improvement.”
The collaboration between the two continues to this day. The pilot covered both technical and business tests with four-month real data and with a tangible business challenge.
“With collaboration, we achieved profitable opportunities where we could bring up some of the most interesting use cases: automated service quality assessment, tracking unwanted calls with automatic categorization, and service/product bottleneck discoveries. Conversational analytics can create visibility with a specific focus on productivity, revenue, and customer experience,” Terje concludes.
“During the program, we had two rounds of four-week sessions with OP’s business users, finding solutions to their specific challenges. This kind of cooperation continues to this day as OP sees the value in customer conversation analytics and its impact on their business.”
A startup looking for growth powered by partnership? Look no further. Lighthouse Program is now open for the next batch of startups operating in the fintech space in the Nordics and Baltics – and we look forward to hearing from your team. Let’s collide our visions!