This month, Hub71 and Mastercard joined forces to create an even stronger support system for the 15+ FinTech startups based at Hub71. Through Mastercard’s global Start Path program, Abu Dhabi-based startups can now apply to the program to benefit from a myriad of workshops, mentorship, technical and industry insights as well as plug into the mammoth Mastercard global network. By supporting startups early on in their journey, Shyam Mohan, Start Path Lead for Mastercard Middle East and Africa, outlines in this Hub71 blog what startups can expect from joining the global program, and how the team is excited to be working with Hub71 to unlock the economic opportunities for tech startups across the region.

How large is Mastercard’s global network today? And how will Abu Dhabi-based Hub71 startups benefit?

Through its global network, Mastercard connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in 210 countries and territories. Mastercard’s technology solutions and social impact programs are positively affecting inclusivity, driving education and creating opportunities across MENA. We continue to unlock economic opportunities for small to medium enterprises in the region through a range of initiatives. Through this partnership, we look forward to collaborating with Hub71 startups through our  Start Path program.

Start Path is Mastercard’s startup engagement program that brings together a network of innovators across the globe to shape the future of commerce. We are very keen to work with Hub71’s global community of innovators, to support them early on and throughout their journey. We will be conducting sessions to educate startups on Start Path, and inviting them to apply to our program. 

What is the Mastercard Start Path program?

Start Path is Mastercard’s multi award-winning startup engagement program, it provides later-stage scaling FinTech and Technology startups with access to its global network of experts and innovators.   

As part of the program’s standard process, all startups need to apply to join the program. Shortlisted FinTechs and Tech startups based in Abu Dhabi’s Hub71 will then be able to pitch to join the program enabling them to work with members of the Start Path team. Being part of the program will provide companies with access to Mastercard’s partners across its global network, as well as its dedicated experts and mentors. Currently, over 200 later-stage startups are part of the Mastercard Start Path program. 


What kind of industry problems would you like to solve working alongside a FinTech Startup?

We aim to solve our customers’ main pain-points. Through our innovative solutions and product line-up, we are committed to enabling our startup community scale across the region and help them address key challenges such as online and digital payment processes and setting up their commercial and sales transactions. A very relevant example in the current context is Contactless. Digital transformation to Contactless has been alive and well for some time but COVID-19 has led to its acceleration, and this transformation is expected to continue in the future. 

Can you give us an example of a great startup partnership with a FinTech startup?

We have several examples of partnerships where our startups are partnering with Mastercard and/or its customers. Two such examples would be our partnerships with Max and Mobeewave.

MAX and Mastercard

Start Path startup MAX (Metro Africa Express) provides ordering apps, payment processing and last-mile delivery support to retail businesses and mobile consumers. Mobility is a challenge in Africa. Many drivers will never own their taxis, most are untrained and unlicensed, and many operate with no insurance. MAX is making moto-taxis safe, affordable and accessible for everyone. With Mastercard as their payments and scaling partner, MAX is providing their riders with easier ways to pay, and their drivers with a mobile wallet to receive payments, access their earnings and manage the leasing of their vehicles, setting them on the path to connecting with the formal financial system.

Mobeewave and Mastercard

Mobeewave’s solution turns an NFC phone into a secure contactless payment terminal – a dongle-free solution addresses the challenge of cost and accessibility of payment terminals for SMBs. Small businesses and micro-merchants are always looking for ways both to reduce cost and grow their revenues by make it easier for people to pay. Through Start Path, Mastercard supported Mobeewave into new markets, with collaborative pilots in Europe, Asia and North America. As a result of the collaborative approach Mastercard participated in Mobeewave’s Series B funding round.

What are some of the key challenges that you’ve seen FinTech startups face outside of the UAE?

Challenges usually revolve around a lack of digital infrastructure, problems with internet connection, or difficulties in finding the right corporate/bank to sponsor and support. Digital exclusion of consumers and merchants unable to access financial services, can also hamper efforts. On the other hand, truly innovative solutions are often born in markets perceived to have more barriers.

What practical initiatives will the Start Path team be rolling out to support Hub71 startups?

We will help startups to solve for their customer’s specific pain-points through a combination of webinars and one-to-one virtual mentoring sessions. We will also extend our support by providing Hub71 startups with access to required building blocks such as payment gateway as well relevant thought-leadership advice to guide them through uncharted times.

What advice would you give a struggling startup, given the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn?

Our advice would be to reframe your solution quickly in response to the challenges that your existing and target customers, are experiencing. This will help position your company as the go-to solution provider during these difficult times and hopefully keep your business top-of-mind in a post-COVID-19 world. Stay in touch with your customers. This contact doesn’t have to be directly related to sales or business, you could send them thought-leadership pieces that you think they might find interesting, helpful podcasts or articles. During these challenging times, we need to think outside the box to stay relevant!

Communicate with your investors and stakeholders on a regular basis, be honest about your business situation and ask for help if you need it. These are unprecedented times which call for a kind of action that you may not usually take. 

Start Path is Mastercard’s award-winning startup engagement program that brings together a network of innovators from across the globe to shape the future of commerce together. Startups benefit from the knowledge of a global network of Mastercard experts, technologies, and channels. Currently, over 200 technology startups are part of the program and have collectively raised $2.6 billion in post program investment. To join Mastercard’s Start Path program, click here.

To apply to join the Hub71 community today and to benefit from this new corporate partnership, just click here to begin your journey.