Germany is the strongest economy in Europe and ranks fourth globally. Being on the forefront of various high-tech B2B and B2C sectors, it is a highly digitized country; yet it is also one of the most cash-driven societies in the Western hemisphere. Almost four out of five purchases in German retail are still cash transactions. The local start-up scene has recognized this as an opportunity for innovation and is pushing forward the future of payments by designing new solutions to increase consumer’s added value of digital payment methods.
The backbone of the German fintech scene is strong and has reached the tipping-point of maturity. According to the latest Startup Genome global report, three out of 22 global fintech ecosystems to watch are located in Germany (Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich). These ecosystems have also become part of the global game in terms of capital raised. Mega-rounds of + USD 50M are no longer exceptional phenomenons with investors from China or Japan participating and watching the German market closely.
Visa supports the local start-ups addressing the future of payments by expanding its global innovation program Visa Everywhere Initiative (VEI) to Germany. The global program is designed to encourage payment innovation and tasks start-ups to solve commerce challenges of tomorrow, further enhance their own product propositions and provide visionary solutions for Visa’s vast network of partners.
Visa Everywhere Initiative in the German-speaking markets
The very first VEI program addressing the opportunities of the German-speaking markets Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Visa Everywhere Initiative D/A/CH, was launched in June 2018. The program encouraged entrepreneurs across Europe to submit use-cases aimed at improving customers’ daily experience in payments and exploring future ecosystems for payments.
The program proves that the local start-up community with its great entrepreneurial spirit is bursting with innovative solutions to continuously pave the way for digital payments. Within VEI D/A/CH, the two winners received a total of €50,000 between them, as well as the opportunity to work with Visa. Chosen from more than 250 submissions, 10 start-ups from 5 different countries qualified for the finals event in Germany’s leading finance hub, Frankfurt. Ultimately, two Berlin-based start-ups stood out in the two challenges.
“Congratulations to Circula and MotionTag for winning after pitching such impressive use-cases. We look forward to working with these exciting start-ups to help to develop their ideas with our payment expertise and take them to the next level”, says Michael Hoffmann, Head of Visa Innovation Center Berlin and MD of Spielfeld Digital Hub.
Circula – winner of the ‘Daily Customer Experience in Payments’ Challenge
Expense reports are widely considered a pain point. On average they come along with costs of almost €50 per expense report in Germany. Circula addresses this business problem and provides a new and simple way to manage business expenses. The Software-as-a-Service company has developed the first mobile expense app for German businesses that is fully compliant with Germany’s complex tax law. Circula simplifies the expense management process through a combination of intuitive design, automation and an interface architecture that allows the use of data from emails, apps and credit card transactions in order to make expense filing a fully automated experience.
Co-founder and CEO Nikolai Skatchkov outlined what a user-friendly, paperless and cashless solution for travel expense accounting with Visa could look like. Leveraging the Visa Developer Platform, any existing credit card could become the solution to manual expense filing. By solving this challenge and improving the user experience, Circula offers the potential to create a new value added service that not only meets the needs of accounting teams but also drives card usage in traditionally cash-prone Germany.
“Winning Visa Everywhere Initiative proves our product strategy and in particular our aspiration to solve expense filing in partnership with financial institutions. We look forward to taking the discussion further on how Visa, its banking partners and Circula can work together to achieve a truly seamless experience for business travel expenses by using Visa’s APIs and customer reach”, says Nikolai.
MotionTag – winner of the ‘Future Ecosystem for Payments’ Challenge
In Germany, buying tickets for public transportation is often a hassle. One-time customers and even commuters struggle to understand the complex tariff systems that vary from city to city. They also have to deal with a variety of vending machines operated by different public transportation companies which often still only accept cash.
MotionTag feels called upon to resolve the customer experience issues and helping the operators to better understand how, when and where their customers are traveling. Their B2B product for transport providers delivers a smartphone-based ticketing technology.
Co-founder and CEO Stephan Leppler visualized a use-case in which passengers would receive a valid ticket with just one click and pay with a Visa card on file exactly for the journey section they are travelling. “Our idea is comparable to the convenience of the contactless London transportation system. We see huge potential in untapped markets such as Germany with its non-gated transportation entrance system”, says Stephan. “Winning Visa Everywhere Initiative proves the need for seamless ticketing options in an extremely dynamic mobility market, and it provides great opportunities through a collaboration with Visa and their incredible network.”
Interested in getting to know more disruptive rising stars from Europe? Check out the other eight Visa Everywhere Initiative D/A/CH finalists, standing out from over 250 applications: Grover, IDEE, RoomAR, Zuper (all from Germany), Bankify (Finland), ClaimAir (Czech Republic), Parkbob (Austria) and Quickwy (Israel).