Sponsored Content

How Visa is powering the future of fintech through open innovation

Congratulations to our VEI2020 winners:

  1. Overall winner, $50,000 USDEdrizio De La Cruz, co-founder and CEO, Arcus
  2. Audience Favorite, $25,000 USD: Edrizio De La Cruz, co-founder and CEO, Arcus
  3. 2nd place, $15,000 USD: Sunwoo Hwang, founder & CEO, Sixup
  4. 3rd place, $10,000 USD: Stan Smith, Founder & CEO, Gradient AI

Get to know the finalists and judges at this year’s Visa Everywhere Initiative

Today’s Visa Everywhere Initiative is bringing together some of the most ambitious startups from around the world to create innovative solutions for present and future commerce challenges within fintech, presented by TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield Editor and Head of Community, Neesha Tambe.  

As you witness the selection process and startup presentations, get to know the five finalists who have each problem-solved distinct concerns using diverse experience and expertise. They represent an inspiring and prolific class of VEI innovators. You can also learn more about Visa’s exclusive panel of judges evaluating this year’s finalists — this year’s lineup spans an exciting mix of fintech, marketing and VC executives with a lens toward the future of the fintech industry.  

Winners will receive over $100,000 in prize money as well as recognition and access to Visa’s widespread and global network. 

What’s more? The “Audience Favorite” will be determined by interactive voting for all tuned into the event. And a separate COVID-19 related challenge invites startups to create innovations to help small businesses recover, with final pitches to be held Sept. 9, 2020. 

Challenge Finalists

Image Credits: Visa Everywhere Initiaitve

Hope Liu | Co-Founder & CEO, Eximchain

Hope has been working on using blockchain technology to bring efficiency in the supply chain space since 2015. She transformed Eximchain from a MIT Media Lab class project into a productive global business. She previously led her team through several competitions, including: winning the Grand Champion at the Boston Seagull Entrepreneurship Competition, entering the finale at the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition Accelerate, and participating in the Plug and Play Fintech Accelerator in Silicon Valley. 

Sunwoo Hwang | Founder & CEO, Sixup

In 2015, Sunwoo started Sixup — after a successful career in global management consulting and building financial technology companies — to apply his life experience, thinking, and energy to increase access to higher education and scale economic mobility for the underserved. As a first-generation college graduate, Sunwoo is a passionate advocate for young people, who are full of ambition and ability, but lack the means necessary to reach their potential.

Edrizio De La Cruz | Co-Founder and CEO, Arcus

Arcus is a Fintech-as-a-Service company, helping every business make fintech accessible for every consumer in North and South America. Prior to Arcus, Edrizio graduated from The Wharton School with an MBA. Before pursuing an MBA, he was an Investment Banker at J.P. Morgan and a Private Equity Investor at Pegasus. In 2006, he graduated cum laude from Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business in New York. While at Baruch, he was an Aircraft Engineering Technician for Swissair at JFK airport.

Spandana Nakka | Co-Founder & CEO, Sleek

Sleek is an AI-based virtual queuing platform that is set to transform the way we wait in lines. After spending a decade working in Product Management, Business Development, and dabbling in angel investing, Spandana remains at the forefront of industry trends. She has built several delightful products and scaled their growth. In her previous roles at Google, Spandana served as an early PM on Google Fiber, and later Google Play, which reached billions of users. An engineer by training, Spandana holds degrees from Stanford University & the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley.

Stan Smith | Founder & CEO, Gradient AI

Gradient A.I. focuses on the application of advanced modeling techniques combined with “Big Data” to develop high-impact solutions for our clients’ most important business challenges. Stan has held founding or executive-level roles for multiple startup companies, including: MatrixOne (IPO and purchased by Dassault Systems), Agile Software (IPO and purchased by Oracle), OpenRatings (purchased by Dun & Bradstreet). He has also led the development of patented technologies for predicting bankruptcies for small privately held suppliers, global database for supplier performance (over 80 million companies), and combining assessments with performance data to identify opportunities for lean initiatives and waste reduction.

Panel Judges

Image Credits: Visa Everywhere Initiative

Terry Angelos | SVP, Global Head of Fintech, Visa

As a serial entrepreneur, Terry has successfully founded and sold three venture-backed companies. He serves as an angel investor and advisor to startups focused on Advertising and fintech markets. He holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from WITS University, an SM in Engineering Science from Harvard University, and an MBA from MIT Sloan.

Kim Kadlec | SVP, Global Marketing Solutions & Product Marketing, Visa

Kim has focused on building strategic partnerships at some of the largest global companies throughout her career, including Publicis Groupe, AOL, and Johnson & Johnson. At Visa, Kim is responsible for shaping the strategy of multiple marketing platforms [Advertising Agency and Content Centers of Excellence, Data and Tech, and Visa.com]. These initiatives create assets, programs, and capabilities to drive the success of Visa’s global efforts. 

She has received many industry accolades, including “Top 50 Women in Brand Marketing” by Brand Innovators in 2014 and Huffington Post’s “Top Ten Social CMO’s 2013.”

Charles Hudson | Managing Partner & Founder, Precursor Ventures

Precursor Ventures is an early-stage VC firm that focuses on investing in the first institutional round of investment for the most promising software and hardware companies. Prior to founding Precursor Ventures, Charles was a Partner at Uncork Capital (formerly known as SoftTech VC). In this role, he focused on identifying investment opportunities in mobile infrastructure, mobile applications, and marketplaces. In addition to his investment activities, he supported SoftTech portfolio companies on business and corporate development matters. He was also the Co­Founder and CEO of Bionic Panda Games, an Android-focused mobile games startup based in San Francisco, CA. 

Charles’s career includes impact at other notable companies such as Serious Business (acquired by Zynga), Gaia Interactive, Google, IronPort Systems (acquired by Cisco), and In-Q-Tel.

Mary Kay Bowman | SVP, Global Head of Buyer & Seller Solutions, Visa

Mary Kay joined Visa in 2019, bringing more than 20 years of global payments strategy, product development, product management, general management, business development and operations experience to her role. At all stages of her career, she has worked at the intersection of commerce and financial services, including online, cloud, face-to-face and mobile commerce. Mary Kay specializes in developing “back office” and infrastructure capabilities into profitable, scalable product and business lines that improve the customer experience and economics of the business.

 Mary Kay’s portfolio includes working on payments and commerce at other global tech platforms like Square, Amazon, and Digital River. 

Kanyi Maqubela | Managing Partner, Kindred Ventures

Kindred Ventures is an early stage venture fund that invests in mission-driven technology companies at their earliest stages.  Previously, he served as a Partner at Collaborative Fund. Kanyi is a co-founder at Heartbeat Health, and previously ran growth at One Block Off the Grid (acquired by $NRG). He was an early employee at Doostang (acquired by Universum Global). Kanyi has also served as a Lecturer and Adjunct at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, a curriculum adapted from his time in undergrad at Stanford University, where he studied Philosophy.  

Mark Jamison | SVP and Global Head of Innovation & Design, Visa

Mark oversees Visa’s global network of 12 Innovation Centers and Studios and its Global Design team. In this role, Mark leads new product exploration teams around the world — located in Berlin, Beijing, Dubai, London, Mexico City, Miami, Moscow, New York, San Francisco, São Paulo, Singapore, and Warsaw — to explore and commercialize emerging growth opportunities for clients through prototypes and market pilots of new commerce experiences. Similarly, the global design team works across organizational and geographical lines to deliver comprehensive design services for Visa’s global product suite and many of its partners. 

Mark has been an executive member at global banking solution companies like BBVA Madrid, Capital One Bank, and Capital One Labs. 

Don’t miss the Fireside Chat with Rodney Williams

Visa’s Sophie Schulman will be sitting down with Rodney Williams, Visa’s first-ever Everywhere Initiative winner from 2015. Visa invested in Rodney’s startup, LISNR, last December as a collaborative partner. 

Rodney Williams | Co-Founder &  Chief Commercial Officer, LISNR

LISNR is the leading Ultrasonic Data Platform, powering payments across the customer journey, globally. Rallying up over 40 industry awards, LISNR has landed major partners like Visa, Synchrony Financial, Ticketmaster, Intel, and Equinox Payment terminals as they drive a better payment tool for merchants and consumers. Rodney has been recognized with numerous awards, including Ad Age’s 40 Under 40 in 2012; the Ernst & Young EDGE Award in 2013; Cannes Gold Lion award in 2015; Tech Entrepreneur of the Year by Black Enterprise, 2016; 25 Inspiring Entrepreneurs Under 40 by Entrepreneur Magazine 2016; Entrepreneur of the Year in Connected Communications by EY in 2017; Ebony’s Power 100 in 2018 and CNBC Disruptor 50 List in 2015, 2016, 2018 & 2019. 

Outside of LISNR, Rodney helps to develop the next gen of technology leaders, co-founding one of the fastest growing fintech startups, SoLo Funds, where he serves as the board’s chair. 

For more information about the Visa Everywhere Initiative Program go to visa.com/everywhereinitiative. To partner with Visa go to partner.visa.com

Image Credits: Visa Everywhere Initiative

Innovation starts from the ground up. For a good idea to become a great reality, however, it also requires committed investment, credible support, and limitless exposure.

Since 2015, Visa has produced the Visa Everywhere Initiative, a global, open innovation program that tasks start-ups and fintechs to solve the payment and commerce challenges of tomorrow. Focused on large-scale business operations as well as small business and merchant needs, Visa, leveraging the KITE platform to manage startup engagement, has opened the door for more than 7,000 global startups in over 100 countries to find new solutions for future challenges faced by the payments industry. 

On July 1, 2020, startup finalists will virtually present their solutions to five distinct challenges to an expert panel of judges during the Visa Everywhere Initiative 2020 finals, which will be live streamed on TechCrunch. These challenges prompt participants to innovate across all facets of digital commerce that could affect the world of payments today. Audiences will also be a part of the deliberation, and be invited to attend virtualQ&A sessions throughout.

Register here to tune in virtually on July 1st.

Several winners across each category will receive $100,000 in prize money, along with both recognition and access to Visa’s widespread network. The support and investment from Visa continues after the competition, as the company helps guide and incubate these startups with actionable next steps to help accelerate deployment of their solutions.

“The Visa Everywhere Initiative is a critical part of our ongoing work to support the Fintech and startup community, enabling new ideas to flourish and creating real-world solutions to solve for payments challenges across the globe,” said Terry Angelos, senior vice president and global head of Fintech at Visa. “Since 2015, over 7,000 companies have participated in VEI and this year we are excited to be hosting the finals online with TechCrunch and exposing these startups to a global audience.”

The Visa Everywhere Initiative 2020 Challenges

Image Credits: Visa Everywhere Initiative

The participating startups, presenting on July 1st, answered the following prompts, providing solutions for obstacles that may be faced by anyone in the payments industry today. A panel of experts from Visa and KITE spent countless hours examining each response, taking the time to seriously consider the startups they are looking to welcome into Visa’s growing culture of innovation.

Challenge Question 1 | Supply Chain Payments

How can fintechs improve commercial payments throughout the supply chain journey with verification, production, delivery, and contract compliance in mind?

Challenge Question 2 | Consumer Cash Flow

How can fintechs use digital payments / banking solutions to help consumers’ cash flow so they don’t need credit loans from a financial institution?

Challenge Question 3 | Transactions & Money Transfers

How can a startup develop a solution that makes it easy for issuing banks to utilize a consumer-friendly API-based money transfer / P2P solution using Visa’s payment transactions platform? 

Challenge Question 4 | Contactless Payments

How can a startup help small businesses and merchants reduce cash payments through contactless Near Field Communication (NFC) mobile phones that wouldn’t require additional hardware?  

Challenge Question 5 | Game Changers

How would a startup leverage its technology in tandem with exponential technology to create new and disruptive forms of commerce as well as support other facets of the banking process? 

Visa Everywhere Initiatives run all year long and take place in regions around the globe. Currently, startups and Fintechs are able to apply for the Visa Everywhere Initiative Challenges in LAC, focused on economic recovery and driving a more digitalized society in Latin America. You can learn more and apply here. 

Supporting the next generation of fintech thinkers

Image Credits: Visa Everywhere Initiative

In addition to the Visa Everywhere Initiative, Visa continually engages with and supports the Fintech community through programs, investments, and partnerships to power the next generation of  digital commerce. 

Visa’s Fintech Fast Track Program

With over 140 Fintechs  already participating in the program worldwide, Fast Track provides access to Visa’s  network and capabilities to help early stage startups and institutions who are focused on building new and innovative payment solutions grow and scale.  


Visa collaborates with innovative fintechs to help them reach their growth and payment ambitions, with the backing of Visa’s speed, security and scale. Recently, Visa has announced partnerships with multiple leading fintech companies, including: MFS Africa, Revolut, Safaricom, Rappi, Airwallex, and Konfio.


Examples of recent investments from Visa include notable leading fintechs worldwide, including: Anchorage, Bankable, Branch, Finix, Minna Technologies, and PayMate.  

Commitment to Inclusivity

In addition to the Visa Everywhere Initiative, Visa also sponsors and supports the Inclusive Fintech 50. Visa co-designed and funded the Inclusive Fintech 50, a competition that helps early-stage startups looking to reach underserved people at scale, get in front of investors and other interested parties.

Register to watch the livestream on July 1st here. 

Find out how you can be a part of Visa’s growing Fintech network here.