We are excited to share the 2018 results of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative in the U.S. As a global innovation program that is fundamentally about open source innovation, we look to the startup community to help us solve some of our most important business challenges or use our products and services in novel ways. The 2018 program was a milestone year for us, as we received a record-breaking 900+ submissions for the three challenge questions - more than a 50 percent increase in submission volume compared to last year. Now in its 4th year, Visa’s Everywhere Initiative is up and running in 40 countries with 3,000 participating startups participating to-date.
Our four finalists (three challenge winners and one audience choice winner) presented their solutions at the annual Visa Payments Forum in Washington D.C. AiFi took home the top honor, winning a total of $50,000 and a potential partnership with Visa.
This year’s U.S. competition featured a more diverse pool of entries than ever before, notably in regard to female leadership. Of the startups that applied this year, 71 percent had at least one woman on their leadership team. Of the nine startups to reach the semifinals, seven are female-led and of the four finalists, three out of four are female-led, including our Overall Winner, AiFi.
Visa’s Everywhere Initiative seeks out startups that are diverse both in their thinking and in the composition of their teams. We’re particularly thrilled to note that AiFi is led by Ying Zheng, who hopes to serve as a role model for other women in Silicon Valley and around the world. “In tech, it is rare to find female founders,” said Zheng. “Being a working mom, I feel very proud to be a female founder and to be able to balance both my career and family. I want to encourage women to take the lead, be proud of their career, and chase their dreams.”
AiFi, provides a solution for a frictionless shopping experience by enabling shoppers to bypass the traditional in-store checkout process. It also provides retailers with access to customer in-store behavior data, real-time inventory information and better customer interaction with personalized recommendations. With sensors, fixtures and sensing algorithms using AI, AiFi makes the entire shopping experience checkout-free. Furthermore, with 20 retailers in their pipeline, strong ROI projections for the merchants and strong use revenue model, AiFi has all the ingredients to succeed - all by simplifying the checkout experience for the shoppers.
We chose AiFI for a few key reasons. AiFi’s solution redefines shopping in a way that addresses a digital threat that every merchant is grappling with today. Their solution provides a clear benefit to end consumers by removing friction from the shopping experience, in a way that will delight and improve their lives. The solution itself, which is a combination of hardware and software, utilizes artificial intelligence to help reduce error rates dramatically as well as thoughtful integration opportunities with Cybersource and Visa Token Service. And, while there were many other deciding factors, AiFi’s leadership brings a strong business track record, as demonstrated by Ying Zheng’s powerful pitch to the judging panel.
In addition to AiFi, our other innovative challenge winners included Shippo and GoSave and our “Audience Choice Winner” was Valyant AI.
- Shippo helps retailers, marketplaces, and platforms connect to a global network of carriers processing millions of shipments per month for more than 25,000 customers.
- Go Save builds smart, digital piggy banks for kids ages 3-12 that make saving and chores fun.
- Valyant AI is a customer service AI that looks and feels like you are talking to a real person. Restaurants can use Valyant AI to automate in-store orders, call-ahead, mobile, and drive-through to improve consistency and increase profits.
Congratulations to our 2018 winners AiFi, Shippo, GoSave and Valyant AI. We look forward to your future of providing payment-enabled solutions that will drive the next wave of digital commerce.
If you are interested in participating in one of our Visa’s Everywhere Initiative programs around the world, please check out our program for more information.