How to Succeed in the Open Innovation Journey?

In this Mind the Chat, we had the pleasure to sit down with Amy Neale, Senior vice president of Mastercard, who was just awarded by Mind the Bridge and ICC, the International Chamber of Commerce, as a 2020 global Corporate Startup Star.
The award is, of course, the result of preparation, hard work, and learnings from best practices in startup-corporate collaboration activities. 

“Open Innovation is a journey.”

The Three Mastercard’s Innovation Pillars

Mastercard’s journey to open innovation is based on three pillars:

  • Start Path: Mastercard has a dedicated program to engage with startups – called Start Path – to identify the brightest late-stage startups and maximize their opportunity of success with Mastercard and the fintech ecosystem. Since 2015, 250 startups have participated in the program. The companies involved raised $ 3B after graduation.
  • Customer relation program: it is designed to provide an end-to-end innovation journey for MasterCard’s customers. Thanks to this program, Mastercard has an open channel with customers and a framework to co-innovate with them.
  • Mastercard lab: It is Mastercard’s internal product development arm dedicated to bringing innovative payment solutions to market with greater speed.

The Start Path Program

The Start Path program evolved over the years. It started as a “standard” accelerator program for early-stage companies, and now it is focusing on late-stage startups. It is meant to be an incubator to develop the partnership between Mastercard and the startup.

“What we learned is that an acceleration program is still valid for companies in the scaling phase.”

During the 6 months, each startup is assigned a Mastercard mentor who helps them navigate the company. Mastercard does not take equity from the startups (this is the VC’s job!) that participate in the program, but they take an option to participate in subsequent rounds. 

“Why do we no longer take equity from startups of our program? Because we are not in the VC business and the best startups don’t like it.”

Some Open Innovation Tips

Amy also provided some advice to corporations starting their innovation path:

  • It needs to be a win-win strategy – for the corporate AND the startups
  • Learn to walk before you can run! Take the time to build the brand reputation and try to get some quick wins.
  • Recognize that innovation is a journey.


04:28 The Three Mastercard’s Innovation Pillars
09:13 Start Path program: early years and current model
13:25 How the Start Path program works
16:21 KPI setting and tracking
21:22 Why MasterCard does not ask for equity to the startups which participate in the program
29:22 Acquisition examples
31:17 Areas for improvement
34:09 Some suggestions for those who want to enter the open innovation arena

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Author: Francesca Cavanna

With prior experience in strategy consulting and an MBA at Collège des Ingénieurs (Paris), at Mind the Bridge Francesca is Innovation Advisor and Account Manager, focusing her activities on verticals such as fintech and insurtech, energy and mobility.
After a period spent in San Francisco offices, she is now part of the Mind the Bridge team in Barcelona.