Visa Unveils New Challenges for Startups in Everywhere Initiative Contest

Reelio, Last Year's Winner, Is Working on Brand's Olympics Campaign

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Reelio won the Visa challenge last year.
Reelio won the Visa challenge last year. Credit: Visa
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Startups eager for a piece of the Visa brand can now compete in the payment company's second Everywhere Initiative, which began last week. The three-part challenge, which involves using Visa's interface to build a payment solution, engages consumers through sponsorships and encourages digital payments, building off of a similar contest last spring.

Reelio, one of four winners from a pool of 400 hopefuls, was last year awarded $50,000 and a year of mentorship with Visa to develop its brand. Two recent activations have already led to success for both companies. Pete Borum, chief executive of the four-year-old startup, which matches YouTube creators with marketers, said the relationship with Visa has been mutually beneficial for both companies.

"It's difficult for a large corporation to innovate at the same pace of a startup, but it's also difficult for any startup to rise above the fray and distinguish itself in the eyes of customers, investors and the broader market," said Mr. Borum, whose company is based in New York. "Startups like Reelio get exposure we'd have to otherwise struggle for and Visa gets access to some of the best minds and ideas."

Since participating in Visa's contest last year, Reelio and its three co-winners—Virgil, Flag, and Lisnr—have received $20 million in additional venture capital funding, according to Shiv Singh, senior VP-digital and marketing transformation at Visa. "The fundamental goal was to take some of our biggest marketing and business problems and open them up to the community to help us solve them," said Mr. Singh.

Reelio worked with Foster City, Calif.-based Visa on two projects and is currently putting together an Olympics campaign for later this year. One activation featured a YouTube influencer demonstrating the value of Visa Checkout for a trip to Europe in an "Amazing Race" type of challenge. For the second initiative, Reelio tapped YouTube influencer Big Daws TV, of 1.6 million subscriber fame, to promote Visa Checkout and the Taco Bell app. That resulted in 250,000 video views and 50,000 visitors downloaded the fast-food brand's app with a click-through rate of 20%, Mr. Borum said. That compares with a typical click-through rate of 1% or less.

"We're looking at a 20-times improvement in the ability to create traffic by having someone you know and trust saying, 'Go to Visa Checkout,'" said Mr. Borum. "The results both in terms of rate of turnover and being able to create these campaigns, their effectiveness on a dollar-to-dollar basis, blows everything previous out of the water."

In July, Visa will announce its new set of winners. Rather than focus on more mass adoption of Visa Checkout like last year, startups are now tasked with using Visa's APIs to build new payment solutions for new or existing apps. They're also challenged to encourage a "cardless" world by developing strategies for consumers to upload their Visa card information to every relevant digital payment system they use. In addition, contestants must figure out how to better engage with fans through sponsorships like the Olympics. Visa is working with Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University on other payment innovations, and is expanding the Everywhere Initiative to China.

"The first year was about running the program under the radar in a very non-traditional way to think about marketing," said Mr. Singh. "With the successes we've had, we're able to integrate the program more and grow bigger with it."