Visa Issues Millennial Marketing Challenge to Startups at SXSW

Contest Is Part of Broader Effort to Fuel Innovation With New Partnerships

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Visa will enlist the startup world for answers to some of its biggest marketing challenges in a competition that will kick off at SXSW this week. Dubbed the "Everywhere Initiative," after Visa's "Everywhere you want to be" platform, the competition aims to get fresh perspectives on key business initiatives like reaching the millennial market.

The competition is part of a broader effort to fuel digital innovation through new partnerships and ventures, said Shiv Singh, senior VP-global head of digital and marketing transformation at Visa.

"We're in such a transformative time that businesses and marketing organizations can't just depend on themselves or their agencies to solve their business problems," said Mr. Singh. "They have to widen the neck."

Visa is not the first marketer to turn to startups for new ideas. Heineken challenged innovators to pitch technology and service-oriented solutions to business problems last fall, while Turner launched a startup accelerator called the Turner Media Camp in 2012. And PepsiCo, where Mr. Singh previously served as global head of digital, embraced startup culture with an incubator program called PepsiCo10 and Digital Labs.

But Visa's challenge takes a narrower approach. Rather than seeking suggestions for products and services, Visa is focused on three specific marketing challenges: engaging millennials, attracting and retaining affluent consumers and promoting Visa Checkout, an online-payment platform that is one of the firm's biggest marketing priorities.

"It's not some fringe or shiny object … it's a core proposition," said Mr. Singh about the contest. "We're opening up to the startup community to get fresh thinking."

The competition kicks off at SXSW on Saturday, March 14 and submissions will be accepted through April 30. The winning teams will each be awarded $50,000 and Visa will work with them to pilot their creations. The effort aims to give startups a broader look at consumer challenges. "It helps them see the world the way we see it," said Mr. Singh.

Anyone can participate, but the contest is geared toward marketing and advertising startups. To spread the word, Visa partnered with Kite, which connects startups with agencies and brands, and SoulPancake, a media company. "They're really the bridge to the startup community," said Mr. Singh, referring to the companies. "Big brands speak French and the startup community speaks Mandarin. Sometimes, for the sanity of either side, you need translators."

Visa's social agency, MRY, also worked on the push.

In addition to the startup challenge, Visa will launch a security roadshow and introduce the Everywhere Lounge, where it will host a panel with CMOs, banks and tech leaders about technology such as Apple Pay and Visa Checkout, among other events at SXSW.

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