Global Matters

Innovating to support SME digitisation

By Helen Jones, Executive Director, Business Solution

Last weekend Visa challenged eighty designers, developers and entrepreneurs to find new and innovative ways to address the financial challenges facing SMEs in our inaugural UK ‘Design Hack’. While no two issues are the same, the one we hear about most regularly while working with SMEs is around their access to financial services, including bank accounts and loans. Funding and cash flow are also major concerns for entrepreneurs. Moreover, for Small Business trading abroad, there are additional layers of complexities to navigate.

So, with just three days to come up with a prototyped solution, the participants were split into 11 teams to grapple with the “Simplify for Small Business” challenge and win a slice of the prize pot.

While the teams were given complete autonomy to come up with fresh new solutions, Visa’s Small Business and Innovation experts were on hand to offer insights and help the teams develop their concepts.

What happened?

On the first evening, a diverse crowd of participants pitched their ideas to their peers after which they picked teams to work on the idea that they thought had the greatest potential. The teams worked tirelessly over the weekend to make these ideas into viable technologies that UK SMEs could benefit from. Their main focus throughout the Design Hack was to ensure that the ideas weren’t too technical for business owners, but would also simplify their lives, ensuring they are not left behind as the world becomes ever more digital.

Some of the ideas from the first two days included an AI personal assistant, the gamification of payment systems and a way to check foreign suppliers. I was joined on the panel by Tony Laquet, Vice President, Head of Global Small Business Platforms, Visa and Rania Svoronou, Associate Design Director, IBM and while all the ideas were truly innovative, we had to select three winners.

And the winners are…

First place went to Merch-ant, who came up with a solution to help SMEs handle expenses and invoices to give them more time to focus on the things that really matter to their business. This team of young entrepreneurs went home with the top prize and have also been invited to discuss their idea further at Visa’s London Innovation Centre.

In second place was Visa Matrix with their secure bank card specially designed for SMEs. Third place went to Receiptless, an API integration for bank cards, ensuring businesses no longer have to keep receipts for filing expenses.

Besides generating some great ideas, our first Design Hack highlighted Visa’s unique approach to innovation. We pride ourselves on our focus on human-centred design and encouraged the teams to take a similar approach to their designs.

The event was an inspirational experience for all involved. The quality of participation and output was truly impressive. We want to once again congratulate all those who took part in our Design Hack and are already looking forward to the next one.

Tag: Social Impact