Silicon Valley Bank and MasterCard Inc. launched the Commerce.Innovated. accelerator to find and nurture innovators in payments technology.

"We're looking for people that are doing interesting things in the commerce space…such as simplifying the checkout to make it more secure or adding new types of customer interaction," says Reetika Grewal, head of payments strategy and solutions at SVB. "We're looking for a solution that makes life easier, safer or better for either consumers or businesses."

Commerce.Innovated. is a four-month program for four to six startups that are focused on commerce and payments. Its goal is "providing operational expertise to startups that are post-seed funded but pre-series A funded to reach their next milestones," Grewal says. For example, startups that have graduated from other accelerator programs, such as Techstars and Y-Combinator, are "perfect candidates" for Commerce.Innovated., she says.

SVB and MasterCard will not be obligated to invest in the companies that go through the accelerator, but SVB is "trying to get earlier access to companies that are innovating in the commerce space…and might want to work with SVB in some capacity," Grewal says.

The accelerator will work with startups on operational and strategic issues such as understanding compliance obligations, connecting to a payments gateway and streamlining payments with different account types, she says.

"One of the unique features of the accelerator is the customized nature of the program," says Stephane Wyper, vice president for startup engagement and acceleration at MasterCard. "Our help and advice could range from understanding considerations to expand internationally to focusing on how to best understand a particular customer’s needs."

SVB is known as one of the more tech-savvy and experimental financial institutions. The bank was one of the first to work with Bitcoin businesses such as Coinbase at a time when other banks were closing Bitcoin companies' accounts. The accelerator is not specifically looking for Bitcoin-related businesses, Grewal says.

SVB has also sponsored workshops on both coasts to teach middle school and high school kids computer programming skills.

And MasterCard has also been a sponsor of several tech-related initiatives, including the MasterCard N>XT hackathon, which encourages developers to create proof-of-concept product ideas.

Mobile and digital payment services are becoming increasing important, Wyper says. "Just look at the way you interact with your friends, family and even your money on a daily basis," he says. "It's certainly a dynamic time in payments."

SVB is an important partner in the accelerator, Wyper says. "SVB is a highly regarded player in the industry, especially in the startup community."

Commerce.Innovated. is accepting applications through February 21, with classes scheduled to begin April 1. The process for the second class will begin in June or July.

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