Visa invests in bringing open tech to a global market

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When Visa opened its tools to third-party developers two years ago, it was a strong pivot away from a longstanding of operating a closed, proprietary network. Its latest investments indicate this strategy is of growing importance on a global scale.

On Thursday Visa announced a strategic investment as part of Miami-based YellowPepper's $12.5 million Series D round. The stake expands Visa's involvement with YellowPepper — it signed a partnership with the Latin America-focused mobile payment company in 2017 — and will fund a focus on new opportunities for tokenized payments, increasing access to Visa APIs and expanding push payments through Visa Direct.

That combination has become a mobile triad for Visa, as it has made a series of investments and collaborations that combine its huge merchant base with the technology to infiltrate new markets for mobile payments.

The technology combination has been accompanied by investments. Visa has invested in Marqeta to broaden its reach in e-commerce; Stripe to provide a track to stores that are building online payment interfaces for card not present transactions; and operated developer events to spot ideas for startup investment.

Through its investment in YellowPepper, Visa is focused on expanding mobile payments in Latin America and the Caribbean, an early-stage mobile payments market that is drawing competitors hoping to take advantage of a regulatory environment that's encouraging electronic transactions in myriad countries in the region.

Ripple has lined up banks and remittance companies to extend electronic cross-border transfers in Latin America. And startups are targeting the e-commerce payments markets as consumers move away from cash.

The YellowPepper investment is just one of several moves Visa has made since it opened its technology to developers in 2016 to address a "staggeringly large" opportunity, according to then-CEO Charlie Scharf. Visa did not return a request for comment by deadline.

That open posture has allowed Visa to accelerate into a variety of areas such as transit payment technology, added mobile wallet technology to Visa Checkout, developed password alternatives and jumped aggressively into new Wi-Fi payment use cases and wearables.

Tokenization, which replace account numbers with tokens to protect digital transactions from ID theft, has been part of Visa's mobile payment strategy for the past four years and has enabled a focus on additional merchant services.

Visa Direct has been a faster payments engine for Visa, leading to collaboration with Venmo, Early Warning and Fiserv's Popmoney, as well as Visa's foray into push payments for the gig economy.

"Visa is always looking for new investments that allow us to accelerate innovation for our clients, finding new ways to support our clients’ technology," Eduardo Coello, regional president for Visa Latin America and the Caribbean, said in a release. "YellowPepper’s extensive experience in the region and the strength of their existing client base makes them an ideal partner to build the future of payments."

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