Sparking a retail revolution: MasterCard challenges developers to invent tomorrow

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By Nick Dinh, Vice President of Mobile Payments, MasterCard Canada

The conventional wisdom is that it takes months or years to create a product of value but with creativity, intensity and a sleepless night or two, Toronto’s Tulip Retail shortened that process to less than 48 hours at last year’s MasterCard N>XT Developer Challenge. At this year’s version of the MasterCard hackathon, scores of other developers will get their shot at $30,000 worth of prizes and, more importantly, a chance to convince one of the world’s preeminent retail innovators that their idea should come to life.

The challenge at the 2014 N>XT Developer Challenge is to create an innovative application that will improve the retail customer retail experience, both in-store and online. The Challenge, which runs from 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 4th, to 5 p.m. Sunday, gives developers less than 48 hours to build their idea and to demonstrate convincingly how Canadians would use and benefit from the innovation.

Last year, Tulip Retail attacked the challenge with its application that enhances the movie going experience. App users can buy tickets and concessions from within the app, and can be notified by theatres and marketers of specific promotions or rewards when they are at the relevant movie theatres. The winning application enabled today’s movie fans to experience their favourite pastime on their own terms, which often involves online research, a smartphone in hand, and something available at a specific location.

At the 2014 N>XT Developer Challenge, Tulip showed MasterCard its expertise in retail technology. MasterCard was so impressed it partnered with Tulip to create an interactive zone at the Air Canada Centre called The Priceless Toronto Zone. The Priceless Toronto Zone is a first-in-Canada interactive retail experience, featuring an eight-panel video wall and 65” touch-screen display that shows behind-the-scenes highlights moments and enables fans to buy exclusive sports memorabilia.

Tulip’s technology allows a consumer to start a purchase at a venue, and then finish it on their phone or computer after the event – something that hadn’t been done in Toronto before. Without the hackathon, MasterCard wouldn’t have known about Tulip’s expertise facilitating retail tech.

This year the online payment system Simplify Commerce, which enables businesses to quickly and easily accept payments from any channel, will be the featured API – the application with which developers must connect their invention. Mentors from MasterCard, York University, University of Waterloo, ventureLab, Tulip Retail, Bionym and Microsoft BizSpark will be supporting the teams to help them develop their idea and polish their pitch.

The judging panel includes retail and technology experts from Rogers, Samsung, CIBC, BMO and MasterCard.

Hackathons like the N>XT Developer Challenge have grown in popularity as a way to speed innovation. Canada can lay claim to the world’s first hackathon, 15 years ago in Calgary, and the N>XT Developer Challenge, with its “Retail Revolution” theme, is the first by a major payments network company, geared specifically for retail innovations.

The 2014 N>XT Developer Challenge accepted applications from more than one hundred student and professional developer teams for the challenge, which will be hosted by MasterCard Chief Innovation Officer, Garry Lyons.



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