Ask a fintech founder: Giacomo Biggiero, Masabi

On the importance of partners and solving the world’s urban mobility problems

Giacomo Biggiero looks at the camera, standing in front of a snowy mountain scene.

On a business trip back to London, Giacomo Biggiero, along with Masabi founders Tom Godber and Ben Whitaker, found themselves stuck at the airport in a long queue, waiting to buy a train ticket from a vending machine. It occurred to them that, in the age of technology, why the wait?

“We thought, why can't we do this on our mobile phone? Why can't we just buy a ticket and go straight onto the train? Why do we have to queue up, fumble for cash and then be given a piece of plastic or paper that's no good for the environment?,” recalled Biggiero. 

That sparked a revolutionary idea: The three partners decided to evolve their mobile app platform into something that would help digitize the entire transit experience. 

“We wanted to empower passengers to use whatever was in their pockets, be it a contactless card or mobile phone to pay for and navigate their ride,” he added.

Here, Biggiero, early Masabi employee and head of business development and partnerships, shares his behind-the-scenes fintech experience, how Masabi is using Visa Acceptance Platform to maximize its global reach and what the future of transit looks like through the Masabi lens.


What is your elevator pitch for Masabi?

Biggiero: Masabi is designed to bring convenience to passengers so they can pay for their transit ride using whatever they have in their pocket. And for operators and agencies, it's reducing their costs of fare collection.


What makes Masabi unique from its competitors?

Biggiero: Our Fare Payments-as-a-Service model provides a solution that is configured rather than built from scratch, so we’re really reducing the huge amount of effort it takes for transit systems to design and build a brand new system. We know that most of the needs of cities are pretty common, and we can provide that very quickly and much more affordably compared to our competitors because we've built a solution as a service from scratch. Our platform can be extended and customized to the needs of any particular city.


What's one thing you wish you knew when you started on this journey back in 2005?

Biggiero: Things always take longer and cost more. What we didn't know at that time was perhaps how important working with partners is. Over time, we've really developed a lot of our go-to market strategy around working with partners who allow us to scale and reach into markets where we can really leverage the experience and presence and territories of partners. Visa is a great example of exactly that.


How are you working with Visa to make global transit more seamless for all?

Biggiero: Visa really has been a great partner in a number of different areas. Our platform Justride needs to process payments and the Visa Acceptance Platform does that for us. It has enabled us to reach all our target markets with a complete payment service, from point-of-sale to e-commerce to contactless card, and the ability to roll that out in Europe, Asia, North America, our core markets. 

Visa has also allowed us to build out our contactless card processing engine. For us, the value there is working with a platform that has such wide applicability. Visa allows us to scale across all these different regions, but also different size operators, providing the full suite of capabilities that we need from contactless cards through to point-of-sale payments.


What is your idea of success?

Biggiero: Success is when riders are not concerned about the concept of ticketing anymore. We set ourselves out to remove the need to queue up, remove the need to understand a fare table, remove the need to carry cash or paper or plastic, just worry about how to get from A to B. Once we've made all those other aspects of ticketing disappear, I would say we're a success.


Are there any payment trends that you're excited about going into 2024?

Biggiero: Wow. Yeah, there's a lot going on. We're seeing a different speed of evolution in different territories. Some of them we're just excited to get contactless cards working. In others, it's really looking at vastly simplifying some of the technology stacks that these cities are running. Historically, they may have had a smart card, a mobile app, and now they're adding contactless EMV. With the latest innovations in payments, we're now able to provide a single stack solution. An example is having the whole system based on contactless EMV, and then issuing private cards to the city for concession holders and the unbanked and an open loop network for tourists and other users. Again, it's all about making it more convenient for the users and more affordable for the taxpayer and the city.


What keeps you up at night?

Biggiero: I guess it's how some of these cities are procuring. The vast sums of capital that are going toward building new systems, writing technical specifications from scratch, all of this can be massively avoided. And that's what we're set out to change, to disrupt, really. But what keeps me up at night is just seeing that still happening at such a vast scale. So there's a lot more disrupting for us to do.


What's next for Masabi?

Biggiero: What we want to be is focused on solving a problem of urban transit mobility and solving it really well. We really evolved our Justride fare collection platform to provide a full suite of capabilities that can serve the needs of an entire city for fare payments. What we're seeing now, after a history of catering to tier two, tier three cities and operators who are perhaps more interested in a software as a service type model, we're now seeing that interest coming in from much bigger tier one cities. They can really see the benefit of subscribing to an existing platform and really focusing their fresh new bills on things that are custom for their needs as a city without needing to reinvent the concept of fare collection every time. We have deployments in Japan, Australia, Italy, Spain, the UK, Netherlands, Canada, and the U.S. I'm confident we’ll add more to our list in the very near future. 

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Tag: Urban Mobility

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