While more than 600 startups entered the 2017 U.S. edition of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative (VEI), a competition that taps into innovative talent to help drive the future of payments, only one would score an opportunity to run a pilot with Visa. This year, we’re proud to announce that winner was Charlie Key, CEO and cofounder of Losant, a software platform that helps companies build Internet of Things (IoT) applications and experiences. Losant is not Key’s first trip around the startup block—he has built several companies from the ground up and most recently sold his company to an enterprise-focused software corporation.
Visa chatted with him about his recent VEI win, his take on IoT’s role in a cashless society and what it takes to achieve startup success.
Visa: Congratulations on winning the 2017 U.S. Visa’s Everywhere Initiative. What inspired you to start Losant?
Charlie Key: Losant is a couple years old now and I had actually worked with my cofounder at a previous company that we ended up selling in 2014. At the time, one of the big new trends and changes in the industry was this whole idea of the Internet of Things. I come from a hardware and software background and the IoT space kind of marries them together. We decided to create a new platform that would help companies bring their IoT apps and solutions to market faster.
Visa: What were some challenges you faced along the way?
CK: The startup space is tough in general—from a product standpoint, you have to learn about your customers and their problems and understand how your product can solve for those problems and who will be using it. Another challenge for us is how the larger IoT ecosystem is shifting and changing and learning what’s basically ready for adoption and what’s not there yet. We want to make sure we’re focusing in the right areas.
Visa: How does your VEI win help solve for some of those challenges?
CK: The whole competition has helped us first understand, especially in the industrial space, how we can start to use digital payments and transactions in a way that adds value and helps companies build new revenue models. Winning the competition is fantastic for us because it gives us, and our customers, the ability to build a bigger and better relationship with Visa and really start to apply how payments and digital transactions will be part of the IoT industry. Working with Visa on this will be a phenomenal opportunity.
Visa: Mobile and digital are no doubt the future of payments. How do you see IoT supporting a cashless world?
CK: A lot of people, including myself, agree that cash is something you’re going to see less and less of, and I think one of the big things in the industrial space is understanding how and when those transactions should take place. One of the big things in the IoT space is how we make sure industrial companies have the right parts and equipment when they need it. What we’re solving for is reducing downtime and improving efficiencies and a cash-free world will help enable that.
Visa: What is your advice for startups interested in competing in the next Everywhere Initiative competition?
CK: My biggest advice is understanding how the relationship between your company and Visa should and could work and really honing in on the story about how digital transactions and payments is going to look and feel and how you are affecting it. I think we were successful because we were coming in with a different view on the world. It’s important to understand how you fit in the payments world and what it means to all the parties involved.