May 24, 2024

Grants up to €500,000 for EU-based startups developing B2B solutions tailored for small business needs.

Mastercard launched its Strive EU Innovation Fund on January 23, making €4.5 million available in grants for startups and innovative companies who are actively working on digital and data-first solutions for small businesses. Applications are open until March 11, 12 noon Central European Time. 

Up to twenty winners, based and operating in the EU, have the opportunity to receive an equity-free grant up to €500,000, given their solutions can support European small businesses with fewer than 10 employees to: 

Empowering European small businesses with digital solutions

Small businesses are the driving force behind the EU’s vibrant economy. Following the pandemic, many European small businesses lagged in digitalisation, while some are still navigating their path towards a complete recovery. In response to these challenges, the Strive EU Innovation Fund was launched to collaborate with the European entrepreneurial community to help accelerate the digital transformation of small businesses.

The fund is focusing on four areas that play a pivotal role in small business growth. To thrive in the digital economy, small businesses need to access and grow capital through lending solutions that can be integrated into other products they already use to conduct business, such as cloud computing, payroll, e-commerce and social media platforms. 

To go digital safely and protect both their business and customer data from cybercrime, small businesses require digital solutions that enable them to detect, assess and mitigate cyber risks. 

AI solutions can assist small businesses in analysing market trends, customer behaviour and interactions and product performance. They can optimise pricing and inventory, enhance customer service, save time and money and ensure regulatory compliance. All of these contribute to higher revenues and increased efficiency and competitiveness.

Solutions addressing environmental sustainability can enhance small businesses’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting to meet evolving regulations and consumer preferences. Additionally, they empower small businesses to invest in green business models, differentiate their offerings and automate regulatory compliance workflows. 

However, the fund is not limited to digital solutions that offer the above benefits only. It welcomes more ideas and solutions so long as they are bolstering small business growth in any of the four focus areas.

Seeking solutions to small business challenges

The Strive EU Innovation Fund is actively seeking B2B solutions explicitly designed for small businesses. Even if applicants have a B2B solution not currently targeting small businesses as their primary customers or end users, they remain eligible to apply if they wish to adapt their products using the grant to meet small business needs.

Applications are open exclusively to entities based and operating in at least one of the 27 EU member states, with a minimum legal and ethical operating history of one year. Consortiums where the main applicant is EU based are also eligible to apply. Governmental and academic institutions cannot be funded under this grant.  

Solutions must be at least at the product definition stage. Winners will then have the opportunity to test and validate their solutions over a period of 12-18 months. They  will further get access to several benefits including Strive and Mastercard expertise, select Mastercard Start Path resources, mentorship from best-in-class experts and wide exposure and publicity in collaboration with Mastercard Strive.

The selection of winners will be based on the significance and innovativeness of the solution along with the impact it can achieve with the grant; the applicability and transferability of the solution and the learnings and insights it generates; scalability and financial viability beyond the grant period and other criteria outlined on the Selection page of the Strive EU Innovation Fund website.

Payal Dalal, Senior Vice President of Social Impact, International Markets at the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth comments:

“We are excited to receive applications from EU startups, established companies, social enterprises, or nonprofits who can offer innovative solutions to European small businesses. Our collaboration with the entrepreneurial community across the EU will not only support small business growth, but will also surface new insights and groundbreaking innovations.”

Amplifying Small Business Voices with Strive EU

The Innovation Fund is the latest development of the global Mastercard Strive programme – and the first dedicated activity for Strive EU, which was launched at the EU Parliament in November last year, and is being implemented by Caribou Digital. 

The Strive EU program aims to surface new innovations and amplify the voices of European small businesses in the EU to bolster their resilience. To do so, Strive EU will establish a Small Business Council, and collaborate with the broader business community to discuss opportunities and models to support small businesses and share their perspectives.

Initially launched in 2021 – and supported by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth – Strive is a global portfolio of philanthropic programmes aimed at supporting more than 10 million small businesses around the world to thrive in the digital economy.

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