Amex makes $100 million move into digital startups

AmEx found its new way into an area that’s a bit outside the usual purview of the credit card giant: digital commerce. The company intends to invest $100 million in startups focused on mobile and online payments, among other things. The US$100 million program is designed to help identify and develop innovative technologies to aid the company’s digital transformation and strengthen connections to customers around the world. The credit card company is set to make mostly minority investments in early stage startups.

American Express’ digital commerce initiative will look to make such investments in companies focused on serving critical parts of the digital commerce experience, including loyalty and rewards, mobile and online payment management, fee-based services, security and fraud detection and data analysis.  Amex has already been investing in digital commerce, with companies such as Rearden, a Banglore e Commerce and Payfone.

Amex has hired Harshul Sanghi, a former Motorola executive who worked on that firm’s venture efforts, to expand its Silicon Valley office. “The payments industry is undergoing a fundamental change as the very nature of commerce is redefined,” said Harshul Sanghi, world-class customer service and data analytics will provide a significant advantage to potential portfolio companies.”

The new strategic investment program will help Amex stay close to emerging technology in these different areas. For start-ups, they’ll get access to Amex’s payment network, merchants and consumers, global reach, data analytics and experience in payments. “We’ve come to the realization that there’s a lot of companies busy innovating and coming up with new things there,” says Harshul Sanghi. “For us to succeed we need to partner with these companies. American Express has over its history continuously reinvented itself. This is no different.”

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