Another day, another payments giant in the crypto news. Mastercard has announced it’s teaming up with five startups as part of the blockchain-focused version of its “Start Path” business-accelerator program.

The handful of businesses joining the program are Ava LabsEnvelKashLVL, and NiftyKey.

Envel is an AI-focused mobile banking app, Kash is a peer-to-peer savings platform, LVL is a Bitcoin-focused banking app, and NiftyKey is a crypto-rewards platform.

The most relevant for crypto investors, however, is probably Ava Labs, which is the company that founded and developed one of the most highly regarded layer 1 smart-contract platforms in the industry – Avalanche (AVAX).

Sitting just outside the top 10 by market cap, Avalanche is a strong competitor to the likes of Ethereum, Solana and Cardano and has built a thriving DeFi ecosystem in a relatively short space of time, with about US$12.4 billion total value locked (TVL), according to DeFi Llama.

Mastercard’s Start Path program isn’t new – it’s been around since 2014, with the general aim to help later-stage startups scale and grow. The crypto and blockchain Start Path focus, however, is a relatively fresh initiative, and is designed to to promote “real world” blockchain use cases.

According to Mastercard, founders of the crypto and blockchain companies participating in the program will aim to address a host of “pain points” related to asset tokenisation, data accuracy, digital security and seamless access between the traditional and digital economy.

“The past year has seen incredible momentum in the world of crypto assets, from the explosion of NFTs to the piloting of central bank digital currencies in countries across the world,” Jess Turner, executive vice president of New Digital Infrastructure & FinTech at Mastercard, said. “As we look to what’s next, it’s all about finding new use cases and problems blockchain technology can solve for now and in the future.

“Whether it’s enhancing financial freedom or a new value-added service using stablecoins, we believe our new cohorts of Start Path crypto and digital assets companies combined with Mastercard’s expertise in the space will accelerate access to new ways to pay and prioritise choice for consumers and businesses.”


Other recent Mastercard crypto moves

The payments giant (and its chief rival Visa) have been making strong moves into the crypto and blockchain sector this year. Some of its more recent developments include:

• Plans to roll out crypto-linked credit and debit cards to users in the Asia-Pacific region.

Partnering with the huge digital commerce firm Bakkt to offer cryptocurrency services to its payments partners.

Acquiring leading crypto-intelligence company CipherTrace to help provide and grow security and trust within the crypto ecosystem.

Partnering with the Gemini exchange and WebBank to create crypto-rewards cards.