FW9: Mastercard Lighthouse & Bits Technology

· 3 min read
Mastercard's flagship startup showcase comes to town this week


🪸 8 Nov | Lighthouse Startup Showcase | Register (free pizza & free drinks)

Four years ago, Founders Coral started thanks to a thankless task: I had to send out rejection letters on behalf of the Mastercard Lighthouse Program.

This Wednesday, Lighthouse returns to Stockholm for its annual Startup Showcase, a flagship event featuring founders from around the Nordics & Baltics, fast-paced pitches, free pizza, and free beer. In anticipation of that moment, let me tell you about the Lighthouse program.

Back in 2010, Mastercard invested in a pre-revenue startup called iZettle. In many ways, this bet marked the start of fintech’s golden age here in Stockholm.

iZettle, a Swedish company that helps micro-merchants accept card payments, made less than 600,000 SEK in its first full year. But in 2012, the company started compounding revenue growth at a 187% rate for seven straight years. The result was a $2.2 billion liquidity event in 2018.  

During iZettle’s rise, Mastercard noticed other notable fintechs all over the Nordics. Klarna, Pleo, Tink, and Trustly were still young stars in those days. And so, in 2018, Mastercard moved to launch Lighthouse, a partnership accelerator aimed at finding the next New Nordic star and facilitating partnerships with the region's biggest banks.

Since then, Lighthouse has selected more than 185 startups. Together, these companies have raised >$1 billion from investors. Stars like Doconomy, Normative, Kevin, Yabie, Enfuce, Aprila and Aiia have joined the program at a formative age.

Still, only 20 startups make the cut each class, which means Lighthouse needs to reject hundreds of companies per year.

And sometimes we make big mistakes. In 2018, we rejected Juni, a neobank that went on to raise over $280 million and achieve significant success. That year, it was my job to send Juni their rejection letter.

In doing that thankless job, I noticed quite a few great founders. Instead of just sending them a form letter, I added this little note:

“p.s. I’m impressed by what you’re doing. Would love to meet. Join me for a run this Thursday?”

Six founders showed up for that first run. And thus the Founders Coral was born.

In the past four years, Coral has supported and encouraged hundreds of founders. Through our consistent weekly meetups, we’ve played a role in helping our members build healthy habits that give them the energy to self-start and not settle. If you want to join the 287 others contributing to our Discord, do that here.

Founders of the Week

From left: Bits Technology co-founders Jonatan Klintberg, Fredrik Eriksson and Robin Lantz 

One of the most promising startups in the Mastercard Lighthouse Program this fall is Swedish fintech Bits Technology. Great startup ecosystems live for many generations–and Bits is a great example of a second-generation Stockholm star.

Founding CEO Jonatan Klintberg spent more than 7 years at Tink prior to Bits. CPO and co-founder Robin Lantz spent six years at Tink and Klarna before doing the same. Thanks in part to this pedigree, Bits secured more than 5m EUR in seed and pre-seed funding from top investors, including Cherry Ventures.

You can hear co-founder and CCO Fredrik Eriksson pitch at the Lighthouse Startup Showcase on Wednesday. Fun fact: Fredrik used to participate in the Lighthouse Program as a partner back when he worked for Amazon Web Services.


🪸 Submit corrections, feedback, or ideas for this update to me, Vincent Weir.