High-profile payment industry executives visit Boston this week to talk about the future of how we pay for things at an exclusive, invitation-only conference.
“It’s really about bringing together the elite innovators in the payments and commerce space to have two days of discussion about where the payments and commerce system is going,” said Karen Webster, president of pymnts.com.
The Innovation Project, a two-day conference at Harvard starting tomorrow, will be 48 hours of high-level executives from companies such as MasterCard to Boston-based LevelUp discussing bitcoin, payment security and everything in between.
Security will be a key topic this year, Webster said, in large part thanks to the high-profile Target breach. Also high on the agenda will be bitcoin and changing retail environments, including mobile wallets.
“Everyone has an interest in resolving the issues that we put forward,” Webster said. “It’s the opportunity to really put the collaboration hat on.”
Webster said the combination of industry pillars, including PayPal and JP Morgan, and newer companies, including bitcoin startup Circle and mobile payments company Leaf, is beneficial.
“It’s a way of stimulating new thinking, surfacing new ideas, and getting the dialogue to a different level,” she said.
Because the payment industry requires companies — from banks to merchants to credit card firms — to work together, a chance to engage with everyone on the payment food chain is valuable. These giants and startups will also get together for a “thinkathon,” teaming up to try to solve four of the industry’s most pressing problems, including international payments and cybersecurity.
“We’re getting together and hashing it out and making changes that hopefully will have far-reaching implications,” said Will Graylin, CEO of Loop Payments in Burlington.
The conference is also a launching pad for small companies to show off their technology to industry giants.
“This is a preview of what’s to come in the next one to two years,” said Shaunt Sarkissian, CEO of Cortex MCP. Last year, Cortex unveiled its platform for mobile payments, and has grown significantly since then.
“This event was a great accelerator for us,” he said.
Sarkissian said the payments industry is in the middle of a significant transition, but Innovation Project is how to address the issues.
“It’s the most fragmented industry out there, and probably one in the most aggressive state of change,” he said. “It’s the Woodstock for payment geeks.”