When Starbucks introduced its reloadable debit card a few years back, Jason Gardner was impressed; so impressed he set out to build a card that could be used – not just in one store or chain – but at hundreds or thousands of venues.
The result is Marqeta, which aims to become “the most powerful piece of plastic on the planet – one that magically makes your dollar worth more,” according to Gardner, the startup's founder and CEO.
Marqeta is “a personal reloadable debit card that links to any credit card you might have,” says Omri Dahan, the company’s CRO. “It works just like when you load your Starbucks card on your Visa card.”
Marqeta partnered with Discover and built a system that allows people to keep all their stored value, gift card value and rewards on one payment platform.
In their research phase, the execs learned that local merchants, large or small, were willing to give cash rewards to people who used the card to pay upfront. “They said advanced payments were worth from five to 20 percent more to them,” says Gardner.
Thus, a typical Marqeta deal is that when you prepay at a merchant, you receive something like a seven percent bonus. For places where you shop frequently, like grocery stores a popular option is prepay $500 and receive an extra $35 back.
”People tell us ‘where else do I get a seven percent return on my money?’ – they love it,” says Gardner. “We wanted to create a model when you support merchants, they support you back. Everybody wins.”
“You can't ask a consumer to carry a card or app for every single merchant,” he notes. “So we offer one card for unlimited merchants.”
Since launching at the beginning of this year, over 250 grocery stores, restaurants, nail salons, dry cleaning establishments and other merchants in the Bay Area have signed on to Marqeta’s program.
The company expects to add two large national gas station chains in October, and will be releasing iOS and android apps soon.
Marqeta is headquartered in Emeryville, has a staff of 22, and is operating of $7.3 million of funding from a group of blue chip investors, including Greylock Partners and Granite Ventures.