Mastercard announced an AI assistant for entrepreneurs looking to start and maintain small businesses at the Consumer Electronics Show on Thursday.
Mastercard Small Business AI will function as a kind of “copilot for the small business owner” by answering questions such as how to set up a website or online ordering, said Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard.
The tool is designed for startup owners from a diverse set of backgrounds and is particularly catered to those from other countries who may not be familiar with the resources available to them.
“Suppose someone comes from Latin America or India and they come to the U.S. wanting to set up a small business — they have to figure it out on their own,” Rajamannar said. “What they may not know is that there are grants available that they have access to.”
He added that the assistant can provide that information and more, including what forms need to be filed, taxes that need to be paid and what operating permissions a new business owner has.
The AI tool will pull information from a coalition of media partners licensing their articles, podcasts and interviews for the assistant’s use. The inaugural participants include Blavity Media Group, a digital media company supporting Black millennials; Group Black, a Black-owned media company that connects brands with diverse audiences; Newsweek and TelevisaUnivision.
It will also pull information from other small business programs Mastercard has established throughout the years, including its Small Business Community, Digital Doors, Trust Center and Strive USA.
Business owners can access the tool by downloading a free app that will begin piloting in the U.S. in Q3. Mastercard plans to roll the app out globally sometime after, adding new organizations to its media coalition as it does.
Create Labs, a venture offering technology access to underserved communities, built the tech for Mastercard Small Business AI, while Mastercard provided funding and guidance.
Mastercard is launching its small business AI assistant as a part of a larger effort to use tech to connect with consumers across a variety of passion points, including movies, gaming, food and music.
This week, Mastercard announced a feature-length film premiering in Australia in February called Touch, the first film that features no pictures and relies only on sound to cater to a blind audience.
In September, it launched the Xbox Mastercard, which lets players spend reward points on Xbox games and add-ons. In April, it rolled out a Web3 educational program for emerging musicians to learn how the technology can benefit their careers.
“We’re taking different areas and trying various communities for gamers, artists and now small businesses,” Rajammanar said. “This is part of an overall strategy that we’ve got to create connections for people.”