Sabrina Tharani: Leading with vision.

Fintech Women


Sabrina Tharani, Vice President of Global Startup, Venture, and Crypto Partnerships at Mastercard is a visionary leader who is set out on a mission to bring innovation to the world of payments and commerce. With ardent passion, Sabrina has led her global team to forge transformative partnerships in novel ways and has built an ecosystem of players for Mastercard to collaborate and co-create with. Sabrina has also worked in Mastercard’s digital payments organization where she helped build and commercialize new payment technologies. With a B.A. in Economics from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Cornell University, Sabrina believes in creating mutual value and driving massive growth for clients. Sabrina expresses her passion for entrepreneurship and innovation outside the office by serving on the Leadership Council of The Resolution Project (TRP), a global non-profit and the world’s largest accelerator for undergraduate student social entrepreneurs. Today, TRP has over 550 Resolution Fellows, working on more than 300 social ventures in 84 countries, improving the lives of more than 3M people around the world.

In an interview with Aspioneer, Sabrina talks about her career path, unique ideologies and methods that have helped her achieve many milestones along the way.

A legacy of innovation

Sabrina Tharani: “For more than 50 years, Mastercard has pioneered technology to connect and power an inclusive digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart, and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships, and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments, and businesses realize their greatest potential. Our decency quotient, or DQ, drives our culture and everything we do inside and outside of our company.”

Solutions that empower

Sabrina Tharani: “For most of my career at Mastercard, I have helped build, commercialize and scale new digital payment products as a Product Manager. These solutions spanned our tokenization platform, which now powers innovative solutions like Apple Pay to our Mastercard Send card rails, which move millions of dollars around the globe each year. In bringing these novel innovations to market at scale, I saw first-hand the powerful new solutions that were being invented by startups who make fantastic partners to help our business co-create and innovate. I joined the Start Path team to formalize the way that Mastercard partners with fintech companies around the world to solve key pain points our industry faces and help startups work with us to build the future of commerce.” 

Sabrina Tharani

The pace of innovation in fintech, particularly for venture-backed startups, is scaling at an unprecedented rate, introducing hundreds of new companies, new business models, and new partnership opportunities

Leading to succeed

Sabrina Tharani: “Currently, I am leading Mastercard’s award-winning startup engagement program, Start Path, which works with select later-stage fintech startups helping them to scale their business by providing curated and open access to Mastercard’s products, expertise, and channels around the world. Today, our program focuses on enabling emerging fintech companies operating in a variety of spaces from payments, to digital assets and crypto, to open banking, to financial inclusion, and more. Start Path is focused on working collaboratively with fintech companies to build innovative solutions, enhance customer experiences and infuse trust across the payments ecosystem. Our purpose is to unleash the vast utility and scale of the Mastercard network to power new solutions in partnership with best-in-class emerging players. Our startup programs are specifically designed to help high-potential startups co-create with us, as well as seamlessly access a wide array of products, tools, and channels. 

Fintech is one of the fastest-growing venture categories with unprecedented investment in the last two years. The growth of this sector has allowed us to accelerate the scale and diversity of our programs to ensure we continue to be the partner of choice for all fintech in the world. Several factors have contributed to our success:

1.) Deep expertise in corporate and startup partnerships, with a dedicated team that thinks about delivering mutually beneficial value each day.

2.) Ensuring that we provide curated and bespoke access to relevant opportunities, that we find partners that we can add meaningful value to, and that we invest in the partnership to ensure long-term success.

3.) Empowering diverse teams – diverse management teams perform better, so we work with companies that carry the same ethos as Mastercard and have multiple voices represented at the table.

To date, we have worked with about 300 companies from 40+ countries across the globe. These startups have gone on to raise billions of dollars in follow-on capital, which indicates that the support and resources we provide drive meaningful value to our partners.”

Creating a more equal world

Sabrina Tharani: “Specific to the venture ecosystem, where I focus today, our team contributes to ensuring gender equality in two ways. For one — fintech is democratizing access to financial services and formal economies like never before, empowering female consumers and small businesses to access information and tools digitally. By supporting fintechs delivering these solutions, we are in turn, ensuring that women are equally able to access products and services that allow them to be financially successful. Secondly, less than 2% of venture capital funding goes to female entrepreneurs today, with even less going to those in deep-technology industries, like fintech. By putting a specific emphasis on ensuring we not only support diverse founders but fund them and help them scale through Start Path, we are leveraging the resources we have to close the gap in entrepreneurship.”

Doing Well, By Doing Good

Sabrina Tharani: “In my opinion, there are a few industries that impact the daily lives of billions of people around the world – these might be government, healthcare, information technology, and indeed, payments. While sometimes an invisible element of daily life, payments power experiences for billions of people every second, and Mastercard’s network is built off a truly global, elegant and real-time architecture like very few platforms are today. I find the vast diversity of work we do fascinating and am motivated by how immensely relevant the work we do is to the global economy and how we use that position of influence to do meaningful good all around the world.

One of Mastercard’s guiding principles has always been “Doing Well, By Doing Good,” which is a value we hold as we operate our core business as well as our impact-oriented teams. Large, influential companies, like Mastercard, have a responsibility to use their substantial resources to better the world, and in ways that go beyond capital allocations alone. I believe that CSR initiatives drive the greatest impact and scale the fastest when the mission aligns with the core competencies of the company. In Mastercard’s case, where financial inclusion is at the heart of what we do, this means focusing on how our partnerships and technology can be used for goals like bringing 1 billion people into the digital economy by 2025.”

Keeping up the pace

Sabrina Tharani: “The pace of innovation in fintech, particularly for venture-backed startups, is scaling at an unprecedented rate, introducing hundreds of new companies, new business models, and new partnership opportunities. The velocity of innovation in financial services is also faster than we have seen in prior years – entirely new sectors of fintech are being invented and adopted by traditional and non-traditional players. Leaders in our industry, particularly those working at larger corporates, not only need to match the speed of product innovation to stay relevant but also need to infuse a culture of agility into their teams to ensure partnership with startups is a success.”

Envisioning a value-driven future

Sabrina Tharani: “COVID-19 continues to be part of our reality. We are still facing the challenges that come with social isolation, figuring out how to use digital experiences to replace what were in-person interactions, and dealing with medical issues related to the virus itself.

Like every company, the last 18 months impacted Mastercard in a myriad of ways, from our workforce to our partners, to our cardholders, to our society. For each of these groups, we continue to work tirelessly to support the unique needs brought upon by the pandemic and activate new and creative ways to leverage our people, technology, and partners to do so.

The pandemic has accelerated the need for digital financial solutions, so it is imperative more now than ever that we continue to provide best-in-class digital financial experiences to our ecosystem while ensuring the safety and security of everyone. Working with startups has been a wonderful avenue for us to do so and through these new partnerships, we have been able to deliver novel capabilities to markets such as aid distribution, small business digitization support, ID verification tools for vaccine records, and much mor