June 15, 2023

ClearboxAI, the Italian startup against gender inequality in AI, wins the Women & Sustainability Fintech Competition

To the Turin-based startup the second edition of the competition conceived by IAG and Mastercard. More than two hundred startups participated in the selection, but only three finalists were selected for the awards ceremony held during the Mastercard Innovation Forum 2023 in Milan.

Called ClearboxAI, it is a Turin-born startup with a mission: to abolish biases related to gender, ethnicity, and social status that, unfortunately, still influence AI algorithms.

Thanks to this mission and the rapid rise experienced since 2019, the year it was founded by talented entrepreneur Shalini Kurapati, the startup won first prize in the second edition of the Women & Sustainability Fintech Competition. This is in fact an initiative promoted by Mastercard and IAG, one of the leading players in Italian venture capital that has always connected the main players in the innovation ecosystem, offering startups the necessary tools for rapid growth and large partner companies the opportunity to get in touch with disruptive realities, thanks to the wide variety of innovative realities that make up the IAG network.

ClearboxAI supports companies in their AI projects through the generation of high-quality synthetic data that allows them to abolish those biases of gender, ethnicity, and social status that often characterize AI algorithms. A phenomenon, the latter, that has recently affected Big Tech worldwide but also medical research. By way of example, we can cite cases in which through the analysis of processed data, facilities and access to more profitable credits are granted to men, compared to women. Or again, cases where algorithms tended to discard resumes of female candidates in personnel selections.

Thus, in this context and with the desire to make algorithms more reliable and inclusive, ClearboxAI was born. Co-founder and CEO Shalini Kurapati comments on this new milestone with satisfaction:

"There has never been a more important time to consider ethical use to harness the potential of artificial intelligence in a responsible way. With the promising power of synthetic data, we strive to build fair and robust AI systems in the financial sector for progress that is inclusive, law-abiding, and democratic."

Mastercard will provide the winning startup with the valuable opportunity to access and benefit from the expertise of the multinational company's C-levels in dedicated meetings where mentoring moments will alternate with discussions on collaborations and potential business synergies.

The Women & Sustainability Fintech Competition is a competition for startups designed to identify and reward the most promising realities in the fintech field, characterized by female-dominated entrepreneurial teams and a strong focus on ESG issues, with a strong focus on the fastest-growing technology areas such as blockchain, AI, metaverse and cybersecurity.

A second edition that confirmed the success of the first one: to date, in fact, more than two hundred startups have participated in the selection process, aimed at identifying the ten most interesting projects thanks to the work of a panel of experts in the field of digital payments and venture capital. The founders of these innovative projects also had the opportunity to meet with Mastercard contacts and discuss concrete collaboration opportunities, laying the groundwork for potential business synergies.

The great value and socioeconomic contribution of female-dominated startups is also evidenced by the latest evidence analyzing entrepreneurship in Italy. According to the findings of the research "Step into the Next Economy: digital as a strategic lever for the future of SMEs," carried out in collaboration with AstraRicerche, women show a marked sensitivity to sustainability at 360°. On the environmental side, in fact, this is especially true for female entrepreneurs (38 percent) and female-dominated businesses (41 percent), but it is also true for social engagement, at 34 percent and 37 percent, respectively. Therefore, their active participation is crucial in an inclusive and sustainable development perspective where everyone can have equal opportunities.

The initiative is the brainchild of IAG, which, thanks to entrepreneurs, managers, and consultants, helps large companies find the smartest startups that best fit their innovation needs, as President Carlo Tassi explains, "The startup ecosystem represents an indispensable source of innovation for the market and for large companies. We have always been committed to enhancing realities with a winning idea and connecting them with potential partners, even better if it is a startup that proposes a positive impact based on ESG principles. This award represents an excellent opportunity for ClearboxAI and we are convinced that the path undertaken with Mastercard will bring great results and improvement to the whole company."

Michele Centemero, Country Manager Italy of Mastercard, says, "This initiative carried out together with IAG rests on values that are fundamental for us: on the one hand innovation, on the other inclusion and diversity. We have always been convinced that providing equal opportunities is the best way to foster the emergence and enhancement of talent, and this initiative is a clear example of that. We are honored to be able to support ClearboxAI in its journey. Thanks, are also due to all the other startups that participated, because sharing ideas and connections is the only way forward for a better and more equitable society."

The awards ceremony was held during the Mastercard Innovation Forum themed 'Step into the Next Economy,' Mastercard's annual event dedicated to innovation and key digital trends, in the setting of Milan's Palazzo del Ghiaccio, after the presentation of the projects of the three finalist startups: in addition to ClearboxAI, in fact, My-Money, which specializes in device-free biometric payments, and Appcycled, the first Italian marketplace dedicated to upcycled fashion, also took part in the ceremony.

"Biometric payments represent the next frontier in secure and convenient financial transactions. Mastercard's Women & Sustainability Fintech Competition is the right context in which to present My-Money's fully biometric and device-free payment system. It is an important opportunity for dialogue with Mastercard, which is always ready to provide its customers with the most innovative and secure solutions on the market," said Mara Vendramin of My-Money.

"We are here to show that waste can be the basis for the creation of unique and desirable products. Through a creative and sustainable approach and collaboration with emerging designers, Appcycled creates and markets products and services that represent an opportunity for innovation and positive change in one of the world's most polluting industries," addedDiletta Pollice of Appcycled.