A startup with a smile

May 10, 2022 | By Vicki Hyman

You can forget your wallet. You can forget your phone. But you can never forget your face.

Facial recognition is already central to securing many of our smartphones, and now Seymur Rasulov, the founder of the Azeri-based startup SmilePay, wants to make it central to our checkout experience – and beyond. Download the SmilePay app, scan your face, add your card, and you’re ready to make contactless payments, he says.  

SmilePay is one of eight startups from around the globe joining Mastercard Start Path, the company’s startup engagement program, giving fintech companies access to partnership opportunities, insights and tools to grow.

The Mastercard Newsroom recently spoke to Rasulov about entrepreneurship and the evolution of the checkout experience.

You are a serial entrepreneur. What intrigued you about the facial recognition space?

Rasulov: It was a sunny morning in the summer of 2020 and I was outside running at 6 a.m. I was very thirsty and stopped by the store to buy water but I had no cash or card on me, not even any device. I entered the convenience store and asked the cashier whether it would be okay to grab a bottle of water and pay the following day. The cashier agreed and she said, “I recognize you, so you can pay tomorrow.” The next day I entered the store and she said, “Ah, it is you,” recognizing me from my face, and I paid, but the fact that she recognized me from my face stuck with me for the rest of the day. I started thinking about that because we carry the most iconic tool for recognition, our beautiful faces, and why are we not using it for the most common payments? It is then I started thinking about SmilePay and we put the very first prototype together.

What was the biggest technological challenge you faced in launching SmilePay?

Rasulov: With the right and competent people in the team, there is literally no technological challenge in building a company like SmilePay. The main challenge is about the regulations, mindset and readiness of decision-makers to integrate an innovative technology.

What do you think physical checkout will look a year from now? Five years from now?

Rasulov: Great question, and we really want to be part of the question and the answer – we are building a device-free, cashless, cardless payment solution for retail and e-commerce. The way I envision this as the founder at SmilePay is that we bring the utmost convenience to everyday user. It is a new lifestyle where you can pay for goods and services without any device, card or cash. To me, the future is all about smiles.

Are you exploring any other uses for your technology beyond payments?

Rasulov: Payment is just the tip of the iceberg for SmilePay. We plan to bring more convenience to users with recurring purchases, family members, money management, spending-based loans and taxation done right inside the app. SmilePay has the technology and the vision that allows us to implement all these amazing features and bring the convenience to consumers that begins with a smile.

How do you think Mastercard Start Path will help SmilePay grow?

Rasulov: Mastercard will open new doors for us, bring in the know-how, and we are getting a life-time partner for growth and scale-up across the region.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten in your fintech career?

Rasulov: Relationships are the currency of success. The more revenue you have, the more profitable you are. This is the advice I live by.


Vicki Hyman, Director, Global Communications