PayPal Buys Fig Card, Aims to Kill the Wallet

Chris CrumIT Management

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PayPal has acquired Fig Card in the latest move in the increasingly interesting mobile payments space. This comes just a week after the company acquired WHERE, for location-based deals.

eBay and PayPal will not get left behind as competition grows and industries merge.

Here's Fig Card's own description of itself:

A while back, we wondered why we weren't using our fancy iPhones to pay for things. Why do we have to take our iPhone and our wallet to the gym? Why do we have to carry supermarket cards, drug store cards and lunch loyalty cards around? Obviously the phone can do all of that. It's not that there haven't been other attempts at solving this problem. But clearly they haven't worked, and there's usually more than one reason. Our patent pending solution requires no new hardware on the phones (iPhone, Android, many Blackberry models) and free hardware for the merchants. Transactions complete faster than credit card and often faster than cash.

Peter Chu, Senior Director of PayPal Mobile said on the PayPal Blog:

Fig Card developed an extremely easy way for merchants to accept mobile payments in stores by using a simple and very low cost USB device that plugs into the cash register or point-of-sale terminal. All the consumer needs is the Fig app on his or her smart phone. We loved their approach to point-of-sale, particularly because it was driven by the same vision that we have at PayPal – in the future, transactions can be as smart as a computer and not as dumb as paper. We won’t need our physical wallets. We’ll be able to pay any way we want, from any device, anywhere in the world with both flexibility and privacy.

Prior to founding Fig, Max and Hasty led a series of successful companies. Max was co-founder and CTO of Firefly, where he helped define many of the governing principles of privacy on the Web that are still used today. Firefly was sold to Microsoft, and he went on to architect Microsoft Passport, one of the first single sign-on systems.

Financial terms of the acquisition are undisclosed.

The whole mobile industry is getting very competitive, with lots of overlap between services and offerings from companies that one time may not have been seen as likely competitors. I believe we will continue to see the lines get blurrier.

Google and Apple, for example, are both expected to get heavily involved in mobile payments (and wallet extinction) through NFC tech and their market leading smartphone/tablet operating systems. Payment for physical goods via Facebook Credits becoming a mainstream method of payment acceptance is not so far fetched either.

Deals companies like Groupon and check-in app companies like Foursquare also continue to see more overlap, as these industries look to be on the path to consolidation - and companies like eBay/PayPal, Google, Facebook, etc. are all in the mix here as well.

Combine all of this with emerging technologies like augmented reality, and the evolution of mobile commerce is simply a fascinating storyline to follow. It will also be interesting to see how companies like Square hold up in the long term, with the rest fo these emerging technologies. Where do you think this will all be ten years from now?

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.