Kara Swisher

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First Data Acquires Cardless Customer Loyalty Startup Perka

Global payments and e-commerce solutions giant First Data said it has bought Perka, the cardless loyalty mobile app and program.

Perka — based in both New York City and Portland, Ore. — will operate as an autonomous subsidiary of the Atlanta-based First Data, and will be run by its current execs and product-development team.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but sources said that the price was slightly lower than First Data’s purchase of mobile payments startup Clover last year for a total consideration of $54.1 million.

After operating in stealth, Perka launched in 2011 with a small amount of funding. It is part of an overall trend toward using mobile devices and location-based apps for customer loyalty programs.

In the past, this has largely been done by small to medium-sized merchants using paper punch cards and collecting very little usable data about regular customers.

To help that, Perka offers a Perka Punchcard service and Perka Flexpoints, using a cloud-hosted platform to allow local retailers to track consumers more easily and offer them deals, as well as give them rewards for loyalty.

Competitors include Belly and Swipely, but there are many others attacking the space in a different way.

“The loyalty industry is quickly changing with the advent of mobile everywhere, from being proprietary and closed, to open,” said Perka CEO Alan Chung about the deal. “We saw a real synergy with First Data and of their vision going forward, in which loyalty is a critical component as a tool of local merchants.”

Perka was co-founded by Chung, along with Rob Coury and Rob Bethge, all of whom have done many previous startups.

“I think it is a simple story on why we bought Perka, since First Data wants to offer more new merchant solutions than just a point-of-sale device,” said Guy Chiarello, First Data president. “To do so, we have to embrace these entrepreneurial communities to create our services in a much quicker time frame.”

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