Powa's Asia Pacific strategy took a fortuitous leap when MPayMe became available to acquire, says CEO Dan Wagner.
"We got lucky, we picked up a companion business that added technology, management and good customers to give us a strong position in Asia," he says.
The purchase of Hong Kong-based MPayMe will bolster Powa's mobile payments technology and give the London buyer a foothold in Asia.
"They're in Hong Kong, so they know the market, and they have a low-cost infrastructure that will help us in the region," Wagner says. "It would be considerably harder to build a market in Asia without [MPayMe]. It would take time to develop and manage and build up the expertise on our own."
Powa's PowaTag, which allows users to make payments by scanning tags on products, media or advertising, will add MPayMe's Znap app, enabling digital utility and bill payments. Powa will also get access to MPayMe partners such as Taiwan Mobile, enabling Powa to reach five million customers in the Asian market; and Pitney Bowes, which will allow Powa to offer digital utility payments globally. The combined company will also provide loyalty and rewards options, such as the ability for vouchers to be instantly used at the point of sale, and more flexibility for PowaTags.
"We didn't have the coupon or loyalty redemption capabilities," Wagner says. "The integration also gives us an intelligent way to manage bill payment."
Asia is drawing more interest from companies in other regions. For example, Monitise and Revel both plan to extend their digital payments technology business in the region.
The Asia Pacific mobile payments market could be a lucrative market, Forrester Research's Asia Pacific telco analyst Clement Teo writes in a blog post. But it's also challenging because of different levels of user readiness, a number of standards in the region and uneven telecom infrastructure development.
Cooperation among companies poses the best opportunity to establish a mobile payments market in the region, Teo writes, adding that while mobile payments will drive great opportunities in the next couple of years, telcos need to build the right partner ecosystem and raise user confidence to improve their chances of success.
While Powa has its eyes on Asia, the MPayMe acquisition and ties to Pitney Bowes should also help in other markets. For example, Pitney Bowes facilitates about 80 percent of the utility bills in the U.S. and more than half in Europe.
PowaTag uses Bluetooth geolocation technology, which is also used in marketing because it allows a store to match offers to a shopper's location. The MPayMe integration will add couponing, digital catalogues and access control to the Bluetooth offering.
Powa and MPayMe have assembled a team of developers in London and Hong Kong that will build a single payment system with backward compatibility. The technology and product additions will also help Powa compete in the broader mobile point of sale market, where payments are becoming less of a product and more of a gateway to marketing and other value-adds for merchants. Powa recently launched an EMV-friendly tablet-based point of sale system that includes a printer, bar code scanner and cash drawer.
The acquisition equips Powa to counter products such as Leaf's tablet point of sale system, Square's expanding range of merchant products, and recent in-store mobile and tablet plays by VeriFone and Groupon.
"Asia Pacific is an attractive market, but it's as attractive as any market," Wagner says. "We want to be everywhere."