SCVNGR, the mobile-payments provider behind LevelUp, will use its latest venture-capital infusion to sign up national restaurant chains as it ramps up efforts to expand nationwide, it said Aug. 2.
The Boston-based company raised an additional $9 million in venture capital funds from various individual investors as well as Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Venture capital fund, the company said in a press release
T-Venture's senior manager, Randeep Wilkhu, will join the mobile-payment vendor's board as part of the deal, which could prove fruitful, given Deutsche Telekom's recent discussions with Google Inc. about its own mobile-payment system.
Deutsche Telekom in July also inked a key partnership with MasterCard Inc. to develop mobile payments in global markets, including bringing Near Field Communication-based mobile payments to 93 million mobile customers across Europe.
SCVNGR's immediate goal is to expand the number of businesses that accept its mobile-payment system, which uses two-dimensional bar codes to access pre-enrolled debit or credit cards when shopping and provides a flexible platform to offer consumer discounts and promotions, Seth Priebatsch, SCVNGR's chief, said via e-mail.
"We're going to continue our strategy of focusing on local businesses, but companies like restaurant chains will become increasingly important to our growth nationwide," Priebatsch says.
So far LevelUp has a handful of regional casual-dining chains on board, including Boloco and Larkburger, but it plans to sign up more with national reach, he said.
LevelUp, launched about a year ago, is also backed by Google Ventures. It relies on social media and local promotions to spread the word about its deals, a LevelUp spokesperson says.
LevelUp uses a direct sales force to sign up businesses, which number about 3,000 in 16 states and it will use its latest funding infusion, bringing its total venture-capital war chest to about $21 million, to hire more sales and marketing personnel, Priebatsch says.
LevelUp is advertised as a way for merchants to avoid paying traditional credit and debit card interchange. Instead, merchants pay a fee based on loyalty and incentive rewards. The firm revamped its fees in July so that merchants pay 35 cents per dollar credit they provide customers through deals.
Some 200,000 consumers have signed up for LevelUp so far, and the system attracts approximately 50,000 new consumers monthly, the firm said.
T-Venture sees promise in LevelUp's business model as "the next big industry disruption" in payments, Wilkhu said in the release.