BOSTON — LevelUp, a mobile payments provider known for its playful office culture — and a CEO who prefers to be called a chief ninja — may need to mature as its competition gets serious.

LevelUp "will struggle to not be engulfed by the noise from newcomers to mobile payments with significantly larger [research and development] and marketing budgets than LevelUp will ever have," said Nick Holland, the retail payments practice lead at Javelin Strategy and Research.

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