Heartland Payment Systems is investing $20 million in early-stage technology company Leaf to advance its mobile commerce platform, a move the Princeton-based payment processor says capitalizes on rapidly shifting trends in retail and hospitality markets.
David Gilbert, president of Heartland's hospitality group, said the company believes Leaf's technology is fast adapting to the array of mobile devices through which consumers are increasingly doing business.
"We're at a tipping point in terms of convergence of technologies," Gilbert said. "People are carrying around sophisticated devices in their pockets with amazing capabilities to interact with business.
"What's good for the consumer is ultimately good for the business owner," he added.
Cambridge, Mass.-based Leaf closed its first round of institutional funding last week from Heartland Payment Systems, which handles credit card processing, payroll services, and Internet payments for about 275,000 mostly small to midsize clients.
Gilbert added that Leaf appeals because it provides an open platform that doesn't restrict a merchant's ability to choose its payment processor, as opposed to more exclusive arrangements. Both companies believe small merchants demand that flexibility, a trend that will drive future technology.
"Local merchants have very different needs, so enabling their success with new technology is all about giving them options to create an experience that's most valuable for them and their customers," Leaf CEO Aron Schwarzkopf said in a statement. "Our flexible platform lets merchants choose processing services from Heartland or any number of other providers, as well as vertical-specific point-of-sale applications from Leaf or any other player in the industry."
Leaf is also manufacturing a cloud-based, business-oriented tablet called the LeafPresenter, which Gilbert said Heartland believes is more stable than tablets and smartphones mainly designed for consumer use. The LeafPresenter includes a magnetic stripe card, front- and rear-facing cameras and other technology to facilitate payments.
"For a business, the stability of the platform is paramount," Gilbert said.
Heartland has joined Leaf's network of distribution partners and will be building an array of value-added apps on the Leaf platform, including payroll, mobile and online ordering. Based in Princeton, Heartland has about $2 billion annual revenue.
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