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Micro-Consolidation: PlaySpan Buys Spare Change

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The micro-industry forming around micro-transactions is now going through some micro-consolidation. PlaySpan, which is quickly racking up micro-payments across hundreds of video games and virtual worlds, is acquiring Spare Change Payments, a startup which focuses on micro-transactions for social networking apps. The value of the cash-and-stock deal was not disclosed.

PlaySpan raised $16.8 million in a series B funding just last February from Easton Capital Group, Menlo Ventures, Novel TMT Ventures, and STIC. The startup was famously founded by a 12-year-old, Arjun Mehta, but it is really run by his father, CEO and co-founder Karl Mehta.

The company has processed more than $50 million worth of micro-transactions through its PayByCash and Ultimate Game Card products. While its focus so far has been games and virtual worlds, it recently began making its own forays into social networks with a deal to power some micropayments on hi5. But Spare Change already has more momentum on social networks. It powers micropayments across 700 social networking apps on Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo, and is on its way to processing $30 million worth of transactions this year. As the social networks and online games collide, and developers seek new ways to make money other than advertising, micropayments will continue to grow.

Like any payments business, even micro-transactions are all about scale. The bigger PlaySpan can get before the giants finally wake up and enter the market seriously, the better chance it has to becoming the PayPal of micropayments. Of course, PayPal, Facebook and MySpace all have their own plans to become the PayPal of micropayments. And plenty of other startups, from Zuora to Zong, are vying for the title as well.

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