First Data Quietly Buys Payments Startup Clover; Launches Point Of Sale Platform For Merchants

Last year, payments processing giant First Data quietly acquired Andreessen Horowitz-backed mobile payments startup Clover to help the company expand into point of sale for small businesses. Today, First Data is debuting its point of sale platform to small and medium-sized businesses, Clover.

As Clover founder Leonard Speiser explains that when you visit most merchants, you still see traditional point of sale terminals despite some of the other iPad-based options on the market like Square and others. The reason for this, he says, is that merchants need a full-fledged POS that includes more than just credit card processing. They need payroll integration, the ability for employees to clock in and out, the ability to track inventory and more.

“The best thing to do here is to take lessons from smartphone, and give merchants the ability to have a core register and also include apps they can integrate,” he explains. Clover aims to do for the point of sale what smartphones did for the mobile consumer, by providing a hardware-based platform where businesses can download apps to their countertop.

In terms of the hardware, Clover Station is a countertop device that includes a 11.6” touch screen, secure Android-based OS, QR and barcode scanner, Bluetooth, 802.11, Ethernet, high-speed printer and more. First Data says that setup takes 15 minutes, and clients can start using the device with inventory already loaded and its merchant account ready to accept payments.

On the software side of things, merchants can choose from apps that manage customers, inventory, analytics, employees, remote web-based management, table management and more. Other features include offline mode with ability to conduct transactions even when the Internet is down, analytics, 24×7 customer support with live agents and additional self-service tools, and a cash drawer.

Developers can also build their own custom apps off of Clover’s API.

Over the past several months, First Data piloted the Clover POS solution with hundreds of small businesses in several U.S. cities and Speiser says that overall merchants were happy to have all of their needs in one POS. Adding to that, Clover promises the same ease of use, and sleek form factor as some card processing competitors.

First Data is an interesting partner for Clover. The company is the largest card processor with over one trillion dollars in card transactions every year. The company, which sells its own credit card terminals, has committed to moving off terminal sales to Clover. The POS system, which is being distributed via Bank Of America SMB merchant clients, will be made available to all Bank of America Merchant Services small business customers by the end of 2013.

The POS market is getting crowded, and while First Data offers more belles and whistles, it is late to the SMB game that Square and PayPal have already been actively fighting for some time now. But what First Data brings is its credit card terminal customers, which no other players are able to leverage. If Clover and First Data can convert the merchants that are already using old school terminal, then this could be a potential competitor to the Squares and PayPal Here’s of the payments world.