Amazon Reportedly Buys Mobile Payments Startup Gopago, Working On An ‘Ambitious’ New Project

Looks like Amazon may have quietly made another acquisition, and another move to expand its role in the world of mobile: Italian newspapers are reporting that the e-commerce giant has acquired Gopago, a startup that offers consumers an iOS or Android mobile app to pre-pay for goods before picking them up at a store, and retailers a point-of-sale system to process those orders and more.

Gopago, founded in 2009, is based in Silicon Valley but was started by Italian co-founders: CTO Vincenzo di Nicola hailed from Teramo in Abruzzo before eventually studying at Stanford. The other co-founder, CEO Leo Rocco, was raised in the U.S. by Sicilian parents.

It’s unclear how much money Gopago had raised but its lead investor was JP Morgan Chase, which took a stake in the company last year.

We have reached out to Gopago, its co-founders, and Amazon to try to get a direct confirmation of the deal and will update as we learn more, but for now it looks like Di Nicola has spoken to Italian press about the deal. Here’s what we know from there:

— The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
— There was apparently also interest from Google.
— Di Nicola is going to have a little rest now (“Intanto un bel po’ di riposo.”), and he’s not coming over to Amazon with the acquisition. (He’s actually just gotten U.S. citizenship. Congrats, Vincenzo!)
— It’s not clear yet whether anyone is coming over to Amazon, as it happens. It seems one of the main interests for the company was the technology, which Di Nicola says will be at the heart of a new, “ambitious” project.

So what is this ambitious project?

Amazon today already offers a few ways for people to use mobile devices to buy things, but for now these are largely limited to in-app payments on apps sold via Amazon’s app store, and APIs that let third parties sell Amazon products in their apps.

But there have been some hints for a while that Amazon could be working on something more. Over a year ago, we reported that Amazon was working on a Square competitor. Gopago, with its business firmly rooted in facilitating local commerce by way of mobile devices, could be part of that plan.

In any case, Square is not Amazon’s only commerce rival. Amazon recently launched “Log In and Pay with Amazon“, a digital wallet service that places it in competition with the likes of PayPal and credit card companies, by offering online sellers a one-click checkout option that would let a user pay instantly through his or her Amazon account. Just as eBay and PayPal are working hard to connect the dots between online and offline, mobile and desktop commerce, so, too, may Amazon.

(And there are still some loose ends that we’ve never quite figured out how they will fit into the mix, such as Amazon’s mobile billing deal with Bango. Who knows if this is also part of this ambitious plan.)

Combined with the fact that many are expecting Amazon to launch a phone or two of its own sooner rather than later, and you can see where Gopago technology, perhaps working across those handsets and a Kindle Fire tablet souped up specifically for merchants, suddenly starts to make a lot of sense.