Richard Branson invests millions in Square

Square has pulled in a “multimillion” dollar investment from British entrepreneur Richard Branson as the firm looks to cement its position in the rapidly expanding mobile payments market and see off growing competition from rivals such as Google. The deal, which Square describes as a “personal investment”, is being seen as more than just a financial arrangement, with commentators speculating that Square could be looking to leverage Branson’s international Virgin empire as it looks to roll out its service globally over the coming year.  However, neither firm is disclosing how much capital Branson has put into Square nor what role, if any, he or his company will play.

“I’m very passionate about helping people start and grow successful businesses, and Square is an incredible technology that inspires and empowers everyone to be an entrepreneur,” says Branson in a blog post.

This latest funding comes less than six months after Square raised USD100m in a round led by Kleiner Perkins that valued the startup at USD1bn. The firm also landed an undisclosed investment by credit card company Visa in April and has now raised more than USD170m in VC funding since its foundation in 2009 by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. Square offers a card reader that plugs into mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and, alongside an app, enables anyone to handle credit and debit card payments. The firm says it has shipped more than 800,000 card readers to businesses already and is on course to process more than USD2bn in mobile payments annually. Square is also making a play into the consumer market, launching its Card Case app that enables users to pay for goods in shops using their mobile device.

While Square has seen impressive growth over the last year, it faces growing competition in the market as a range of firms seek to gain a foothold in the market. Google recently launched its mobile wallet offering, while MasterCard, American Express and PayPal are all targeting the space. Square has not said what it will use the new funding for, but it has previously said it is looking to expand across the US before a global rollout in 2012.

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