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Why Intuit Paid a Big Premium for Check

Bill payments now, in-store payments later?

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Intuit said Tuesday morning that it had acquired Check, a company that makes a mobile app that lets its customers track and pay for all of their bills right from their phone. The purchase price was $360 million — a healthy premium for a company that pulled in just $15 million in revenue last year and is forecasting revenue around $20 million this year, according to information in a Wall Street Journal report that Intuit confirmed to Re/code.

So why was Check worth such a multiple on revenue to Intuit? Two reasons I can see.

First, while Intuit’s own personal finance and budgeting product, Mint, allows users to track bill payments, Check is one of the few, if not only, bill-tracking services that allows customers to pay for all of their bills without leaving the app. Manilla, a competing bill-tracking app that I actually used regularly, announced recently that it would be shutting down; it did not allow for bill payments directly within its service.

Not only does tracking and paying for bills in one spot make sense for customers, it also assures a recurring revenue stream to complement the money the company makes from advertiser promotions. Check doesn’t charge its customers who link their bank account with Check to fund bill payments, but it does charge fees for making payments with a credit card.

Second, there’s a chance Check could go well beyond bill payments, its CEO Guy Goldstein said in an interview earlier this year.

“The phone is going to be your wallet, and we want to be one of the big companies to emerge out of it,” he said. “We have a big ambition to be the wallet of the future.”

So, in his mind, Check would eventually do more than facilitate bill tracking and bill payments; it would also potentially be an app that shoppers would use to pay for goods and services while in physical retail stores.

“Yes, point of sale is also interesting to us,” he said at the time. “We want to be a complete wallet.”

Intuit wouldn’t confirm those plans, but would say that Check would work to “create network effects between our small business and consumer businesses.” It also said it was making the acquisition for “a strong, talented team credited with notable development in advanced Web data collection tools and a patented payments technology.”

The deal is expected to close by July 31.

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