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How is Square taking on the threat of PayPal, Google, and an increasing roster of mobile payments competitors? Judging from the news today, it’s hiring a bunch of smart folks.

The credit card reader company has brought on board the co-founding engineer of Google Wallet, Rob von Behren, as well as former Tesla and YouTube communications head Ricardo Reyes, the NFC Times and Businessweek report. The moves follow Square’s recent hiring of former PayPal VP Alyssa Cutright.

But Google isn’t sitting still when it comes to Google Wallet. The company announced today that it’s acquiring payments company TxVia, bringing with it over 100 million payments accounts, which will certainly be a big help to Google Wallet.

Both the Square hirings and Google’s purchase are clearly meant to fill gaps within their businesses. Square needs as many smart payments minds as it can find as it fights for legitimacy and mind share against the likes of PayPal Here and Intuit GoPayments. Square has done a great job of drumming up hype for its credit card reader, but now it needs to further innovate to keep up (for example, the company recently rolled out new encrypted readers). By bringing on Von Behren, Square could be signaling more interest in near-field communications technology.

Google, meanwhile, desperately needs to make Google Wallet more robust and encourage more users to sign up for it. Google VP of Wallet and Payments Osama Bedier writes about the purchase:

Since 2008, TxVia has supported the management of more than 100 million accounts. They’ve partnered with the industry’s best known brands, and their leadership team has played an instrumental role in defining the fast-growing prepaid card segment of emerging payments. In this time, TxVia has also certified and directly connected to the major payment networks, which establishes a solid foundation for Google Wallet and our partners to drive innovation on a global scale and in a partner friendly way.

It’s certainly not a good sign that Google keeps losing Google Wallet engineers. In addition to Von Behren, Google also lost Wallet co-founding engineer Jonathan Wall and product lead Marc Freed-Finnegan, who went on to build their own mobile payments startup, Tappmo. The defections show that there’s an internal lack of faith surrounding Google Wallet, which thus far is only available on a few NFC-enabled Sprint phones.


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