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Cartera and Vesdia, which offer discounts to card-carrying consumers, merge

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 14, 2011 07:15 AM

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Two companies that specialize in dangling discounts in front of consumers who carry a particular credit card are merging this month. Lexington-based Cartera Commerce (formerly known as Mall Networks) and Atlanta-based Vesdia say that once combined, the two companies will work with four of the top five credit card issuers, and three of the four largest U.S. airlines. Both companies are privately-held, and this was an all-stock transaction; terms weren’t disclosed.

The business essentially involves collecting tantalizing offers and discounts that can be presented to consumers who carry a certain credit card, debit card or frequent flier card. If you’re enticed to, say, get 500 airline miles by having your carpets cleaned or get 5 percent cash back when shopping at Bluefly.com, the merchant pays for that reward in return for landing you as a new customer. And as a reward, you receive either airline miles, or cash back on your monthly credit card or debit card bill.

Cartera chief executive Tom Beecher will be CEO of the combined company, which will retain the Cartera Commerce name. He says that the combined company will have 150 employees (about half from Vesdia, and half from Cartera), and that he doesn’t anticipate any layoffs, or the closure of Vedia’s Atlanta facility.

“We think of this as a growth merger,” Beecher says. “Our plan is to continue growing in both locations.” (He says that in Lexington, the company is currently hiring in the technology and sales departments.) Vesdia CEO Jim Douglass will also stick around in an executive vice president role, and also as a board member.

“We looked at this as a way to combine the two biggest players to create a clear leader,” Beecher says. With mergers between private companies, it's always hard to tell whether they'll produce a real powerhouse, or whether you end up with the equivalent of two drunks holding on to each other and trying to walk a straight line.

ComVest, the private equity firm that acquired Vesdia in 2009, is the largest single shareholder in the new, combined entity. Pete Kight, a ComVest managing partner, is also joining Cartera’s board as a result of the merger. Kight also serves on the board of Cambridge-based Akamai Technologies.

Among Cartera's investors are Flybridge Capital Partners, DACE Ventures, and the Venture Capital Fund of New England.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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