Credit-report giant Equifax said Friday it will buy Boise’s Kount Inc., a provider of e-commerce fraud protection.

The $640 million sale is expected to close in the first quarter. Kount, which provides fraud protection to more than 9,000 companies worldwide, will remain headquartered in Boise. Employees, under the continued leadership of Kount CEO Bradley Wiskirchen, will report to Equifax’s U.S. information-solutions unit.

“I think Equifax is the perfect partner for Kount,” Wiskirchen said by phone. “I think our companies are synergistic, and I think there are enormous opportunities for both their existing customer base and our existing customer base to drive benefit from new tools and new opportunities sand new features.”

He said Equifax recognizes that Boise is a great place to have an office.

“The intention is absolutely, as they’ve set forth, to leave Kount here in Boise, and I will continue to run Kount from Boise,” he said. “I’ve underscored throughout the discussions with them that we have a great workforce here, that we have great quality people, both from a talent and skills perspective but also from an individual integrity perspective.”

Kount was founded in 2008 as an offshoot of Keynetics, a holding company for ClickBank, an online retailer of digital goods founded in 1998 in San Diego by Tim and Eileen Barber. Keynetics moved to Idaho in 2010. According to the company, Keynetics is the largest privately held technology company in Idaho.

The Barbers and Wiskirchen, who joined Keynetics in 2005, became experts in fraud control, and Kount became a separate company offering fraud control to other businesses. Wiskirchen was the founding CEO.

In 2015, CVC Capital Partners invested $80 million in Kount. That allowed the company, which had 65 employees at the time, to hire additional workers and expand its global reach.

Kount has grown to more than 200 employees, about 40 more than when it moved in April 2019 from a small office on Lusk Street near Boise State University to a newly remodeled, century-old building at the corner of 10th and Front streets downtown.

“As digital migration accelerates, managing authentication and online fraud while optimizing the consumer’s experience has become one of our customers’ top challenges,” Equifax CEO Mark Begor said in a press release. “The acquisition of Kount will expand Equifax’s differentiated data assets to bring global businesses the information and solutions they need to establish identity trust online.”

Sale will accelerate Kount’s international reach

Wiskirchen said he was excited to merge his company’s fraud solutions with Equifax’s data, analytics and products.

“Equifax’s global reach will accelerate Kount’s international adoption, allowing us to help more businesses around the world to better protect their digital innovations and their customers against emerging threats while improving the customer experience,” he said in the same release.

Equifax, headquartered in Atlanta, has increasingly focused on providing identity theft and fraud-protection services. Its acquisition of Kount will allow it to sell those same services to e-commerce sites, the company said.

“Whether you’re a bank, e-commerce provider, or a car dealer, today’s environment demands that consumers have the same, if not better, experience on their digital platform as they do on a major e-commerce retailer’s site,” Sid Singh, president of Equifax’s United States Information Solutions division, said in the release.

The two companies use identity trust markers that determine the level of trust for payments, account creation and logins. Businesses decide the level of trust and risk they are comfortable in accepting to enable personalized customer experiences and to block fraud in real time.

“There’s been an explosion in the last three to four years of consumers doing everything online and that’s only accelerated during Covid,” Begor told Bloomberg. “What comes with that is the challenge of making sure that individual who’s trying to complete that transaction, apply for that credit card, buy that product online, is really that individual.”

Fraud costs for online retailers have surged in recent years as hackers make purchases using stolen credit card information. Kount’s software helps identify fraudulent transactions and keep hackers from stealing customer accounts.

Kount’s network links trust and fraud data signals from five billion annual transactions across 200 countries and territories, along with 17 billion unique devices and 32 billion digital interactions.

Consumers will benefit from better customer experiences, Singh said, whether they’re looking for a bank loan or buying a car.

“We are enabling businesses across industries to establish strong digital identity trust behind every interaction while facilitating new forms of online engagement with current and prospective customers,” he said.

With the sale, Kount will no longer be connected with Keynetics. Wiskirchen will remain on the board of directors of that company, as are Tim and Eileen Barber.

Kount is at least the fourth large Boise-area startup to be sold to larger companies in the past 15 years.

Cradlepoint, which makes cellular routers and software for them, sold in November for $1 billion to Swedish tech giant Ericcson. That followed the 2017 sale of Eagle company TSheets to Intuit. In 2006, Microsoft bought ProClarity.

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Reporter John Sowell has worked for the Statesman since 2013. He covers business and growth issues. He grew up in Emmett and graduated from the University of Oregon.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.