LTP recently had the pleasure of talking to Boku CEO Jon Prideaux. Jon is a payments guy with nearly a quarter of a century of experience. He was an early Visa Europe employee and a key contributor to its growth, leaving in 2006 as EVP Marketing. He started Visa Europe’s e-commerce division, was the lead executive on the introduction of chip-and-PIN technology and oversaw product launches such as Visa Electron and V PAY. He served on the Board of EMVCo, was the Chairman of the Compliance Committee and was a member of Visa’s Global Product and Brand Councils. Since leaving Visa in 2006, Jon served as Deputy CEO for SecureTrading, where he doubled transaction numbers and quadrupled profitability. He then led a management buy-in at Shopcreator, the e-commerce software platform. Here is an excerpt from the interview:
LTP: First of all we would like to congratulate Boku for raising this new round of funding. Can you kindly let us how will these funds will be used and new target countries that you have in mind to widen your reach?
Jon Prideaux: The funds will go towards our continued investment into deepening our payment network. We are rapidly upgrading our connections to better support more sophisticated functionality that digital retailing is demanding such as support for multiple devices, recurring subscriptions, and 1-tap purchasing.
LTP: With this round of funding, can we expect some innovative services from Boku in the coming months?
JP: We are continually incubating new services to better solve the needs of our merchant customers and the funding certainly helps bolster those efforts but we have nothing to announce publicly at this time.
LTP: Do you see direct carrier billing gaining more traction with the evolution of mobile wallets?
JP: The rise of mobile wallets correlates to the same trend that carrier billing is also hitched to: more consumers are engaging in electronic commerce thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and the Internet. This pushes the need for more electronic payment options to which mobile wallets and carrier billing benefit from.
LTP: We have read that you believe that carrier billing is moving from developing market to the developed markets. With many of the developed markets having an established payment systems coupled with higher banking population, how do you plan to implement Boku’s services?
JP: It should be acknowledged that carrier billing’s popularity does not necessarily follow the size of a market’s unbanked population. Carrier billing’s most popular usage is for the online purchase of digital content which tends to be strongest in developed markets. Within those developed markets, the ones that lean more heavily towards carrier billing are usually the ones that show a strong preference towards local alternative payments over international card brands such as Visa and Mastercard. Carrier billing offers a very ubiquitous and convenient alternative. But even in markets that are highly banked with high adoption of Visa/Mastercard, carrier billing still has plenty of value in various situations – being able to start a free trial without entering card details for instance is a very popular scenario for any market.
LTP: Some of the big existing investors have followed on with their new investments in this round; is that an indication that they strongly believe in Boku’s business model?
JP: An investment is probably the best vote of confidence.
LTP: You have partnered with some global merchants which include Facebook, Microsoft, Sony, Spotify, etc. What are some of the key traits and features that you look for in your partners before partnering?
JP: The best partners are the ones that care about the consumer experience and are committed to the idea that carrier billing has a place in their long-term payment strategy.
About Boku: Boku is the world’s largest direct carrier billing mobile payments company, integrated with hundreds of mobile operators all over the world. Its bank-grade payments technology allows consumers to charge purchases to their mobile phone bill. Boku partners with global merchants including Facebook, Sony, Microsoft, Spotify, Riot Games, and many more. Based in San Francisco with offices in Europe, Latin America, and Asia, Boku is funded by leading Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and venture capitalists including Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures, Index Ventures, Khosla Ventures, and NEA. For more information visit: www.boku.com.