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Boku gets $13M in funding, acquires Paymo, Mobillcash

August 25, 2009

bokuBoku Inc. has entered the mobile payments space with a bang, having raised $13 million in venture funding and acquiring both Paymo and Mobillcash.

The Boku payments service enables consumers to make online purchases of digital and virtual goods with their mobile phones. The company is creating a new standard for mobile transactions by bringing bank-grade mobile payments to the Web and enabling merchants and publishers to provide mobile payments to 1.6 billion-plus potential consumers worldwide.

“Boku is positioned to become the global standard for mobile payments,” said Ron Hirson, cofounder/product guy for Boku, San Francisco, CA.

“There are three reasons: bank grade mobile payments with a financial foundation; the greatest global coverage, something that merchants and publishers feel strongly about; and finally, a team with a solid background in finance and payments, something we feel will be a critical strength in tackling security and fraud issues, especially when this market moves beyond virtual goods,” he said.

“Our team and VC advisers also have considerable experience building nimble game-changing companies like Skype, Twitter, Tellme, PayPal and Amazon.”

In a related announcement today, the company raised $13 million in venture funding led by Benchmark Capital, with participation from Index Ventures and Khosla Ventures, and unveiled its management team.

Boku’s goal is to make mobile phones the standard way to pay for digital goods and social experiences across the Web.

Boku enables mobile payments for virtual goods on Webs sites and in games in 53 countries on 193 carriers, including on all major U.S. carriers. Purchases appear on consumers’ mobile phone bills.

Boku’s current U.S. clients include social network Hi5, Puzzle Pirates, Aeria Games and hundreds of applications on Facebook and MySpace.

The market for online payments via mobile is being driven by the rapid, global growth of social networks, virtual goods and games, the popularity of mobile applications and the large number of unbanked customers who have access to mobile phones, but not credit cards or bank accounts.

With more than 1 billion applications served, the iPhone has changed how people use and relate to their phones, according to Boku.

The virtual goods and gaming market is worth $8 billion today and growing.

For example, on Facebook, 200 million users can now access 135 thousand virtual applications and games.

The gap between the banked and under-banked is large, with 4 billion mobile phones but only 2 billion bank accounts worldwide.

A cross-carrier mobile payments system is necessary to increase the range of merchants willing to make goods and services available over mobile devices, according to IDC’s Financial Insights.

“Several factors are driving the mobile payments industry, firstly the tremendous value mobile payments provide to online merchants and publishers through significantly higher conversion rates,” Mr. Hirson said.

“The mobile and wired Webs are merging, and there’s an explosion of new content now available both online and on the handset,” he said.

For example, consumers might want to purchase a birthday card with their mobile phone and send it to a friend on Facebook.

“People want to buy and directly consume digital content on the handset, and quick payments enabled by Boku are a natural extension,” Mr. Hirson said.

“All in all, we believe this market will grow very quickly on a global basis, creating entirely new markets with a highly convenient service that consumers are going to love,” he said.

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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