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Publishers want mobile payments now: Boku exec

May 28, 2010

Ron Hirson is cofounder and senior vice president of products and marketing at Boku

Ron Hirson is cofounder and senior vice president of products and marketing at Boku

In the wake of a new round of funding and new hires, a Boku Inc. executive discussed the state of the mobile payments industry in an exclusive interview.

David Yoo, former senior vice president and chief product officer at AT&T Interactive, and Kevin Grant, former vice president of sales for MobiTV and SBC’s (now AT&T) Data Com business for Northern California, are joining Boku’s executive team as senior vice president of strategy and senior vice president of sales, respectively.

And after receiving $25 million in Series C funding let by DAG Ventures in January, Boku recently secured additional funding from the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Mobile Commerce Daily’s Dan Butcher interviewed Ron Hirson, senior vice president of marketing and business development at Boku, San Francisco. Here is what he had to say:

How will Boku invest the new funding?
We’re excited by the vote of confidence the funding represents.

Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz are two of the smartest, most successful entrepreneurs in technology who invested in Boku after looking at companies in the mobile payments space who selected Boku because of our technology, team and continued execution.

We’ll be using the funds to continue our global expansion—we’re in 60 countries, about two times the reach of our nearest competitor—and building out the payments platform.

What is the current state of interest rates for mobile payments in the U.S.? What is a fair revenue share model?
The fees charged by carriers range globally from 30-50 percent, and average 35 percent based on volume.

We’re seeing these rates come down at a faster pace than we expected and look forward to announcing partnerships in the coming months.

We believe that there are two inflection points in interchange fees that enable mobile to take more share of wallet—15 percent and 5 percent—for purchases of digital goods and physical goods respectively.
How can carriers, brands, publishers and service providers/vendors all benefit from a vibrant mobile payments ecosystem?
There are several key ingredients to a vibrant mobile payments ecosystem, most important of which is making sure that all parts of the value chain are able to make money without increasing cost.

The key ingredients will be lower rates, payment platforms that prevent calls to customer service,  robustness of technology so that the uptime and throughput matches traditional payment methods, and a ubiquitous experience that works cross-carrier so that publishers’ and merchants’ customers have the best experience regardless of their provider.

Similar to SMS, once fair-priced mobile payments with low refund-rates are available for everyone, the entire ecosystem can thrive.

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

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