Mobile Payments Startup Boku Emerges from Stealth Mode and Acquires Both Mobillcash and Paymo

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By Jessica Lee

boku_logoBoku, a mobile payments startup that has been operating in stealth mode for the past four months, is making two major announcements this morning: It has raised $13 million from venture capital firms Benchmark Capital, Index Ventures, and Khosla Ventures, and has acquired Mobillcash and Paymo, two of the leading global mobile payments companies.

This is big news in the mobile payments space. Through its acquisitions of Mobillcash and Paymo – two companies active in monetizing Facebook applications and social games – Boku instantly becomes one of the largest players in the space, with 170 carriers on board at launch across 53 countries reaching a potential 1.6 billion customers.

With Boku’s new global mobile payments service, consumers can purchase virtual goods and virtual currency via their mobile phones. Here’s a demo of how the service looks and works:

Based in San Francisco and with offices in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, the company is being led by CEO Mark Britto, who brings 20 years of experience at Amazon, Ingenio, and FirstUSA, and a management team that includes VP of General Counsel Javier Martell, VP of Engineering Erich Ringewald, VP of Business Development Kurt Davis, Senior Director of Risk Management Martine Niejadlik, VP of Product & Marketing Ron Hirson, and General Manger James Patmore, who together come from companies like AT&T Interactive, PayPal, Apple, FICO, Google, O2, Bank of America, and eBay.

Paying via Boku will be available on partner gaming site Puzzle Pirates, as well as other merchants:

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boku-merchants

We spent some time talking with VP of Product & Marketing Ron Hirson about the future of the mobile payments space, and he walked us through some notable statistics. Hirson says the future of online payments via mobile is being driven by 1) worldwide growth of social networks, virtual goods and games, 2) the popularity of mobile apps, and 3) the large number of unbanked consumers who have mobile phones but not credit cards or bank accounts. The holy grail for mobile payments, according to Hirson? Global coverage.

Other leading companies in the space, including Zong, Daopay, and Netsize, are also racing to establish presence in the largest markets around the world. Zong, who we spoke with in depth recently, says it is focused on building direct relationships with all major carriers in developed markets first and foremost, before moving into developing markets where mobile payment companies often work with many aggregators.

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