How To Reach 4 Billion Consumers Without Really Trying

Carrier-billing payments specialist Boku today touches 4 billion consumers worldwide through 270 carrier connections. Former Visa exec and now Boku’s CEO, Jon Prideaux, sees that as a unique and logical springboard to moving its product from digital to “real world” products. Market Platform Dynamics CEO Karen Webster recently spoke with Prideaux who gave us a peek inside his plans for the company and what he’ll accomplish in his first 100 days.


Earlier this month, carrier-billing payments provider Boku Inc. named former Visa Europe executive Jon Prideaux as CEO. Having served since 2012 as the company’s chief business officer, Prideaux has played a critical role in working to expand Boku into new merchant verticals and markets, including Asia.

Expect Prideaux in his new role to accelerate that process, both to extend where Boku is accepted regionally, but also in the types of devices that support Boku payments. Market Platform Dynamics CEO Karen Webster recently spoke with Prideaux about his goals, the state of the carrier billing market and how Boku differentiates itself from other payment providers.

On the surface, Boku’s potential for growth is considerable, Prideaux said. (Jump to: 1:27) “We are today able to reach something in the region of 4 billion consumers through 270 different carrier connections around the world,” he said. “So that reach is really something that’s important to our customers just as the reach of a Visa was important back in the old days when I was working back at Visa.”

Prideaux left Visa Europe in 2006 as executive vice president of marketing. Between his time at Visa and at Boku, Prideaux served as CEO of Secure Trading, a UK-based payments processor. He also served as a payments consultant and as CEO at Shopcreator, a UK-based software-as-a-service eCommerce platform provider.

Prideaux acknowledges that Boku may be more expensive for merchants to accept than traditional payment cards or even PayPal, but he believes the company can provide more value. (Jump to: 3:02) “If a merchant thinks he’s going to sell more stuff as a result of taking a payment method, he’ll accept it and he’ll pay what’s appropriate to accept it,” he said.

With Boku, merchants do sell more, Prideaux said. Sales growth could be between 5 percent and 10 percent in some verticals, or between 60 percent and 70 percent in others, he said. (Jump to: 4:35) “We earn our core on the basis of our delivery of extra business as far as our merchants are concerned,” he said.

As for the carrier billing market in general, the company’s ability to expand beyond selling digital content is only constrained by what the carriers will allow, and that varies by market, Prideaux said. Moreover, risk also plays a role, and Boku tries to work only with the best brands and largest merchants to achieve the highest level of cooperation, though that doesn’t always go perfectly, Prideaux acknowledged.

As such, Boku is increasing its focus on working with carriers that see the expansion beyond digital content as a significant revenue stream and one that can develop over time. That strategy has led Boku to reorient the business away from trying to activate U.S. consumers and working more in terms of using its payment method with consumers in other parts of the world, Prideaux said.

(Jump to: 7:20): “We still have a material U.S. business, but clearly we can only extend that to the extent that the carriers want to develop it, and that’s certainly is going to vary by country to country and region by region,” he said.

During the first 100 days as Boku’s CEO, Prideaux isn’t expecting to change the world. But he does have three main goals he intends to pursue.

For one, rather than work to onboard more digital merchants, Prideaux wants to expand on the types of merchants with which Boku partners. As an example, he cited a deal the company struck recently where it went live in four countries on Sony Playstation 4 consoles. Through such relationships, transactions wouldn’t flow through mobile phones but through special devices, such as consoles.

“That’s one of our big priorities,” Prideaux said.

Prideaux also wants to become a larger global player. Six months ago, he noted, Boku’s presence was essentially in Europe and the U.S. It now also operates in such countries as India, Japan, China, Singapore and Thailand.

Prideaux’s third goal is to get more traction in supporting payments for real-world services, such as transport, ticketing and vending. (Jump to: 12:15) “These are the sort of verticals we’re going after, and I would hope in the next hundred days or so to be able to show progress over all of those,” he said. “We think we’ve only scratched the surface of what we can do with this really convenient payment mechanism. As you start going out into the real world, each of those new merchant verticals in and of themselves are bigger than the virtual content.”


To hear’s full conversation with Prideaux, press here.



*If you have trouble with the audio player above, click here.