America’s greatest musical treasure Elvis Presley once sang that what he needed was “a little less conversation, a little more action,” a motto that the team at Mozido seems to have taken to heart. In a year-ending surprise, the Austin-based cloud platform mobile payments and retail engagement solutions provider announced today (December 18) that it has acquired the majority ownership in CorFire from South Korea IT services provider SK C&C. The U.S.-based CorFire is best known as the mobile commerce engine for the Dunkin’ Donuts mobile application which hit 10M downloads late last month.
"We try to be very thoughtful about what we’re doing and pretty quiet when we’re heads down focused on execution,” Mozido Founder and Chairman of Global Strategic Initiatives Michael Liberty told MPD CEO Karen Webster in an interview about the acquisition before the news went public today.
One gets the sense that Mozido won’t be quiet any more.
Today’s news is a pretty public statement about Mozido’s ambitions to build and scale a worldwide mobile payment and commerce ecosystem. Its CorFire acquisition adds just one more dimension to the mobile commerce ecosystem that Mozido has been assembling over the last several years.
"CorFire has a fantastic engineering team both stateside and in Korea,” Liberty explained. “CorFire’s technology expands Mozido capabilities to include payment card tokenization, NFC and Host Card Emulation (HCE). These capabilities are essential in enabling consumer adoption of mobile payments around the world. With CorFire added to Mozido’s recent worldwide partnership with MasterCard we believe that we’re extremely well positioned to emerge as the global leader in mobile commerce” Liberty said.
Okay, we know what you’re thinking – aren’t these the guys that a couple of weeks ago announced a massive mobile commerce push into developing markets to help solve the global problem of financial inclusion?
“Doesn’t this [acquisition] signal a bit different for a focus for you?” Webster asked.
And that’s where the big picture of what Mozido’s ecosystem is designed to achieve starts to emerge. Liberty told Webster that the CorFire acquisition is part of a well calculated plan to add a variety of capabilities that can be extended to the underserved, regardless of where in the world they are or what kind of phone they use to access them.
"It’s part of the holistic ecosystem approach,” Liberty remarked. “There have been many more failed financial inclusion initiatives than successes. And, the reason [for the failure] is that they haven’t created ecosystems, they’ve created one-off financial inclusion initiatives that don’t really enrich the lives of consumers and can’t scale,” Liberty emphasized.
CorFire, LIberty went on to explain, is key to enhancing that ecosystem-centric approach because it allows for Mozido to “expand its reach and capabilities.” With it, Liberty emphasized, Mozido’s ecosystem will power a wide range of enabling technologies, a merchant network tied to payments and financial services, and offers and rewards from a variety of providers including CPGs. Now suddenly, Liberty told Webster, the underserved consumer can enter the world’s ecosystem of commerce and have a great and seamless experience whether they have a smartphone or the feature phones that are still dominant in many emerging markets.
“That’s truly what it takes to make financial inclusion a success,” he said.
"CorFire has allowed us to take the payments, commerce and banking capabilities built into our ecosystem today and make them ubiquitous, Liberty said. “We can start at the lowest end of the spectrum, literally, in Africa, Latin America, India or the Middle East and migrate all the way across the spectrum to the full media experience via a smartphone."
Bringing that ecosystem to life means getting merchants on board. That’s where Liberty believes that Mozido has an advantage. Being part of Mozido’s platform benefit merchants in two ways by working with Mozdio. The most obvious – retailers with more people to sell to have a greater chance of selling something – and the less obvious – they can run their businesses more efficiently.
"We have the merchants because, among other things, we have an inventory management software that allows a small store with only a thousand SKUs to now manage their inventory and increase their sales by as much as 30 percent with better stock management, better sell-through and a seamless check- out."
There’s been no shortage of brains, braun, and billions chasing the brilliant ideas intended to create a global, scalable mobile commerce ecosystem that can serve the smartphone set in Silicon Valley and the feature phone set in Burkina Faso. But success, for the most part, is fleeting far. The underserved are still using cash primarily and most people are far more likely to pay with plastic than by phone.
But, Liberty told Webster, the world is changing, the technology is improving and he believes the time is now for Mozido with its ecosystem-wide perspective to help drive a solution forward.
"There are a lot of players that do one piece of what we do,” Liberty remarked. “We embrace existing methods of payment and can enable all payments technologies. We also think that an ecosystem business model is going to be the winning formula because it will deliver ubiquity and interoperability on a global basis. If you have that, you have something special."
Making it something special, Liberty also believes, is making the Mozido ecosystem open to all who see value in leveraging its assets to help mobile payments and commerce ignite around the world.
"We like to think we create value for everybody within the ecosystem,” Liberty noted. “We’re not out there trying to disintermediate existing legacy industries, we’re trying to enhance them using technology as a powerful tool."
And that powerful tool has the potential to benefit many players. The big winners? The underserved. “This opens up a new audience of 2 billion people that today aren’t part of the world’s ecosystem, they’re not part of commerce because they have no way to participate."
Extraordinarily ambitious, extremely worthwhile but not at all easy, Webster pointed out. But as Liberty told Webster “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. And, in order to have a big harvest you got to plant a big crop and you gotta prepare the fields for it and plant the seeds."
Now we’ll have to wait to see what the fruits of that harvest will be.