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Bringing Banking To The Cell Phone Masses : Obopay CEO Carol Realini (Part 1)

Posted on Friday, May 23rd 2008

What do you do when you have had a wildly successful career and are happily retired? If you are Carol Realini you spend some time doing global humanitarian work and then you start a new business venture! Carol, CEO and founder of Obopay, has found not only a second career but also a potential opportunity to shape the way millions around the globe access banking services. Here I discuss with Carol how inspiration on a trip to Congo has resulted in a new multi-million dollar venture.

SM: Carol you have had a great career. Can you give us a review of how you arrived where you are today?

CR: I was born and raised in San Francisco. I was a math major at University of California, Santa Cruz, after which I became a math teacher at San Jose State. At the time San Jose State was just starting up the EE department as well as the first master’s program in computer science. I earned my master’s degree in computer science during my spare time. The teachers in the program at that time were industry people from IBM and HP who taught classes at night. Computer science was a new field in the 1970’s.

After graduation I started my career as a technical person. I took a job as a software developer working for a mainframe company and developed operating system software. I spent 12 years there and in the early 80’s got involved with putting UNIX on mainframes. I negotiated the first UNIX agreement with AT&T who owned UNIX at the time. I was essentially involved in a startup within a big company. I got hooked on building new things and the innovation it required.

Once that happened I really decided my future was going to be with younger companies and with innovators rather than large companies. In my next position I went to a company just before it went public. It was a database company called Ingres. I was the Director of Product Marketing. After only 18 months at Ingres I was recruited to join a very early stage company called Legato Systems which was a Sun spinout. I was VP of Marketing and VP of Sales.

Legato was widely successful but after the first wave of product launches and deals I left to become the president of J. Frank Consulting in the early 90’s. In the later part of the 90’s I accepted my first CEO position for a venture-backed company which was Chordiant Software, and I raised over $30M for them.

SM: What was going on with your career moves? Where they spontaneous or did you have a focused direction?

CR: Each time I made a move I had a lot in mind. I took each opportunity and job seriously. Each role I took at a company represented a commitment to make certain things happen for that company.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Bringing Banking To The Cell Phone Masses : Obopay CEO Carol Realini
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I discovered Obopay at a conference in Bangalore, interesting article. Is the company only linked with YesBank and DCB?

Bipin Tumminaro Monday, May 26, 2008 at 9:56 PM PT

Among the poor are the micro-retailers who desperately would like to be connected to the online economy. Read my entire article at http://mytechneeds.wordpress.com/ Here is an excerpt:

So why do micro-retailers need mobile payment systems? Because they typically live in countries with no banking systems. These are the micro-retailers who have been untapped. They have access to raw materials and manufactured goods at or below wholesale prices. I would love to buy more goods from these people because they could save me money. I don’t want to pay the middlemen any more than I need to.

Fidel Guajardo Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 12:15 PM PT

[…] Bringing Banking To The Cell Phone Masses : Obopay CEO Carol Realini (Part 1) – Sramana Mitra on Str… (tags: obopay carol_realini payments money) No tag for this post. […]

links for 2008-09-15 : rasheqrahman.com Monday, September 15, 2008 at 6:01 PM PT

Raising this much money with no visible traction is worrisome. Compare to companies like PayMate who have over a dozen banks and over 10000 retailers in India other relationships with traction along with companies like Mchek with the Airtel relationship, Obopay is far behind. They are living on hope while these other guys have demonstrated real traction

Bernie Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 5:34 PM PT

I am going to have to agree with you on this, Bernie!

Sramana Mitra Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 6:15 PM PT

OboPay has been chasing strategies from the US to India wihout any success. They are burning through millions of dollars with no end and no product in sight. It’s not how much your raise, but how you manage your burn. I have seen much better solutions from companies such as SwipePay, MPeso and Cardinal who seem to truly understand the spice. OboPays strategy may not be sound, and their product lacks any competitive strength, but boy can they raise money.

Chris Friday, March 27, 2009 at 6:49 AM PT

The obopay acquisition (is it one?)is both scary and yet indicative.

Scary because everyone knows Obopay hardly has any market traction(read: customers, transactions,net income, portfolio of products) to tap into all forms of consumer needs and might I say Brand recognition too. Yet seem to have ‘sold’ on a hope and a song!

While indicative because if cos like paymate or mpesa or smart or wizzit can even do those parts and can also boast of a larger ecosystem then.Then one can imagine the next big digital acquisition maybe from India!

While smart is a telcom co, the others could be start ups in their own right
Gautam Kumar

gautamkumar Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 11:49 PM PT

I was at a VAS meet a few days back in Malaysia and the joke around the nokia deal wth obopay is that mobile payments cos should outsource raising capital to carol Realini!!

Obopay’s core comeptency has been raising (conning) humongous amounts of capital without ANY traction in India or US at all. Inspite of being around for the better part of a decade!I cant think of ONE customer of theirs in India, except YES Bank with 5000 cucstomers!God know how many of them use the obopay service.And yes Citibank perhaps. though I have been hearing that tie up since last 5 years. have they got a service out their whcih we can use?I am a Citi customer and use Paymate!!For customer points redemption for my card. So there…Can the real Obopay stand up !

All I can say is

sikha ghosh Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 1:34 AM PT

Try finding an online retailer that accepts obopay. You will spend a lot of time with not much success. I managed to find one after several attempts ( a lot of time spent ) to purchase game replacement parts. The only one I came across was http://www.silysavg.com. If obopay wants success they have to make it attractive to online sellers to utilize their service or they will just stick with Paypal or Google Checkout.

Denise Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 7:27 PM PT

[…] a different financial services infrastructure. A detailed interview of Carol L Reani can be found here. Obopay has received funding from Nokia. – Rêv Worldwide recently announced that it will expand to […]

Payment Innovation : it may come from somewhere you would never guess | Tekfin Sunday, April 11, 2010 at 9:45 PM PT

We at INFOMAX provide services to various multi-national banks and help them to reach remote locations in India.Cover approx 400 locations. We are keen in associating ourselves with any banking related projects.

SANJEEV SARIN Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 7:19 AM PT

Nokia Money is a free service that aims at reducing the problems and risks involved with carrying cash with one self. The customer need not carry any cash but he can carry as much money (up to Rs. 50,000/-) in his mobile phone as he desires. For further information on Nokia Money service, please get in touch with your nearest Nokia Retailer or contact Nokia Care at 1800 3000 1122.

Thank you.

Sumit Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 10:02 PM PT
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