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Bringing Banking To The Cell Phone Masses : Obopay CEO Carol Realini (Part 8)

Posted on Friday, May 30th 2008

SM: What has been your financing strategy?

CR: One skill set I brought was fundraising experience. We did your typical small seed round, primarily led by the principles who put money down to build the first prototype. The first real round was led by Redpoint. Once we closed the Redpoint round Qualcomm almost immediately came to us and stated they wanted to invest so we did a subsequent round led by Qualcomm. Citibank has also been an investor. We have a blend of really great investors both locally and from New York. It represents a lot of growth funds for us.

SM: What does that bring your business to in terms of revenue and traction? What kind of volume are you doing now?

CR: Because of our relationships with partners such as Verizon and Citi it is not appropriate for us to give out customer numbers. I will tell you that this will be a first revenue year for both the US and India. We had some revenue last year but this is the year we are tracking revenues with the expectation to experience significant growth in both countries.

SM: Is there anything else you would like to point out that I may have missed?

CR: We have distinguished ourselves in a couple of ways. We did a great job of raising capital with just a big idea. Big ideas are very hard to fund.

SM: I think having an entrepreneur who has a track record helps them fund a big idea because they are then funding the entrepreneur.

CR: In fact one of the things we did early on was to supplement my experience with great folks from other parts of industry. We have Dave Johnson who was the original CFO of PayPal. He brings invaluable experience. We have a lot of deep mobile experience as well. I may have had a track record but I also brought them a really broad, deep team which was cross industry.

The other part of the fundraising story was that we did not become single threaded on a single category of capital. Each investor is quite different in nature. Some are corporate, some are non-traditional. We did a good job of bringing the right resources and investors to the table. There may be a lot of mobile financial service startup but most have very small funding. To be in financial services you need capital.

Additionally, we were not afraid to cross a pretty broad industry. We built the backend and the front end technologies. We brought together mobile engineers and payment engineers and told them to build a technology platform and the applications on top of it. They did not know how to talk and understand each other and one of the biggest challenges was just getting people to understand each other. We were able to accomplish that.
Finally, early on in our evolution we got very large companies to make commitments to us. Citibank was the first.

SM: How did you pull that off?

CR: Part of it was timing. They had just decided mobile was strategic and they were just starting to form their mobile strategy. We also asked them to think in mobile time. I frequently talk to big financial service companies and emphasize they are coming from an industry where 10-30% growth is great, but in our industry rates are 100-200%. I have to ask those companies to step up to mobile time. We need partners who are going to move fast. They have made that commitment and done an incredible job with us. I think we have been very effective getting our team and our partners talking to each other at the speed of mobile time.

SM: Congratulations, this is an exciting time.

This segment is part 8 in the series : Bringing Banking To The Cell Phone Masses : Obopay CEO Carol Realini
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