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Boku Launches Mobile Payments For Virtual Bling

17 06 2009 – The market for virtual goods and online gaming is worth $8 billion worldwide and is growing.

Startup Boku on Tuesday launched a simplified payment service that uses a person’s mobile phone to buy virtual goods offered on online games and social networks.

The service enables people to charge the online purchases by typing in their mobile phone number, rather than a credit card. Besides avoiding the hassle of grabbing a credit card, the service also makes the transactions possible for people without credit cards, which would include residents in many countries and teenagers.

Once a purchase is made, Boku sends a text message to the buyer’s mobile phone. The transaction is completed when the person responds by typing "Y." The charge is then included in the next phone bill.

"Our vision is to provide a new industry standard for mobile payments, bringing ease, accessibility and security to the market," Mark Britto, chief executive of San Francisco-based Boku, said in a statement. Britto was CEO of Ingenio, a pay-per-call online ad network acquired by AT&T (NYSE: T) in 2007; and was also an executive at Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN).

Virtual goods are digital images typically used to outfit game characters and dress up profile pages, as well as mini-applications. Such items are offered on online games, such as Second Life, and on social networks, such as Facebook, which offers its 200 million users 135,000 applications and games.

The market for virtual goods and online gaming is worth $8 billion worldwide and is growing, according to Boku. Meanwhile, there are twice as many mobile phones as bank accounts, 4 billion versus 2 billion.

Boku has signed up 170 telecommunications carriers to allow for payments through its system in 50 countries. The company also has attracted investors, raising $13 million in venture funding led by Benchmark Capital, with participation from Index Ventures and Khosla Ventures.

Also on Tuesday, Boku announced the acquisition of two privately held mobile payments companies, Paymo and Mobillcash. Financial details were not disclosed.

While Boku’s payment service is focused today on gaming and other sites, the potential is there for the company to expand its mobile payment system into other markets. For example, people today in South Korea and Japan make alot of online purchases with mobile phones.

Source: InformationWeek

Zoompass Takes Mobile Payments to the (Canadian) Masses

15 06 2009 – Here in the U.S., getting a bunch of mobile carriers together to agree on anything is a bit like herding cats. North of the border, however, Canada’s three carriers — Bell Canada, Rogers and TELUS — have joined forces to create Zoompass, a top-to-bottom, designed-for-mobile, money transfer and payments service that launched today.

image The three each hold not only a one-third stake in Zoompass, but a one-third share (PDF) of the Canadian cell market. Given the ubiquity of cell phones in Canada, the carriers are hoping their customers will begin using Zoompass for everyday financial transactions, not just bill-paying but things like giving kids their allowance or collecting money from co-workers to buy the boss a birthday gift.

Since for any payments system, critical mass is necessary for truly widespread adoption, Zoompass is ideally positioned for success — and could subsequently look to move into other markets, perhaps even the United States.

“It’s the beginning of something that’s going to revolutionize our industry,” said Nadir Mohamed, CEO of Rogers Communications, one of the partners in Zoompass, in a keynote delivered to the Canadian Telecom Summit today.

Zoompass is available on most major phones as a native application, and its mobile web site can be easily accessed by any phone with a WAP browser. iPhone and Blackberry Storm apps are due out soon as well. The service also offers a debit Mastercard with a tap-and-go PayPass RFID card installed, and phones equipped with the tech are on the way; it can also be used to take cash out of an ATM. The company is partnered with a chartered bank, with all cash in Zoompass accounts held safely in escrow. Fees are modest, only 50 Canadian cents to send cash or withdraw money to a bank account, with no limit on how much can be transferred. Receiving money or paying for merchandise with the debit Mastercard is free.

Getting AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile to agree on anything of this magnitude (especially when money is involved) would be a much taller order, given the relative size of the U.S. market. But other countries, particularly South Korea and Japan, have already adopted money transfer via cell phone technologies, much to the envy of traveling gadget geeks. And if Zoompass is a hit north of the border — and it certainly seems to have that potential — it could easily make its way down here. The U.S. carriers may want to start talking now.

Source: gigaom.com