Apple, Google Interested In Mobile Payment Startup BOKU And Its Vast Carrier Partnerships

TechCrunch is reporting that both Google and Apple are expressing early interest in mobile payments startup BOKU, indicating both companies are interested in a potential acquisition or wide-reaching partnerships of some kind.

Citing those familiar with the discussions, BOKU co-founders have “held multiple meetings with executives at the helm of Apple’s iPhone business in the course of the past 3 weeks,” though neither would comment on the rumors directly.  Likewise, the company’s executives have held similar discussions with Google and its Director of Engineering Michael Morrissey, who oversees development for Google Mobile Services and Android.  Interestingly, BOKU can already be used for in-app purchases for Android apps.

BOKU has quickly emerged as the shining star in terms of early-stage mobile payment and commerce startups, mostly because of its vast carrier partnerships.  Integration and acceptance from carriers has long been a hurdle of the mobile commerce space, and BOKU has worked diligently to secure deals with carriers across the globe.  In the US alone, for example, the company already has deals in place with six carriers — including the top four, in addition to US Cellular and Virgin.  This gives BOKU a reach of nearly 260M wireless subscribers in the US alone.  Worldwide, BOKU claims a total reach of over 1.6B people.

It’s not hard to see why both Google and Apple are interested in the startup.  Investors have been equally interested as well, with the startup earning in excess of $38M in funding thus far at a valuation north of $100M from big-name investors such as Benchmark Capital, Khosla Ventures, Index Ventures, DAG Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.  There will definitely be movement with BOKU in the near future, it’s just a matter of time before we learn who will strike first.