Carrier-Branded Mobile Marketing Provider Upstream Set To Enter U.S. Market

Upstream is a mobile marketing company you’ve likely never heard of before, mostly because it’s yet to enter the U.S. market.  That’s all about to change, however.

I had a chance to speak with the company’s CEO, Alex Vratskides, as well its VP of Product Management, Assaf Baciu at this year’s MMA Forum in Los Angeles, and they detailed future plans for taking its already widely-used mobile marketing platform to the U.S. via direct carrier partnerships.  This model of working within the confines of carrier networks is what sets Upstream apart from most third-party mobile marketing platforms.

Upstream bills itself as a “worldwide leader in mobile marketing solutions,” reaching over 500 million consumers in over 40 countries.  Utilizing a performance-based model, the company offers its platform to carriers to monetize its consumer connections while taking a cut of the revenue generated.  “We are focused on helping mobile operators boost ARPU by extracting latent value from their own customer base,” the company says.  “The results we achieve confirm our conviction that this is the most promising and directly executable segment within mobile marketing.”

Based in London, Upstream has the largest mobile operator client list in the sector, and years of loyalty from blue chip operators like Vodafone, TIM and T-Mobile in numerous countries around the world.  Entering the U.S. is the next logical step, but it won’t come without challenges.  I asked Vratskides and Baciu about the differences in working with operators in Europe and elsewhere around the world as opposed to those in the U.S. and their answer was simple: “there is no difference, because we always operate within carrier-regulation no matter which country we’re in, and it doesn’t cost the operator a dime to leverage our services.  Why wouldn’t they want to leverage mobile marketing to boost revenue?”

The company has seen massive success in the markets it serves, but I still see the U.S. market differing greatly from others around the world.  For one, the mobile ecosystems in parts of the world, especially in Europe, are far more advanced than in the U.S. and likely more receptive to new-age mobile marketing concepts.  Operators in the U.S. have always been more resistant to leveraging mobile marketing for their advantage for one reason or another.

Another interesting area I discussed with Vratskides and Baciu is in regards to mobile location.  They indicated the company has largely stayed away from leveraging location because of privacy concerns and regulation, which surprised me.  The company says it leverages almost any kind of mobile technology for marketing purposes, but doesn’t place heavy emphasis on location.  Whatever the case may be, I wish them the best of luck with negotiating with U.S. carriers.  We’ll likely be hearing a lot more from Upstream.