Coolest Brands 2014: The Gold Standard in Mobile Payments

  • JJ Hornblass
  • February 24, 2014
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mpesa_forexIt just might be impossible to talk about banking services for the underdeveloped world without mentioning M-Pesa.

Launched in 2007 by mobile network operator Safaricom in Kenya, M-Pesa has become one of the leading money transfer — and money storage — vehicles in Africa. Today, there are more than 15 million M-Pesa users, mainly in Kenya, but also in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Fiji and India. From 2011 to 2013 alone, M-Pesa’s user base grew by 36%. The company estimates that $90 billion of funds are transferred through M-Pesa per annum.

But more than the numbers, M-Pesa has morphed into something of brand beacon. For anyone who wants to either build a money transfer platform or provide services to the underdeveloped world, such as in Africa, M-Pesa has become the paradigm, the gold standard, the startup by which all other such startups are mentioned. M-Pesa is literally studied to understand why it worked and how it continues to grow at a steep rate. (Its agent network of more than 334,000 is said to be a great differentiator.)

In short, M-Pesa has become a brand that inspires by wonder and envy. And that makes it cool.

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Learn more about what’s next in banking at Bank Innovation 2014 on March 3-4 in Seattle. Request an invitation here.

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JJ started the first iteration of Bank Innovation back in 2007, and has been working on it ever since. He also serves as President & Chief Executive Officer of Royal Media, Bank Innovation’s parent. He founded Royal in 1995 and oversees all aspects of the New York-based diversified media company. Prior to forming Royal, JJ was on the editorial staff of American Banker, the daily newspaper, and worked as an editor of a business magazine in Hong Kong. As a reporter and editor, he has won journalism awards from the National Press Foundation, Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Foundation, and the Reader’s Digest Foundation. He has a BS in Economics from Yeshiva University and a Master’s from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was also a Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School of Banking. He lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and son. He counts among his accomplishments one New York City Marathon, two New York City Triathlons and the 2010 Father’s Day 5K, the first race he ever ran with his daughters. He can be reached at hornblass@gmail.com or 212-564-8972.

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