GNum out to bridge online and mobile communications: Page 2 of 2
By Gabey Goh December 2, 2014
Bridging two worlds
With GNum having deep expertise in the telco space, Yokoyama joined the team in September as chief executive officer, bringing to the table years of experience in digital, courtesy of seven years working at Google with stints in Brazil and Singapore.
“I think it’s a good combination, with half of the equation online and the other half being telco, much like our solution,” he quipped.
In October, GNum raised S$7 million (US$5.6 million) in seed funding from local private equity firm Tembusu Partners, which manages close to S$300 million (US$240 million).
Yokoyama said the company was in discussion with telco operators in multiple markets, foreseeing key emerging economies such as China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines becoming important markets.
Getting a deal done with a telco in Singapore would serve as a reference case for pitches to other telcos in the region, and is also a point of pride, given that the island-nation is its home base.
Asked about what kind of support was given by its parent company during the early days, Yokoyama said there was very little in terms of cash – most of its revolved around resources such as manpower.
“It was essentially timesharing of manpower, and the guys were wearing two hats. That’s why it's a seed round for us not Series A,” he said, referring to the funding.
GNum currently has eight people based in Singapore, with its 10-man development team based out of Chengdu, China – where GlobalRoam has an existing base of operations.
On the roadmap
With some money in the bank to accelerate its market debut, GNum is looking to hire across functions to beef up its ranks, Yokoyama (pic) shared.
Apart from funding operations and investing in talent, a portion of the seed money has also been earmarked for an acquisition – specifically, a big data analytics startup.
Yokoyama explained that the need to acquire an analytics outfit is due to the need to be accountable for everything on its network to telco partners, and to offer valuable intelligence about further developing products and offerings.
“The ultimate vision is to deliver a global directory, where people will not need to update multiple contact lists,” he said, adding that insights garnered from big data analytics will aid such efforts.
Yokoyama stressed that user privacy protection is paramount to the company, and no moves or policies will be implemented where the user is made to “feel invaded.”
However, there is also a need to ensure that the GNum product, with its offer of anonymity, will not be abused as well.
“That’s why we need to make sense of our data, to be accountable for it. We have GlobalRoam technology implemented with GNum to ensure compliance with telco regulations.
“On the online side, because we allow for anonymity, we need to understand what is going on with our network to put policies in place,” said Yokoyama.
The company will also be offering incentives for users to become registered subscribers, which would cut down on the criticality of big data analysis – but that will remain a non-mandatory opt-in feature for users.
In terms of such acquisition, Yokoyama shared that he has identified some promising candidates, though it is still early days yet in the company’s intent to acquire.
If there is one surprise for the GNum chief executive in his journey so far, is the fact that the most likely candidates don’t hail from the United States but rather, South-East Asia.
“When I first starting looking, I looked at the United States first because the assumption is that more companies and innovations in the space would come from there – but then I started digging in this region and discovered some great candidates.
“I tell you, some of them are on par with what’s being developed while a few others, in my opinion, are ahead in terms of product conception and the way they handle data collection and analysis,” he said.
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