Fierce 15 2016: Juvo brings visibility to 'invisible' prepaid users

Fierce15 2016

Editor's note: Welcome to the 2016 Fierce 15, which recognizes 15 of the most interesting startups in the wireless industry. We'll publish one profile a day for 15 days; Juvo is the fourth company to be recognized this year.

Company: Juvo
Where it’s based: San Francisco
When it was founded: 2014

Why it’s Fierce: Juvo aims to help mobile network operators identify “invisible” prepaid customers, giving those users a way to access mobile financial services that might otherwise be inaccessible. And the company says those services can be lucrative for service providers.

“The idea for Juvo came from a variety of experiences, particularly working with telcos in developing countries,” founder and CEO Steve Polsky told FierceWireless via email. “I saw firsthand the untapped population around the world who are credit worthy, yet never given an opportunity to obtain even the most basic financial services many of us in the Western world take for granted.”

Juvo serves as something of a bridge between the prepaid market and the fintech industry. The startup uses its Android and iOS apps to enable prepaid users to develop an “identity score” – essentially a credit score – by tracking their behavior. Users can improve their scores by interacting with the app and sharing information, and network operators can use scores to extend financial services or loans for data or other mobile offerings.

Identity scores become more detailed with increased usage, which could help users leverage them to access broader financial services including loans, insurance and banking – offerings that are often inaccessible to many, particularly in emerging markets.

“Our team has extensive experience with mobile operators and a deep understanding of the power of data - particularly as it helps define and explain consumer internet behavior,” according to Polsky. “The convergence of cloud services with big data, combined with a ubiquitous rise in smartphone adoption, gave us the pathway we needed to bring the Juvo vision to life.”

Juvo announced its first public funding round a few weeks ago, snagging $14 million from VCs including Wing Ventures, Freestyle Capital and SD Resolute, with private investors including former CEOs of AT&T, Vodafone, Sprint, Telefonica and the New York Stock Exchange. It claims partnerships with carriers across 23 countries and four continents, reaching 100 million users.

The company, which has more than 40 employees, takes a split of incremental revenue from operators’ sales to end users, but it doesn’t disclose figures regarding revenues. Juvo claims its carrier partners see an average ARPU increase of 10 percent to 15 percent with its offering and a reduction in churn of as much as 50 percent.

What’s next: More of the same: Juvo hopes to expand with operators in new geographies and move into high-value financial service offerings beyond basic credit.  

Read more: FierceWireless's Fierce 15 2016