Boku Co-Founder Hirson Eyes Next Mobile Startup

Photograph by Kevin Moloney/Fortune Brainstorm Tech

Ron Hirson at the Fortune Brainstorm TECH 2012

Boku President Ron Hirson is leaving the mobile payments provider he co-founded about four years ago to start working on his next gig.

Hirson has signed on with Khosla Ventures and Mayfield Fund as an entrepreneur in residence, where he’ll get office space on Menlo Park’s Sand Hill Road and advise some of the firms’ portfolio companies.

“I’ll get experience with different kinds of companies and help them where appropriate while I work on my next project,” said Hirson, who lives and works in San Francisco.

Hirson, 39, has spent more than a decade in the mobile market. In 2001, he joined pay-per-call technology company Ingenio, which was acquired six years later by AT&T. He stayed on as a vice president at AT&T Interactive until 2009, when he left to focus on Boku. Hirson and Boku CEO Mark Britto worked together at Ingenio.

In the beginning, Hirson’s plan was to stay with Boku for two years. As that period was coming to an end, he was promoted to president and invited to join the board of directors, so he committed to staying on for another two years, Hirson said. He will remain on the Boku board, which includes Britto and venture capitalists from Khosla, Benchmark Capital and Index Ventures.

While Hirson didn’t provide details about his next venture, he said it will be in the mobile market.

Meanwhile, Britto said that Boku’s growth is poised to continue with the help of Hirson’s successor, Jon Prideaux, a former executive at Visa who joined last year as chief business officer. In the coming months, Boku will announce partnerships with companies in the computer anti-virus, online dating and video game markets, Britto said.

Boku’s biggest business to this point has been in social gaming, where consumers buy virtual goods within games and have the charges added to their cell phone bill. Carrier billing is a challenging business because phone companies take a significant cut of revenue in the transactions, making it an unappealing option for many retailers versus credit and debit cards. Boku’s biggest competitor in the market is Zong, which was acquired by EBay in 2011.

Boku would not disclose its revenues, but the company’s growth has enabled it to bolster its staff by about 35 percent in the past year to 115 employees, Britto said.

“As mobile payments become more mainstream, we’re pushing into adjacent verticals and bringing the capability that we brought to social gaming into these markets,” he said.

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