The Future is Now: “User engagement to pay for your phone” with Brian Boroff of Adfone
…We bring cutting edge user engagement and monetization capabilities from the mobile gaming sector to the world of telecom operators and mobile service provisioning. As a result, users worldwide can now lower their mobile phone bill costs the more they use our platform to discover and interact with brands, games and much more.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Boroff, Founder and CEO of Adfone.
Dubbed a “Natural Born Entrepreneur” by the Daily Telegraph, Brian Boroff founded Adfone in 2015 after having successfully founded and grew his telecom company in the UK which was a multi-national Software-as-a-Service provider to Tier-1 wireless carriers. With 20 plus years of industry experience and a proven track record in the IT, Marketing & Telecom sectors, he grew Adfone from concept to closing on a $7.5 million seed funding round this year. He has been featured in UK journals including The Guardian, The Mirror, Mobile Today, and The Sunday Times. He is an author and subject matter expert in the fields of Customer Retention & Acquisition technologies, Competitive Intelligence, Wireless Telecom and Entrepreneurship.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
During my freshman year at University of Central Florida, I was hired by AT&T Wireless Services as a part-time call center advisor. Within several months of starting the role, I was promoted to web master of the department, responsible for automating inbound call processes and improving call handle time. I was recognized by the executive leadership team for my work and by the age of 20 years old was reporting directly to the Chief Marketing Officer of AT&T Wireless Services, overseeing the implementation of Customer Acquisition & Retention solutions deployed nationwide. Immediately after graduating, I launched my first start-up, which brought me to London, UK, where I resided for nearly 12 years. We were selling Customer Acquisition & Retention solutions to carriers around the world including Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange and O2 to name a few. Shortly after my return to the U.S. in 2015, I conceived the idea for Adfone with the vision of putting an ad-supported mobile device in every prepaid users’ hands on the planet.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
As an entrepreneur you must, above all, have confidence in your abilities during the most difficult times. There have been numerous occasions in my startup experience during which I needed to secure cash, in a relatively tight timescale, to enable the company to survive. The most interesting fundraising experience was when I was given the opportunity to present to an Angel club that was based in Doha, Qatar. This came through an introduction by one of my existing investors. He told me that while an investment in the company was not guaranteed, attendance in person would increase the chances of a positive outcome. As a global company, I valued having a diverse investor base and decided to jump on a 17-hour flight to Doha for a 30-minute pitch, in person. I had been to many investor pitches in my career, but this was the most fascinating to me given the cultural differences. Upon my return, I was notified that they decided to invest in my company.
Can you tell us about the “cutting edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
Adfone’s Play2Pay™ platform is truly unique. We bring cutting edge user engagement and monetization capabilities from the mobile gaming sector to the world of telecom operators and mobile service provisioning. As a result, users worldwide can now lower their mobile phone bill costs the more they use our platform to discover and interact with brands, games and much more.
How do you think this might change the world?
The other day I walked into a Starbucks and there was a sign above the register that read “At this time, it is recommended all Customers use cashless payment options whenever possible during their visit to our store.” This is the new reality that we now live in and consumers worldwide will be looking for alternatives to paper currency as a matter of health and safety. Adfone’s platform is the world’s first to convert user engagement into mobile payments, initially focused on mobile phone bills. Rather than use cash or credit cards, our users can monetize their attention. We see this as transformative on a global scale.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Our technology is only provided on an opt-in basis, so users have the control in their hands, literally. Users are rewarded for interaction with the platform and receive value for their time. With this in mind, I don’t see any potential drawbacks.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
When I returned from the UK, I had no idea what I would do next professionally. It was only after shopping for new mobile devices that I was able to experience firsthand the difference between the U.S. and UK phone markets, specifically around how devices and service subscriptions are sold. Having been accustomed to receiving my device for free in the UK, I was reluctant to pay anything for one. My original idea was to have a device with an OS level framework that would serve ads via the lock screen to fund the hardware, hence the name “Adfone.” Over time, with refinement, the platform became a way for users to offset subscription costs from their wireless carrier, with the lock screen being only one of many methods of interaction.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
Our commercial model is Business-to-Business-to-Consumer (B2B2C). It means that we would never have a direct media budget or user acquisition costs. We partner with wireless carriers who have massive subscriber bases and marketing budgets, and are responsible for driving adoption of the program. They (and us as a result) are uniquely positioned to drive scale given a carrier’s ability to preload our app on devices or sim cards, coupled with messaging their existing customers about our value proposition and leveraging their brand which customers know and trust. We are backed by formed CEOs of wireless carriers from around the world, which helps us to develop relationships with carriers from all corners of the globe.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
Continuing on from my last point, for us it is a matter of signing up wireless carriers to distribute our platform. To this end, we have had great success from publicity around our company and platform leading to many inbound requests from wireless carriers around the world. We are big believers in the power of earned media and word of mouth and will continue to focus on this strategy.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have had many advisors and mentors throughout my career, but the one that has had the greatest influence on my career path has been the former Chief Marketing Officer of AT&T Wireless Services. At a very young age, I was given an opportunity to lead an initiative that on the surface would seem like too much responsibility for someone of my experience at the time. She saw something in me that others perhaps would not have and, as a result, my career in information technology and mobile telecom was launched. I kept in touch with her over the course of 23 years, and she even helped me enter the market with Adfone by helping to pitch our first client.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have given many presentations on entrepreneurship, startups, and raising capital, both in classroom and professional settings. I believe it is important to give back and this is one of the ways that I can do so by mentorship. In the future, I plan to have a more structured approach to this, whereby I can most effectively dedicate my time, knowledge, and experience to helping budding entrepreneurs to blossom.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
I would actually like to answer this in a slightly different way, which is to share the “5 things that someone told me that I wish I learned sooner.” Each of these was taught to me by a different mentor at various stages of my career and I think all founders would benefit from them.
“A small piece of a large pie is better than a large piece of a small pie.”
Obsessing about dilution is an impediment to the growth of the company.
“Performance is your best defense”
The best protection of your role and equity stake is to hit your targets.
“Hire slow, fire fast.”
I think this one speaks for itself. It is human nature to the reverse.
“Recruit, Retain and Reward.”
Focus on these three “R’s” and the rest will follow
“Don’t let Best get in the way of Better”
Striving for perfection can be detrimental to progress.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
It took me decades to discover it, but I realize now that the key to success lies in our ability to have self-discipline. Discipline comes in many forms. It is a muscle that needs to be trained. Applying disciple in a certain area of one’s life means one will be able to apply it more easily in other areas. Having self-control in terms of what we say, eat or drink are excellent examples. Why is that we are careful about what we put into our mouth and not what comes out of it? I believe that training yourself to control what you say and how you treat others is not only critical to one’s success as a leader, but if enough people practiced this the world would be a better place. Helping others to strengthen this muscle seems like a movement worth inspiring.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Every day we face obstacles in our business and personal lives. It is how you deal with those obstacles that determines how your day will be, and it is the combination of all the days throughout your life that determine your success. Famed racing driver Mario Andretti said, “If everything seems under control, your just not going fast enough.” I love this quote and when I am having a rough day and feel like I’m losing control, I think about this quote, because to me that means that on that particular day, I’m actually making great progress.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
I would tell them that COVID-19 has forever changed the way in which consumers, service providers and advertisers interact with one another. By enabling mobile customers to discover new brands and apps while reducing the cost of their bills, Adfone’s Play2Pay™ platform gives those customers an alternative way to make payments, service providers a new form of monetization and advertisers a powerful way to acquire new customers. With billions of smartphone customers worldwide and hundreds of billions in in-app advertising spend each year, Adfone is uniquely positioned to help reshape this new reality and, in doing, create substantial value for all stakeholders involved. This, in turn, will make Adfone an incredibly valuable company.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.