[caption id="attachment_12043" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="New ClairMail CEO Pete Daffern wants to build a billion-dollar company"][/caption]
NOVATO - ClairMail's new CEO is about to take the mobile-banking company to a new level. He expects to double its staff and customer base within the next 12 months.
Pete Daffern, who replaced founder and visionary Joseph Salesky as CEO at the beginning of the year, has his executive team in place - including Mr. Salesky as chairman and chief strategy officer - and is ready to do for ClairMail what he's done for several other technology companies.
"I've been involved in growing businesses that reached 2,000 in staff and sold for over $10 billion. But I can honestly say that this is the most exciting space I've ever been in," said Mr. Daffern, who most recently served as CEO of Purisma, a business software company that was purchased by Dun & Bradstreet in 2007 for $48 million.
Fifty-employee ClairMail is both a pioneer and leader of the mobile-banking industry, a relatively new space that's experiencing rapid growth.
ClairMail's technology allows users of cell phones and other hand-held devices to bypass interactive voice response systems or call centers and directly access account information and make transactions via text messaging.
It also enables two-way communication between the bank and the customer, so banks can send out actionable alerts or advertise new services.
Industry research firm TowerGroup, in a May report, estimated mobile-banking usage will increase from 10 million active users in 2009 to more than 53 million active users in 2013.
Reflecting the rate of adoption, ClairMail recently announced a record number of new customers and a 200 percent year-over-year revenue increase for the second quarter ending in June.
The privately held company doesn't disclose revenues. ClairMail has about 40 bank customers, including six of the nation's 10 largest financial institutions.
"The recent uptick in adoption by banking customers is significant. One of our client banks has a 40 percent adoption rate," said Mr. Daffern.
About 33 percent of banking customers now use the Web for transactions, but Internet banking doesn't offer the immediacy and two-way bank-to-customer communication that mobile banking does, he said.
"A bank can alert you while you're on the road that your credit card is about to max out. Then you can make a payment on the spot. That kind of service is the future."
The concept of the mobile wallet, familiar to Europeans and Asians, has yet to find wide acceptance here. But the time is coming when making a retail purchase will be as simple as waving a cell phone over a scanner and punching in a password on its keypad, he said.
Meanwhile, there's enormous potential among the current users of Internet banking and that 60 percent of customers who still bank the old-fashioned way, he said.
ClairMail has received two rounds of investment funding, the first in 2005 for $6 million, the second in 2006 for $12 million. Lead investors include Norwest Venture Partners, NVP, Outlook Ventures and Jafco Ventures.