Public cloud evangelist Danielle Royston (pictured) invested $100 million into US-based start-up Totogi, promising it is just the start of a series of big developments around her Cloud City plans at MWC21 Barcelona next month.

Royston is on a mission to convince operators they are too network-focused and should follow the lead of so-called super apps including Grab, Uber, Netflix and Amazon, which focus on customer interaction and experience.

In a Mobile World Live (MWL) webinar today (26 May), Royston explained her consultancy TelcoDR is investing in Totogi “because it’s going to enable telcos to leverage their network interactions into super app usage, which will lead to an improved subscriber experience,” and “a massive jump in ARPU”.

She argues operators are missing out on a huge opportunity to engage with their customers multiple times a day. “Worse, even if you wanted to, your crappy over-customised on-premise systems make it impossible,” she stated during the webinar.

Royston reckons the public cloud, and Totogi, is the answer. “When you bring the enabling technology of the public cloud you can turn your network interactions into valuable super app interactions,” she declared. “Totogi allows a carrier to leverage its network and all the network interactions into customer engagement. This is something the super apps don’t have, but will wish they did.”

She claims Totogi enables operators to grow revenue dramatically thanks to a vastly improved subscriber experience, without massive capex. “I do believe that telcos can build super apps and make them super successful. The public cloud is changing all parts of telco, and Totogi and super apps are fundamentally changing the customer relationships.”

What is Totogi?
Totogi (Samoan for charge) is in stealth mode and will form a major part of TelcoDR’s Cloud City space at MWC21 Barcelona (Royston made headlines earlier this year when she swooped in to take Ericsson’s area at the show after the Swedish vendor declined to take part in the event physically).

Royston claims Totogi is building a webscale public cloud charging engine which can handle 100 per cent of the world’s charging volume on one platform. She likens its emergence to the way Salesforce shook up the CRM market 20 years ago, when companies moved away from an on-premise package built by Siebel Systems, which was installed at some of the world’s largest companies. Instead, Salesforce offered the world’s first webscale enterprise application in CRM, with no software to install. Customers accessed the Salesforce software through the internet, with nothing installed on premise.

Totogi aims to offer a similar experience, fully Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), with nothing to install. And Royston is betting on this strategy being a major attraction to operators and a big blow to the likes of vendors Amdocs, Ericsson and Huawei.

In a blog earlier this year, Royston noted Totogi’s AI technology can scan competitors’ plans to automatically recommend and implement optimised tariff designs, promising to reduce churn by up to 20 per cent and boost ARPU growth by up to 15 per cent.

Meanwhile, Totogi reckons its SaaS platform will be 80 per cent cheaper compared with the cost of on-premises charging solutions.

Taking a different approach
Royston told MWL in a separate interview this week she believes Totogi will shake up up the charging market, a sector she states has been in decline for a number of years. “It’s not a commodity, I think it could drive huge change, huge positive ARPU change for CSPs,” she stated.

“The last thing that telcos think about when they design plans is the subscriber. There’s so much room there. And so that’s what I’m excited about and so I decided to invest $100 million.”

Despite Royston’s colossal investment, she says she will take a careful approach to growing the company. “We’re going to want to keep it very product focused. And so what that means is not necessarily chasing every tier one [operator] out of the gates.”

Indeed, Royston argues start-ups can too easily become weighed down with providing consulting services to keep the support of a high-profile operator brand.

And she claims her own (undisclosed) financial backers support this approach. “After my Optiva exit I’m like we’re going do it my way. Right, this is a long game. This is not like any industry you’ve ever invested in, these guys move slowly. We’re asking them to completely replatform everything they’ve ever done…And so yeah, Totogi is going to use [the $100 million] to build product, they’re going to use it to go after maybe not the sexiest names you’ve seen before”.

While specific details of the investment have not been disclosed, Royston did admit the huge sum is more than she originally intended to invest. “There’s a reason why the number is the number. There was a challenge I put out to them. And, they hit it. And so they got a lot more money”, she quipped.