Embee Mobile uses social networking to enable wireless customers around the world to earn free minutes. Eric Chan, COO, was generous enough to share his time with Prepaid-Wireless-Guide.com to answer questions about this unique business. Thank you Eric!
Interview Date: August 23, 2011
is Embee Mobile? How does it work?
[Chan] Embee Mobile has a Facebook app called EmbeePay that works like a frequent flyer program, but for your mobile phone plan. People earn points by watching ads, completing market surveys and performing tasks. When users have enough points, you redeem them for free prepaid mobile service and content, like music and game downloads.
Embee supports mobile users in 90 countries across 300 mobile operators, including every major US mobile operator. All you need to do is register an account with EmbeePay on Facebook, and we’ll give you some points to get started.
| Can you describe the
inspiration behind starting Embee, and any background about the name?
[Chan] Embee Mobile was an idea that started out of the Haas Business School at Berkeley. Some of the founding team entered a business plan competition and won; using the proceeds to start the company. The name Embee comes from the original business plan company name, Minute Bank. The initials M and B, became “Embee”.
| On average, how many
offers, surveys, or tasks need to be completed to earn one minute of
[Chan] The rewards program is designed to add airtime to a user’s mobile phone account in discrete increments, say $5 or $10. This is similar to a frequent flyer program where 25,000 miles gets you a free airline ticket anywhere in the US.
In the US, it typically takes a user an average of two hours of offers, surveys or tasks to get enough points for a free top-up. But Embee has special bonuses that can help you get more points faster, and even supports some ads that alone can get you $20 or more of free mobile.
you describe two or three offers, surveys, or tasks that are typically
available? How long does it usually take to complete a given
[Chan] An offer can be signing up for an email newsletter or installing an application, like a Zynga game for your PC or phone. Market surveys can ask users' opinions and feedback about products and services. Each of these can take anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes.
would you say to prospective customers who like the general idea,
however, are concerned regarding ads and offers being intrusive to
their Facebook account?
[Chan] We are asking the users to install a Facebook application, similar to installing the game Farmville or Cityville. This is opt-in and users are coming here to save money and get free stuff. Also, we liken the types of inventory to a buffet table – there’s something for everyone. If you don’t like ads, you can participate in market surveys or tasks. Watching video commercials is another option as well.
| How many active users do you
currently have? How many active advertisers do you have?
[Chan] We will soon be crossing over a big milestone with one million registered users. Our largest user bases are in the United States and South East Asia, and by recently launching EmbeePay in Spanish we already see efforts in Spain and Latin America beginning to have an impact. We currently work with both big name brands, online retailers, and even local stores to achieve their marketing goals.
| Does Embee work with
any mobile Facebook apps (ex. Android, iOS, BlackBerry)?
[Chan] The Facebook applications on Android, iOS and Blackberry do not allow any third party applications to be used inside their app.
you considering a standalone application that could either be a browser
plugin or a smartphone application? How about
[Chan] We have plans to offer our service for Android users in the near future.
a consumer perspective, recently there’s been less tolerance
intrusive ads; how does Embee mitigate the stigma of people reacting
negatively towards programs like Embee where advertising is at the
heart of your business model?
[Chan] The ads are not intrusive; users opt-in to viewing the ads. The user selects which ad they want to engage with. We try to provide as much inventory as well as diversity of inventory for a user to view. We also target ads based on their location and demographics.
an advertiser perspective, can you share a little about your
proprietary OfferScreen technology to help provide confidence that
money spent on advertising is well targeted?
[Chan] OfferScreen leverages a Facebook profile and targets the advertising appropriately. Since we have several campaigns running worldwide, filtering based on location and demographics are just two slices for us to deliver ROI.
do you consider your greatest competitor(s), and for companies either
entrenched, or veering towards Google AdWords, what are the advantage
of Embee for advertisers working with a constrained budget?
[Chan] Clearly there are a lot of other ad networks and platforms. But by leveraging OfferScreen to deliver qualified leads with users that are actually anxious to engage with brands, Embee can deliver a better ROI. Embee has had great success in emerging markets, particularly in South East Asia. That’s because we offer something that is fundamental to daily life – free mobile phone airtime.
| Is there anything innovative that
users can expect to see in the coming 12-18 months?
[Chan] Yes, beyond expanding into more markets worldwide, we are looking at complimentary redemption options beyond mobile. We have begun to experiment with gift cards in the United States, offering Amazon.com, Fandango and Groupon gift cards, and the results have been promising.
| How does Embee work to mitigate
the risk should Facebook go the way of MySpace, or if users flee to
alternatives like Google+?
[Chan] We view Facebook as a platform where our users can access their rewards program. Adding a mobile app or even putting our application within Google+ would just be another touchpoint for the user.
Right now brands are spending billions advertising to Facebook users, and that spend is accelerating. So we believe Embee is well-positioned, but we’ll certainly monitor other social mediums like Google+ as they mature.
| Is there anything else
prospective users and advertisers to know about Embee Mobile?
[Chan] In the coming months, we will be releasing some new features to make it easier for the user to earn points. Also, we are working on including redemption options so even more people can participate in the mobile rewards program.
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