@ MWC Interview: Mauro Montanaro, CEO, Jamba: Moving In To Developing Markets

Nokia’s (NYSE: NOK) former southeast Asia sales VP Mauro Montanaro is just eight days in to his role as Jamba’s CEO, having switched from hardware maker to content player. But the Italian, who replaces Lucy Hood after her departure in October, already has strong views on where to take the mobile entertainment company…

International: Staggered worldwide expansion will happen in the next 12 months – in Latin America, the US and Asia because they are growing markets. “Given my background we will be looking at new territories. The US is not totally new but clearly we need to do much more there – we need to generate more revenues from some (countries) than what we do now. We need to crack Brazil, Mexico, US, China, India, Indonesia, Middle East and the Gulf area, Russia, eastern Europe. We have to do it this year because 2008 is a year of consolidation – whatever is going be done in the next 12 months is going to determine the future of mobile media in the next 10 years; now is the time.”

New products: Montanaro wants to increase the number of platforms for Jamba as a priority. First step is web outfit 1&1’s MediaCenter TV set-top box, which is pushing Jamba’s full-track music catalog to the living room. “After all, Jamba became successful as a company because they rode the wave of a new product at the time – the ringtone.” He wants to test more innovative products. “Clearly video is something we need to look at in general because of the relationship with News Corp.”

America: Though Jamba had originally explained it wanted a Europe-based CEO (Montanaro will commute between Berlin and Singapore for a while,) he says the US will receive plenty of attention and “will be the model for the content industry” because the mobile market had largely skipped 2G and 3G and many consumers will end up going straight to 4G experiences.

Ringtones: Though most think the market is declining, Montanaro spotlights developing markets like India, China and Latin America where ringtones are “still new “so there should be a “cascading effect”. Jamba ringtones may be declining in some countries but it’s not affecting overall revenue.

From Nokia to News Corp: Montanaro was with Nokia 11 years. “My last job, I was in charge of 16 markets, selling phones in Asia-Pacific, growth of 40 percent a year, great job, fantastic weather, great people – I left all of that because I’ve been a very frustrated consumer or user of mobile entertainment. I thought I need to take the bull by the horns and work in a media company to make it happen. Without the backing of big media, mobile entertainment will happen – but will happen much later.

“We had a mobile content business back in 1999, so we had channels, billing agreements not dissimilar from Jamba but in Nokia we decided to slow down because the carriers were not very happy with us entering their turf.”

More Crazy Frogs: Those infernal characters are not dead yet. A new one, Snuggle Rabbit, that’s available in countries like Germany and Australia and was voiced by a Jamba staffer, is proving so successful as both a ringtone and MTV video that the music single is due to enter top-five singles charts, the company said.