Danielle Royston invests $100M in Totogi, a telco charging startup

Danielle Royston
Royston became well-known in the telco industry when she purchased Ericsson's huge, vacated space at MWC 2021 in Barcelona. (Danielle Royston)

Danielle Royston has gained notability in the telco world because she purchased the huge space that Ericsson vacated for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this summer. Now, Royston is making news because her company TelcoDR has invested $100 million in a startup, Totogi, which creates charging software.

Totogi is still in stealth mode, and none of its employees have identified their work on LinkedIn or any other social media platforms. Royston said the employee count is “north of 20.” She is currently the acting CEO, but the company is on the hunt for a full-time leader.

According to Royston, Totogi’s technology does cloud-based charging for telcos. “Charging” is something that happens in real time as opposed to “billing,” which happens on a 30-day cycle.

Royston said charging “is a very important heart of your revenue in any telco.” She said a big part of telco revenue, globally, comes from pre-paid mobile phone plans. People pay in advance for data and voice minutes, and the charger keeps track of their usage. If they need more data or minutes, the charger allocates it to them and bills them in real time.

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“Today, every telco has their own charger installed on premises,” said Royston. “Totogi has an insight that there only needs to be one charger in the world. Totogi is a webscale charger. You don’t have to install one per customer.”

She said this will benefit telcos because a charger that lives in the cloud can easily scale up or scale down based on demand. Telcos already have to do a lot of capacity planning for peak network events such as natural disasters. But at least with a cloud-based charger they wouldn’t have to plan for the charging aspect of those peaks.

“Telcos don’t need to individually set up their own charger with their own peak-demand planning processes,” she said. “There are about 2,000 telcos and MVNOs in the world and probably more than 2,000 installations of chargers.”

Cloud and telco

Previously, Royston worked as a temporary CEO, helping software companies that were in distress to get back on their feet. She learned about telco software when she was CEO at a Canadian company called Optiva. When she came to Optiva, and with her experience in Silicon Valley, she was shocked to learn that many telcos are behind the times when it comes to using the public cloud.

After leaving Optiva, she started her own consulting and investing firm, TelcoDR. Royston, who calls herself a “cloud evangelist,” is convinced that telcos need to get on the public cloud bandwagon – big time. She leased the space at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona so that she could turn it into a Cloud City filled with cloud exhibitors.

As far as her investment in Totogi, she said there is no connection to Optiva. “I launched my consulting firm, and this was serendipitous,” she said. “All these people are 100% new to me.”

She has a pretty strong message for telcos, in general: “I would say pretty much all software today is on premises. I am suggesting to this industry to rip all this stuff up and throw it away and re-write it for the public cloud.”

She cited Dish's recent news that it would use AWS for its RAN and core software as a good start.