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Tanja Rahman

Tanja Rahman

May 17, 2006
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" Ninety-two percent of the world's population have no credit cards "

If we all woke up tomorrow to find that the Internet was broken forever, Tanja Rahman would move to Ibiza to grow tomatoes. The island has gained its fame as one of the top party destinations on the planet, but Rahman has experienced a different side of the Spanish paradise.

"It's also a nice, quiet island," she said. "There are two or three months a year where it's a party island. The rest of the year it's very calm and you have beaches there, the Mediterranean and nice, crazy people. One day I'll live there."

Rahman, 40, grew up in Pleidelsheim, Germany, a small village of 5,000 people near Stuttgart in Baden-Württemberg, where her parents still live. She now lives in Vienna, Austria, with her husband of 16 years, John, and their golden retriever, Lola. When not out rollerblading or taking Lola for dips in the Danube, she works for London-based billing company PasswordByPhone.com handling sales and other aspects of the business, which includes everything from securing new clients to assisting affiliate programs with the integration of the PBP system. She also helps negotiate new deals with phone companies where she brings more than 10 years of experience in the audio text and dialer markets to bear. Outside of PBP, she's been heavily involved in organizations such as Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Telefonmehrwertdienste and Network for Online Commerce, helping guide the development of the telecommunication industry, and she helps organize Eurowebtainment, the webmaster conferences held yearly in Mallorca and Berlin.

Fun, Spirited, Alive
And while Rahman has proven her business prowess in the many roles she's had over the years, those closest to her say that anyone can see her true magic when they get to know her.

"She's free-spirited — she's alive," Benoit Le Chevallier, director of sales and marketing for Express Submit, said. "She loves to party. She loves trance music, like I do. She's just very positive, lots of fun to hang out with and great energy."

Tony Rios, the chief technical officer for Channel 1 Releasing, agrees. He's spent time with Rahman and can attest to her adventurous and infectious personality. He points to a time when she asked a New York taxi driver for a tour of the city but he refused to charge her for the trip because he had too much fun showing her around. On another occasion, she jumped onto a police bike to take pictures, but when the officer showed up, the only thing she received was a photo op with the city's finest.

"Her personality is glowing," Rios said. "Anyone who meets Tanja is taken aback by her."

Her "glowing" personality has served her well over the years, leading to many adventures, even at an early age. Rahman started traveling throughout Europe when she was 15, using money she made from seasonal jobs, and took a five-week trip through California by age 17. Her careers have since taken her all over the globe, but Rahman admits that much of the initial excitement of travel has worn off. Despite the fact that she still spends a month a year away at tradeshows, she knows it's necessary to do what she enjoys most.

"I hate to pack my suitcase," Rahman said. "I like to communicate with people, and I like to make deals and see that partners are happy with those deals. That's really satisfying for everybody and really fun."

Networking has always been high on the list of activities Rahman has enjoyed most.

Rahman has spent most of her professional life building telecommunications and billing companies, using connections from one stage in her life to build upon the next. However, back when she was in school and had to choose which field to study, her future was anything but clear.

"I had no clue or plan what do to," Rahman said. "But to study economics kept it wide open, and I thought that might be a good idea."

Three terms into her study, though, she realized she didn't need an economics background to start a business. She quit and set out into the working world, landing her first full-time job in 1984, selling fax machines for Pitney Bowes to companies that had never heard of the technology before. She spent four years with Pitney before moving into the mobile phone market for Mannesmann Mobilfunk, which is now Vodafone. Two years later, in 1990, she started her first business, which involved renting cellular phones in Germany. But by around 1992, audio text (computer-controlled voice services) was beginning to gain momentum and Rahman, who always has enjoyed being on the cutting edge of technology, saw it as a lucrative opportunity.

Telecom Knowledge
Her experience with phone carriers and knowledge of premium rate numbers and billing were among one of her strongest assets. She started working on government projects and with mainstream media, handling the calls for contests that were run on television. People would call in and a prerecorded voice would take them through various options, but she soon realized that there were other, more lucrative markets.

"A lot of the profit went to the TV stations until at one point, I decided to go into the adult industry with telephone sex," she said. "It was an easy product, just one category — which is eroticism. The services didn't take a lot of audio production."

Soon, Rahman was running the largest phone sex company in the country with about 800 girls doing audio text. The only problem was that she had no control over the company's direction.

"There was a 100 percent shareholder in that company, and he didn't want to move into Internet," she said. "At the time, I was very eager to go into the Internet... and to go global."

Rahman joined forces with Walter Toif and Jean-Christophe Gramont to found Goodthinxx, a dialer company based in Vienna. She spent a number of years as the managing director and eventually moved to be closer to the company. The dialer business was booming in Europe at the time, and it wasn't difficult to convince North American webmasters that an alternative billing method was needed for them to maximize profits. Then the dialer market began to tank.

"In theory, this was a great system to work with, but a lot of dialer companies out there committed fraud," she said. "People dialed up through a premium rate number when they went on Yahoo or Google to surf. Then spyware and adware started. End users grew afraid to download these exe files in the end and eventually, governments put an end to dialers."

By late 2004, the future of the dialer market looked grim. Rahman ended up leaving Goodthinxx and took some time to consider her options. Her first clients in audio text were starting up a new venture that sounded interesting. They had spent a year and a half developing a new billing product called PasswordByPhone.com and were about to debut it at Internext in Las Vegas in 2005. Rahman started with them that very month. Riding on the cusp of developing technologies has been an integral part of her professional life, and she says the PasswordByPhone model takes over where dialers leave off.

No Credit Cards?
"Ninety-two percent of the world's population have no credit cards," Rahman said. "The system works with a simple phone or mobile phone call that gives the caller a PIN code that allows them to access content for a limited period of time. It's the latest development and best phone billing product available, I think."

Going forward, Rahman is most interested in the development of mobile streaming and chat. Her dream, among many, is to have the infrastructure in place to take care of it; a reality she says isn't too long off. So in the meantime, before she can sail off to the island paradise of Ibiza and start her tomato empire, Rahman says she still has the drive and dedication to ride the wave of technological advancement until it's simply time to hit the island beaches. And no doubt, even then, the world will not have heard the end of Rahman or her inexhaustible spirit for fun, business and innovation.


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