A new startup wants to make it easier for any company to sell phone and data plans as part of its branded mobile network subscriptions — and to help, it’s got the support of famous investors including Google’s early-stage venture capital arm Gradient. Projects and CEO of Uber Dara Khosrowshahi.
wagons, which was founded in Germany in 2020 and presents itself as “Stripe for phone plans,” has largely remained under the radar until now. However, the Berlin-based startup has graduated from Y Combinator’s accelerator program last year It has secured approximately $4 million in financing (through a convertible loan) prior to the $20 million Series A round it is announcing today.
In short, Gigs allows any company—whether it’s a bank, car carrier, or video streaming service—to sell their mobile subscription plans (including data, SMS, and voice) to their customers. These plans are fully customizable for a specific use case, for example, a retail chain may want to launch a full-featured mobile network with its own brand, or a manufacturer of 4G-enabled wearable devices may want to monetize their data subscription on top of all of them. The physical unit they are selling. Or perhaps the company’s HR department has decided that it wants to charge its phone plans along with its employees’ devices.
What we are talking about of course are mobile virtual network operators (MVNO), of which there are already many around the world.
In the US, for example, there’s Google Fi built on top of T-Mobile and US Cellular, and Ryan Reynolds powered by Mint Mobile, which powers T-Mobile’s infrastructure. Elsewhere in the world, there dtalk – MVNO is backed by German supermarket giant Aldi – which relies on the Telefónica network in a few markets, while The UK counts dozens of mobile virtual network operators which leases spectrum from the country’s four major carriers.
MVNO IN A BOX
But while it is indeed possible for any company to become an MVNO, it is usually a tedious and time-consuming process – one that ultimately offers little flexibility. And this is where Gigs enter the fray.
Today, any entity wishing to offer phone plans (i.e. become an MVNO) would have to negotiate terms with the major telecom providers — in the US, including AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon — which is not only an expensive process to afford, but They require significant technical work that includes network integration and the need to create software to manage user subscriptions.
On the other hand, Gigs combines all telecom operator APIs (APIs) into one easily accessible layer, thus lowering the entry barrier.
“With Gigs, companies will be able to offer phone plans in whatever market they operate in at a much lower cost, all through the same integration in two to 14 days,” Gigs CEO Hermann Frank explained to TechCrunch. Ultimately, businesses can create their own mobile service that seamlessly fits into their brand identity at least 20 times faster, simpler, and cheaper by building on Gigs’ infrastructure.
Gigs can deliver this by purchasing large amounts of data, voice, and SMS messages, and then distributing that capacity as demanded by their customers in the markets they operate in – cheaper than if the company were only negotiating prices. their own needs.
“We can then structure our own plans using our own rates and create custom packages, depending on our customers’ needs,” Frank said. “We also have market-standard plans that you find on other carriers, which can simply be resold by our customers at an attractive margin.”
While Gigs offer traditional “physical” SIMs as a white product, the advent of the modern integrated SIM (eSIM) is making things simpler by allowing companies to provide virtual SIM cards in real time across any number of devices. The latest iPhones don’t even have a physical SIM card slot in the US market, which is why Gigs has at least one eye on the future as it powers digital MVNOs with no physical footprint at all.
In fact, the company currently allows eSIM activation by allowing the end user to scan a simple QR code. And by supporting both SIM and eSIM, Gigs can effectively process 100% of the markets they enter.
“The process and hurdles of integrating with the carrier and being able to sell phone plans, as well as how to provide phone plans, are the same for both the physical SIM and the eSIM,” Frank explained. “[But] The eSIM is now taking the final step of having to put a physical card in an old device, thus making the activation process easier. “
On top of the main API, the company also offers a software suite called Gigs Connect, which is a hosted logout process “optimized for high end user conversion,” according to Frank. This payment process can be included using a simple link that is pasted into the customer’s product (for example, an online store that sells smartwatches).
This is clearly in everyone’s interest – the easier it is for its customers to sell plans for smartphones, wearables, or IoT devices, the more revenue Gigs and its customers can generate.
Separately, Gigs also offers a phone plan, a hardware subscription management platform for small and medium businesses called Gigs Teams, and a dashboard that gives customers a complete view of all subscriptions, payments, and analytics in one interface.
The spirit behind all of this is very similar to the way fintech giant Stripe helps merchants sell online by serving their payments infrastructure via a simple set of APIs, or even how Amazon Web Services (AWS) is now the architecture Cloud computing virtual infrastructure for millions.
It’s all about undifferentiated heavy lifting – allowing companies to add value to their core products or services without losing focus on their core competencies. For Gigs, that means powering up embeddable phone and data plans by eliminating all the complexities that would normally be involved in becoming a global carrier, reducing that to up to five API calls, according to Frank.
“Gigs creates the class of communications as a service,” he said. “We’re the first to do what Stripe did for payments or what AWS did for hosting.”
MVNO Market has been linked as 62 billion dollars industry last year, a number that is expected to reach more than $91 billion within five years. But that’s without taking into account a new breed of MVNO that can set up shop overnight, so it’s hard to assess the size of the addressable market. truly he is.
“Many companies from different industries we spoke to have considered launching their MVNO, or acquiring an MVNO, often after trying to set up something with carriers for over a year,” Frank said. “Theoretically, you can easily unlock new sources of income with an MVNO, but the barriers to entry — lengthy negotiations with carriers, very high set-up costs and commitments — have proven insurmountable for most businesses.”
It gets more complicated when the company wants to launch the MVNO in multiple markets globally.
“You will have to overcome the same barriers to entry in every market, and it will be a very long and expensive process,” Frank continued. “With Gigs, you can manage all of your communication needs across all markets with one integration and start your own MVNO within days.”
It’s hard to ignore Gigs’ stellar crew of investors, too. Aside from major backer Gradient Ventures and Uber head Dara Khosrowshahi, YC has reinvested by following it YC . continuity The fund, along with DoorDash CEO Tony Shaw, Instacart CEO Fidji Simo, and a slew of angel investors from across the tech scene.
This also helps highlight Gigs’ primary target market, which will essentially hover around US companies, although it is very open to business elsewhere. The company’s core API is officially out of beta today, and so far it’s limited to “select partners,” 70% of which are in the US, 20% in Europe, and 10% in Asia.
It’s also worth noting that as with nearly every startup these days, Gigs is a remote first company, with 30% of its employees located in Germany, 30% in the US, 20% in the UK, and 20 % is located in a few countries around the world including Italy, Georgia, Greece, Switzerland and South Africa.
“Most of our team is American — whether they are based in the United States or Americans based in Europe,” Frank explained. “The US remains the most vibrant single market for most tech companies, with the most diverse tech landscape, and this is no different for Gigs.”