Startup Instabridge has just announced having raised 3 million EUR of series A last week. Following closely innovation going in the Wi-Fi space, I decided to learn more about the company and its vision and phoned up CEO Niklas Agevik who was kind enough to answer some of my questions.
From the get go, I liked the clean design of Instabridge website which is consistent with its vision of a simple, elegant solution to remove the hassle of connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots. From a personal experience I have sometimes wasted over half an hour trying to connect to my Wi-Fi aggregator or find a free Wi-Fi with a decent connection. A waste of time and a source of frustration for millions of Wi-Fi users. A problem Instabridge decided to tackle from an end-user rather than from a telecom approach. With the addition of high profile investors such as Balderton VC, Moor and Creandum or spotify veterans, someone believes they have a good story that will gain momentum in the years to come.
Niklas himself comes from a telecom background having spent years at Ericsson (hey this is Sweden) and then Payfone. His vision is to create a SIM card like experience to users by sharing their passwords with their Facebook friends using their free application available on Android and iPhone (Beta until iOS 9 is released soon).
How it works
The app has been in beta since August 2012, (which was probably too early) will effectively act as a database of Wi-Fi logins, with users granting their Facebook friends access to their home or office Wi-Fi hub details, or requesting access to theirs. It’s as quick and straight-forward as a friend request, but instead of asking for friendship status permission, you’re requesting to automatically save their Wi-Fi details.
Users can login via Facebook once the app is downloaded, then select which people they would like to add (or remove) to their Wi-Fi network. Anyone who is selected will then immediately have their device configured to access the user’s home hub — when they come over they won’t need to scramble around with passwords and logins. When you change your Wi-Fi password, the app automatically updates the information so anyone connected won’t have to reload to get the update. A sort of SIM card for Wi-Fi. I think a better name should be found as SIM is so old telecom school!
What’s interesting is the network’s potential to grow and really become one of the world largest without having to go through expensive and endless roaming agreements with carriers. Instabridge is essentially creating a community of Wi-Fi users which can grow very fast from the base. For now, Instabridge has 2,000 very active power users incentivized to add as many passwords as possible in select emerging markets like Brazil, Mexico and the US. The company claims 1 million registered users so far. 70% of Wi-Fi hotspots are public while 30% are residential. That breakdown will surely evolve towards residential as more users are added with friends of friends of friends…
Niklas said that as part of their roadmap they will invest in the technology to ensure that only those Wi-Fi hotspots which provide a decent connectivity will show up in the user interface in order to ensure a good experience. Instabridge prefers to set and work its product roadmap independently of organizations like the WBA or the WFA.
Instabridge is laser focused on growing its database, membership and product roadmap. The vision is to create a 200 million users which then can become a market place for all sort of monetization strategies including premium membership, advertising, sponsored stories and god knows what else can emerge from that. It is interested in forming alliances with Wi-Fi aggregators as well, perhaps to speed-up membership growth. This is still a small start-up with 7 employees and a long to-do-list.
I have to admit this is exciting stuff as sharing business models have proven quite disruptive in various industries. Perhaps I won’t have to waste so much time trying to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots in the near future!