This is the beginning of my startup journey. I'm sharing how I'm going from idea to bootstrapped startup and everything that happens in between. Follow along!
As common startup advice goes, it's better to find a problem to solve rather than creating a solution for a problem that doesn't really exist.
International roaming is something that a lot of people generally complain when traveling. Using a domestic carrier to roam abroad is very expensive. For example, if you were a US-based customer of Verizon or AT&T, you'll most likely pay around $10/day to use your domestic plan abroad, but with the additional limitation of only having 500MB of LTE data per 24 hour period.
How can these carriers get away with charging so much? The answer, as I've discovered after speaking with industry, is quite simple. Roaming is expensive not because carriers need to charge higher prices to cover operations and partnerships costs but because they can charge such exorbitant prices. Large MNOs (mobile network operators) like Verizon and AT&T negotiate very steep volume discounts with international partners that allows them to purchase data at wholesale prices that are usually 10-20X cheaper than average consumer prices!
The most common way that people have tried to solve this problem is by simply avoiding roaming, whether by using WiFi exclusively or buying a local SIM card at an airport or a vendor that sells prepaid SIMs to foreigners traveling in the country. Using WiFi is not a good long-term solution because it's not available everywhere on-demand. There are also travel SIM cards available that sell data plans in multiple countries but are usually as expensive (if not more expensive) than roaming plans from your carrier.
Local SIMs have their own set of problems.
First, they're only accessible when you've already flown into a country and this would need to be purchased at an airport or somewhere else in the city. The downside is that not all airports sell SIMs to travelers and and those that do are not usually open late at night, when most international flights come in.
Second, there's usually a bit of a process to getting a local SIM on the ground and consists of getting a photocopy of your passport and waiting in line until the agent activates the line.
Third, if you run out of data, topping off a prepaid line can be really hard sometimes due to language barriers and other factors. Case in point: during a recent trip to Greece and Italy, the Italian carrier that I purchased my SIM from kept on charging my credit card for a top-up even though their website insisted that the payment didn't go through! In Greece, I was forced to buy another SIM card from a different carrier because Google couldn't translate the carrier's top-up website and I had no idea where to type in my payment details.
So, what is Chyppr?
Chyppr is an attempt at fixing all the problems outlined above by providing a travel SIM card to consumers that just works, makes it super easy to purchase international data plans and refill them at a fraction of the cost roaming.
It's an ambitious idea and has a set of challenges that I'll need to overcome but I truly believe that we can make staying online more accessible when traveling abroad.