Anyone who has ever traveled overseas knows what a @£%@^ it is to figure out phone stuff. While I usually opt for the “new SIM/new number” method in each country I visit, that’s not always a great option, especially if you’re traveling on business. Anyone who has ever experienced the shock of an out of country roaming cellphone bill knows that mobile carriers are actively out to screw you.
For visitors to the United States, there’s a company that Verizon and AT&T are definitely going to want to squash like a bug. They’re called Explora and they’re offering smartphone rentals to business travelers in the US for a flat rate of $8 per day. If that’s not awesome enough, they’ll deliver it to your hotel or and house and all you have to do to send it back is pop into the pre-addressed, pre-paid envelope.
KillerStartups chatted with Explora founder and CEO Raj Patel (pictured below) about the lessons he’s learned starting up, the best people to follow on Twitter, and how to handle startup stress without losing it. Give it a read and next time you have folks visiting from out of town, definitely recommend the Explora smartphone rental service.
What’s your company about? What do you do? Who are your customers?
Founded and run by travel enthusiasts, our mission is to improve the experience of travelers by making mobile telecommunication and connectivity ubiquitous, cost effective and convenient and all for a flat-rate of $8 per day. Our customers are international travelers visiting the United States.
What’s the greatest thing about your company? Why is it better than the competition?
We are disrupting the global telecommunications industry. Last year it made $56 billion from global roaming fees and charges. Our service provides a simple, transparent and cost effective solution which reflects the reality of travel. People travel based on days, weeks and months not minutes, text messages and megabytes and our service and pricing reflect this reality.
What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world wide web?
Gateway, 15″ screen and a 386 cpu. I was about 12.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?
I’d lived the problem I was hoping to solve myself. I’ve always been passionate about travel and once had a $1,000 phone bill after spending 3 weeks overseas. So I had first hand experience that this was an issue and if I could create a simple solution to it then it could be worthwhile to others.
Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.
Numerous. I think startups are overly glorified now because we only hear about the raging successes on TechCrunch and Mashable. Funding is not even half the battle, the fight for talent is intense and the need to network and negotiate for vendors and customers alike is constant. Probably the biggest single challenge was finding the right parties to outsource things to. We had a terrible time finding the right technology partner.
How do you handle frustration? What has been your biggest professional frustration?
Play squash. Smash the ball as hard as you want at the wall, doesn’t hurt anyone. Great stress relief. Biggest professional frustration is definitely people not performing. Unfortunately in business (today – and perhaps it has always been like this) people want to do as little as possible for money and finding vendors and contractors that perform to the required level of quality is very difficult.
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How do you picture your company in 5 years?
We’d like to be international and have options in Europe and Asia. We’ve got along way to go but very pleased with our progress so far. Its difficult to conceptualise where you’ll be in 3 months given how quickly things change at a start-up – but that is our hope.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food?
I have two amazing company advisors who are both very successful in their own right that constantly inspire and encourage me. Recommend checking them out on twitter: @michaelmflood and @chrisappssavvy.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowdfunded? Where’d you get the money, man?
At this stage we are angel funded. I was previously an investment banker and had a reasonable network of individually who were savvy professional investors.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Google Apps. You can enable teamwork for $5 per month per person. Doesn’t get more lean than that. Email, file storage, calendars, documents. Silicon Valley Bank. Great for startups, no fees for a year. Livechat Inc. Free for a year if you put their logo on your website. Braintree Payments. You can negotiate the first $50k in credit card processing free.
What other advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get started?
Get to market as soon as possible. Even if its selling 10 units. Figure out if people will buy it and if you can make a profit even if its low volume. The biggest part to validate is the value proposition to your consumer. Once you’ve done that finding the money and team will be much more achievable.
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Three people (other than you) we should follow on Twitter and why?
Please share some specific numbers (funding, revenue, visitors) that highlight your growth.
~20% week on week user growth since launch in April 2014.
To reserve a smartphone or for more information about Explora, visit ExploraPhones.com now.
Explora | Courtesy of Raj Patel