Skyroam: A Travel Solution Becomes a Business
Any business traveler will tell you that not having an Internet connection is one of the biggest frustrations. Unlike most business travelers, Jing Liu channeled that frustration into a business in its own right. Liu founded Skyroam, a Bay Area–based company that manufactures a small device that functions as a personal Wi-Fi hot spot. “A lot of attention is paid to the beginning stages of travel—organizing airfare, rental car, hotel—but very little is designed to help travelers once they’re on their journey,” says Eric Plam, vice president and general manager of Skyroam. “We help travelers eliminate the pain of staying connected while in a foreign country.”
Skyroam ensures global connectivity through its partnerships with mobile carriers in more than 75 countries. Different from turning your mobile phone into a hot spot, Skyroam is built on virtual subscriber identity module (vSIM) technology and can automatically switch carriers remotely depending on signal strength. User data is kept safe through a secure encrypted connection. The technology delivers fast 3G/4G connections with local data routing, making it cost-effective and, most important, reliable.
The devices are offered for purchase or rental. Customers can access unlimited data either by subscription or by pay-as-you-go, 24-hour increments for as little as $10 per day. Users need simply turn on the device and hit the start button, and they’re connected. Should the hotel where they’re staying provide free Internet, travelers alert Skyroam via an app and aren’t charged for that time.
As an indication of the ingenuity and need for a device like Skyroam, the company won the UPS Connect Award for Global Innovation at TechCrunch Disrupt. “It brought us a lot of publicity and was instrumental in our expanding into new markets,” Plam says. One of the many perks of winning the global innovation award was $15,000 in services from UPS, including some priceless advice UPS provided via a whiteboarding session to clarify Skyroam’s needs.
Initially, Skyroam planned to handle worldwide logistics directly from its warehouses. It soon discovered that with so many companies involved, UPS could help streamline a lot of its operations. With its expertise in global logistics, UPS helped identify key markets for Skyroam. Additionally, UPS homed in on areas that could be improved, such as connecting Skyroam’s e-commerce systems. “It’s immensely complicated to ship a device into different countries,” Plam says. “There are myriad issues that need to be addressed—taxation, logistics, VAT, and customs.” That’s in addition to the company’s two biggest challenges: getting devices into customers’ hands and retrieving those that have been rented.
Reflecting on the range of solutions that UPS provided to get Skyroam off the ground, Plam says, “We were looking for a global solution when it came to a shipping and logistics partner. UPS launched us as a viable new product in the marketplace.”
With a solid infrastructure in place, Skyroam has an idea of what expansion in 2016 will look like. While the mobile hot spot is its main product, Skyroam recently licensed its vSIM technology to Lenovo, which will integrate the global Internet connectivity into its own tablets, laptops, and other devices. Another targeted goal is for Skyroam to move beyond being an online-only vendor and build a presence in brick-and-mortar stores. So far, the company has raised more than $10 million in funding from investors and has a retail partnership lined up with Brookstone.
Skyroam is looking to capitalize on the $50 billion global roaming market and is off to a fast start. More important, Plam and the team pride themselves on being able to help travelers be more productive and better connected to their colleagues, friends, and families no matter where they may find themselves.
This sponsored post is a collaboration between TakePart and UPS, who have teamed up to spotlight innovative entrepreneurs who are successfully adapting to the changing rules of a new economy. See more at TakePart Business.