Contxto – Nowadays, the Internet is so ingrained in our daily lives that we can’t even consider alternatives. For many, it’s so indispensable that everything crumbles if the network goes down for just a few minutes.
Bridgefy understands the hassle and decided to do something about it. Recently, I spoke with CEO and co-founder Jorge Ríos to better understand the firm’s modern technology and business model.
Description: Bridgefy keeps internet users connected. Its technology allows apps to function without an Internet connection. Therefore, partnering companies can provide their software services to users even if they don’t have Wi-Fi access or data.
Industry: Telecom – SaaS
Founders: Jorge Ríos, Roberto Betancourt
Founding Date: 2014
What do they do?
Bridgefy allows people to communicate with each other without access to Wi-Fi or data. It leverages the smartphone’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antenna to connect to the web. Whether for messaging, social media or service requests, Bridgefy improves the user’s experience through advanced telecommunications technology.
Cool! But how?
The company uses a Software Development Kit (SDK) to integrate with other apps. Only those apps within the Bridgefy network can provide services to users without regular Internet access. The system enables app developers to easily incorporate the mesh network into their iOS or Android code.
Originally, Bridgefy wanted to conceive the product independently. Instead, the founders created an SDK that other programmers could integrate into their iOS or Android developed software. The benefit: a wider audience reach.
That way, Bridgefy masterfully created its current monetization strategy using a B2B model, charging companies depending on how many users they attract while using the app offline. Today, Bridgefy claims it could support ride-hailing apps, cruise ship apps, educational apps, social media
Tech-king advantage of other phones
The SDK uses Bluetooth technology to contact phones nearby. It leverages other phones’ Bluetooth antennas through a mesh network to communicate with devices from farther distances. Moreover, users can send messages to other nearby devices. This only works once the network is created.
Why is this important?
Even though I find the technology quite interesting, I wasn’t sure how the actual application would perform. However, once I chatted with Jorge, then I understood how imperative it is to have Internet access in certain situations.
Originally, the lack of Internet access during natural disasters inspired the founders. While today Bridgefy pairs with a variety of digital industries, the original mission is truly admirable from my perspective.
One thing Jorge also mentioned was the need for the Internet when traveling abroad. For example, if you’re stuck at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris without data or Wi-Fi, you could request an Uber if the company partnered with Bridgefy, hypothetically speaking.
Founders Jorge Ríos and Roberto Betancourt developed the idea and first version of the product back in 2014 during a San Antonio hackathon contest called StartupBus.
As the story goes, originally a delegation of around 40 people from Mexico City traveled to the event via bus. A night before the road trip, people could stand up and pitched an idea – the goal being to come up with something clever to work on in Texas.
Depending on the notion, people teamed up with one another to develop an idea during the hackathon. In the end, Internet access without Wi-Fi was the winning concept for Jorge’s team.
As most startups can attest, things didn’t go immediately as planned. Originally, Bridgefy wanted to develop an app similar to WhatsApp minus the Internet connection. At that time, they didn’t realize the technical requirements and complexities this would imply.
Despite the challenges, the company came in second place at the competition for sending an image without Wi-Fi access.
So, if you’re wondering how Bridgefy started, it was just that – a random idea that popped up in one of the founder’s mind followed by a healthy dosage of collaboration. Since then, the team members moved from Mexico to San Francisco to continue their entrepreneurial journey.
The product is not what it used to be – although it has certainly improved for the better. It used to be a proper application by itself. H
Last October, Bridgefy partnered with SkyAlert to help citizens maintain communicate in times of natural disaster.
When earthquakes happen, the Internet is slow, unresponsive or possibly broken. This isn’t just because the network is down but also the overflow of messages overwhelming the server.
With this partnership, SkyAlert can now send messages without an Internet connection via Bridgefy. Not only will it send a message before, but also after an earthquake, to ensure people are safe.
We haven’t seen a better Mexican synergy, since the Manteconchas came out last year.
Not only has Bridgefy improved its product but its business model as well. The company claims there are many advantages for other apps to integrate to Bridgefy, improved customer relations being one of them.
Personally, if I could use Duolingo without the internet, I’d be one happy camper. Shouldn’t all web applications partner with Bridgefy to make their software available regardless of the Internet connection? That’s a real selling point if you ask me.
The business’ Saas model allows the company to provide services on a regular basis to partners. Side note: this is a great example of a solid B2B model – the “help me help you” approach to business. The startup charges companies each time someone uses the app through the Bridgefy’s network.
To date, Bridgefy raised US$1 million from a group of passionate investors sharing the founding team’s vision. Jorge says it has been a slow fundraising process due to technological complexities.
Bridgefy is already planning its Series A funding round in hopes of scaling operations. By the end of 2019, the firm expects to reach around 10 million users. Ambitious. We like that.