STARTUP OF THE MONTH
Jorge Ríos is the founder and CEO at Bridgefy. He’s working on bringing the world closer together by providing reliable, inclusive, and accessible means of communications to the +1 billion smartphone owners that don’t have access to Internet. He was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, and went from being a high school teacher to an entrepreneur in 2013. He started working on Bridgefy on February 2014, when he was selected to represent Mexico at the StartupBus international hackathon.
Nowadays, internet networks are 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.
Bridgefy allows people to communicate with each other without access to Wifi or data. It leverages the smartphone’s Bluetooth and Wifi antenna to connect to the web. Whether for messaging, social media or service requests, Bridgefy improves the user’s experience through advanced telecommunications technology.
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 apps from the beginning, removing the hassle for the users of downloading the app separately. Jorge Ríos states that the use of the technology is free unless it’s used, the only case when they charge 1 cent fee for every monthly user of the app offline.Today, Bridgefy claims it could support ride-hailing apps, cruise ship apps, educational apps, social media and gaming, even without data of Wi-Fi access. 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.
Originally, the lack of Internet access during natural disasters inspired the founders. 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.
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. However, the company realized that profits and user acquisition would be better through an integration.
Last October, Bridgefy partnered with SkyAlert to help citizens maintain communicate in times of natural disaster. Also a Mexican startup, SkyAlert issues earthquake warnings shortly before they happen. We can thank the company’s sensors installed across Mexico City for this. 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.
There are many advantages for other apps to integrate to Bridgefy, improved customer relations being one of them. The business’ Saas model allows the company to provide services on a regular basis to partners. The startup charges companies each time someone uses the app through the Bridgefy’s network.
To date, Bridgefy raised $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 but adjustments in their business model and potential integration of their mesh networking and broadcast technologies with world organizations could result in a larger traffic and future valuation.
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, an ambitious goal we will follow closely.