Tunisia’s RoamSmart goes global with solutions for mobile operators

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A Tunisian startup has gone global with its solutions that allow mobile operators to manage their roaming businesses more efficiently.

RoamSmart was founded in Tunis in December 2012, aiming to assist operators from operational, financial and revenue assurance perspectives within their roaming businesses.

The startup helps optimise workflows and monetise the existing roaming data from several sources. Vice president of sales and marketing Mehdi Triki said RoamSmart’s mission is to support mobile operators in times of low growth and profits with intelligent software in order to optimise the margins of their existing business.

This mission has proven pretty successful, to say the least. RoamSmart now serves 29 mobile operators in 25 countries on four continents, with Orange and Vodacom counted among its clients. It is targeting increased growth.

“This is a significant achievement in a very competitive telecom world, but we have high objectives and we target to reach 50 customers by end of 2016,” said Triki.

This success has been based on the expertise of the founding team and the gaps in the market it spotted.

RoamSmart’s founding team is composed of three Tunisian entrepreneurs with backgrounds in international telecoms and extensive experience in the roaming vertical. Triki’s two co-founders previously headed roaming departments for Tunisian mobile operators, while he managed sales and technical activity for leading United States (US) roaming SW provider Roamware in the North Africa region.

“Our joint experience helped us to identify very specific gaps and challenges of the roaming teams and design appropriate solutions to cover these needs,” he said.

Roaming involves a partnership between two mobile operators from different countries, which allows subscribers to continue using mobile services when travelling outside of their “home” country.

“Establishing and maintaining this connectivity requires the continuous exchange and update of a significant amount of data and documents. A medium size operator has between 350 and 450 roaming partners worldwide. Now you can imagine the amount of data to be monitored and analysed on daily basis,” Triki said.

“Most operators are managing this data flow manually in Excel files and shared folders, which increases the risk of human errors and omissions leading to potential revenue loss.”

RoamSmart’s roaming management solutions automate the exchange, analysis and reporting of this data, allowing operators to optimise operational workflows and extract valuable intelligence from the available roaming data.

“Roaming is a niche market but a quite lucrative business for mobile operators,” Triki said.

The startup’s traditional competitors are clearing providers such as Syniverse and Starhom, but RoamSmart has partnered a number of such companies as they prefer to focus on their core business of data and financial clearing. RoamSmart thus handles roaming management solutions, its own core business.

The startup was launched with private funds and a loan from governmental bank BFPME, though it closed its first funding round in January of this year through investment fund Intilaq.

“This was a strategic step for us since Intilaq is not only an investor but also a business partner, helping us with advice and consulting in fields where we have gaps, like HR management, marketing strategy and go-to-market approach,” Triki said.

Most of the startup’s deployments are on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, with RoamSmart preparing a dedicated platform in the Cloud and providing a link and access credentials to the mobile operator to use it against an initial set-up fee and a monthly subscription fee.

“Obviously, the first two years were tough from a revenue perspective. We closed 2015 at a 20 per cent revenue increase compared to 2014, and we are looking at a higher increase for 2016,” Triki said.

As for most startups, RoamSmart’s main challenges have been in finding funds and identifying the right engineers who can adapt to the specific needs of a startup.

“In the first 18 months, there are no clear job definitions and no organisation since everybody needs to do everything,” Triki said.

“We had to work on weekends for a long period and also wake up at crazy times for customer conference calls due to different time zones – for example we have an 11-hour time difference with our customer in New Zealand. It took us three years to build a stable and reliable team, and we are happy today to have a very competent and professional group of young and dynamic Tunisian engineers.”

RoamSmart also faced difficulties in getting its first projects and customer references.

“We had to be very patient and innovative in finding the right arguments and commercial models to secure the first deals. Once you have couple of satisfied customers, that’s your best selling argument to the next prospects,” Triki said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent’s most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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