How Smartbeat began (Part I)

Although Paul and I had been playing around with ideas since the early ‘naughties’ (2001), the catalyst for what was to become Smartbeat was a brain dump email from Paul late one night in 2013.

Brainstorming meetings (with a few beers), research and prototyping ensued and by July, thanks to Narelle and Danielle at Country Road Cafe in the city, we had our first public WiFi install. The beginning of the Revolution!

This isn’t the first of these kind of emails, text and discussions we’ve had over the years, there’s been SMS coffee ordering, personal concierge, a coin deposit system, a drag & drop CMS (all pre 2007, pre smartphones and Apps), then there’s the trading and gambling bots, just to list a few :).

Below is the original email… yes I’m a tech hoarder, well my gmail is anyway. It’s pretty detailed and pls excuse the excited profanities.. But that how ‘Da Geeza’ rolls, it’s his Essex upbringing ;).

The original email that started this whole thing…

Here’s the transcription of the above, for those who want to read it, word for word.

Hey Mate,

Just been down in busso installing a new router for rhino. I recommended he buy the latest and greatest asus beast. What a beast it is indeed, needless to say I was drooling…but that’s just the geek in me hahaha. Anyway one of the features of the router is that it can create a public wifi hotspot, much like those you find in hotels where you purchase your time directly through a nicely branded page. I haven’t really looked into this technology much previously, but have now spent about 8 hours today researching how this all works. Basically there are a handful of companies providing the plug n play infrastructure for the entire payment gateway, package management, user internet usage tracking, and direct integration in a few clicks to what is basically an off the shelf $250 domestic router (don’t be fooled this router is insane, the most powerful to hit the market in a long time super long range wifi). All for no fees, no upfront costs, no software licensing.

So how do they make their money? The model is awesome, it’s either a 70/30 split in our favour for paid. They basically take 30% of whatever rate we wish to set for internet access. So if we said $10 per hour they would take 3 and send us 7. or can setup free wifi hotspot (possibly better for cafes) for around $50/month for 600 users, then $50 for every 200 after that.

So what am I thinking here? I had a sudden moment of clarity. One of the features of one particular service is the option for global credit. generally the credit is limited to the hotspot it is purchased through. But these guys allow you to chain hotspots regardless of geographical location. So people can buy global credit to be used across “cafes”. Also this applies to the free users, we can spread our 600 users a month over as many access points as we like. Toddy this is just screaming caffeine rushed type thinking at me LOL

I’m thinking very very low cost entry to market. router is $250. The router is capable of running 4G mobile broadband directly so no need for expensive clunky landline broadband hookups. Total free standing independent device. I can set it up in literally 30 minutes. vividwireless are a wicked new mobile broadband company providing super value 4g mobile broadband across australia. We can just go around to as many cafes etc as possible and say look we can put free branded fully professional wifi access in your cafe set and forget for the cafe owner fully supported by us for $100–200/month?? or you can have paid access for a cheaper amount (as obviously we’ll be making money). Oh you can mix paid and free too, just crazy.

Literally all it needs is effort to get it in to cafes, doorways, cigar stands whatever. Within 3 months the hardware is paid and vivid have an unlimited plan for $79 month. not that it would need that much, probably only need the 10GB plan per hotspot if that. We can throttle access, full control of bandwidth etc. There’s a crap load of places in perth that don’t have wifi, it’s a perfect opportunity to build a unified brand across multiple locations. I’m seeing little table toppers in cafes advertising the free wifi with our name on it :-) people start recognising them from cafe to cafe.

OK so I realise this is a total brain dump, but I reckon we should just go the lean startup massive on this bad boy and jump the fuck on it!

This is the hotspot management provider, probably the best one I’ve found

This is vivid mobile broadband

So the only other thing is who do we do this with? I initially went to include frank, then thought, well actually is this a knucks thing? Then thought fuck I don’t know, maybe we just do it mate hahahaha


Da Geeza

So, this is the start of Smartbeat. In my next post, I’ll explain the next steps we took, and what we’ve learned.

Todd Sainsbury
Co-founder, Smartbeat

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