Independent, crowdsourced mobile coverage maps makes the pulse of any geek speed up. Sensorly has tackled this challenge by creating an app that seamlessly, and in the background, records your location, your network strength, and sends it anonymized to the gigantic database that Sensorly has created out of all that data. Why do consumers install the app? To see the coverage maps mostly, although they are also available on the website. Plus, there’s a geek factor: it’s kind of cool to see all the recordings you make show up on the maps!
This is very much the philosophy of co-founders Philippe Girolami and Boris Lacroix, who want people to be able to make informed decisions about that mobile carrier they use. Can we ever trust those coverage maps that the mobile carriers show? Probably not, and Sensorly has the proof in its pocket, and shares it with the world.
Boris Lacroix is a multi-entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the telecom industry and has several success stories in his pocket. He describes himself as a “product guy” as well as an entrepreneur. Philippe Girolami is a through-and-through tech guy, with all the credentials to prove it: from early childhood geek hobbies to being a coder on multiple platforms, as well as managing his development team. It was him who came up with the idea for Sensorly, and pitched it to Boris.
Sensorly has been around for a few years now, enough to get some seriouts traction with its consumer installed base. How is the money being made? Ironically, the mobile carriers are hungry for the data too! And they are happy to pay. In addition, they use costly measuring equipment right now to take their own measurements, and the Sensorly app can be customized for them so they can use off-the-shelf phones.
When Boris and Philippe first started, they did everything themselves: Philippe built the first versions of the app, Hadoop database and website from scratch, and Boris pounded the pavement talking to mobile carriers all over the world. Since they’ve been a global app from day one, they have relevant data from all over the world. So Boris spends a fair amount of time flying across the Atlantic talking to major mobile carriers in the US, as well as Europe and Asia.
In December of last year, they raised 1M€ from Elaia Partners. When asked about the reason and the timing of the fundraising, Boris responds:
“We had several term sheets, but Elaia felt like the best match at the time, because they really understood our business and weren’t your typical VC’s with a financial background, but real entrepreneurs. The only regret I have is not raising more!”
Today, Sensorly is launching their massively improved mobile app and website. On the mobile side, there’s a lot more user engagement and giving back of data. The coverage maps now also show all speed tests that are done around you, giving you not only coverage, but also the strength of the network. As Philippe explains: “People care so much more about data these days than about voice. And for data, you need bandwidth. So we show you real speed test results from directly where you are, so you know not only if there’s coverage, but also the quality of the coverage.”
Other new features include much better speed tests, and social sharing of the results. Why would you ever want to share your mobile coverage data? To their own surprise, when people now complain to their carrier (often on social media), the carriers suggest they submit their speed test using the Sensorly app! For Sensorly, this is the best news there is, of course, to get free advertising from the carriers themselves.
Future plans include expanding the list of mobile operators across the world, as they are still discovering new ones, and to open a US office in 2014.