Startup partners Paul Trappitt and Todd Sainsbury are making it easier than ever for Perth business owners to offer their customers no-fuss, speedy WiFi access.
Already set up at popular haunts such as the Country Road Café, Crust Mount Lawley and the Millpoint Café Bookshop, FreedomWiFi is a 4G plug-and-play hotspot service that works independently (it doesn’t require an internet connection) and is remotely monitored.
The hardware component, a router unit equipped with a 4G dongle, is simply plugged into a power point and voilà – instant WiFi.
The idea was born when Paul, who has an extensive background in IT, went to install a new wireless router for a friend who owned a motel in Busselton Bay.
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“He said ‘is there any chance I can get wireless for the motel’ and I said ‘oh you can probably go one step better than that by setting it up as a hotspot so [guests] can log in, pay, and [allow you to] make money from it,” Paul said.
“I went to bed and suddenly woke up thinking ‘I could put a USB dongle in the back of this [router] and we could make it like pop-up WiFi’.”
Rather than just trying to build a fixed product to sell as a one-size-fits-all solution, Paul and Todd – who have known each other for 14 years – were set on providing a customised service. They have progressed FreedomWiFi this far by “throwing ideas at the wall”.
“We’ve both got really similar ideas in what we want to do, and how we want to do it as well – how we want to interact with people, what morals [we want to uphold], and what we don’t like about the way other certain people do business,” Paul said.
Todd, a graphic designer who runs his own web development business, said talking to café owners was vital to determine what WiFi setup would work best for their particular venue.
“It’s subscription based – there’s no upfront costs, no lock-ins. It’s a reasonably high subscription but there’s added value that we give to them for that; we have to make sure it works, we want to be there forever and we want them to be able to operate [with FreedomWiFi] for a long time,” Todd said.
“If you can add value to something and make it worthwhile for everybody, you can actually get some more traction out of it.”
With FreedomWiFi, businesses can control how much internet customers can use with free and paid access setups, and utilise the login page as a promotional space.
So far, their startup has been relatively low-cost, and revenue is trickling through.
The two-man team initially started out with a focus on cafés but soon realised their service could be used for other purposes, such as at events. They are mindful that their idea might change depending on where the market is, and whether they can access it.
The startup was partially driven by the fact that it was often difficult to find good WiFi services.
“Free WiFi is awesome, but we want free WiFi that we can actually build a community around, [so] it’s not just the café community but the FreedomWiFi community as well, which is larger and bigger and to be a part of that means that you can walk into any of our cafés and have WiFi, and have it fast by making it all 4G,” Todd said.
At the time of the interview, Paul and Todd were about to integrate a loyalty suite into the system to open up the capabilities of FreedomWiFi and what businesses could use it for.
Although juggling a fulltime job and a startup was trying at times, especially with a family, Paul said he had the passion to drive him along, and that the motivation was always there.
It was a similar story for Todd, although he had more flexibility with running his own business.
“I’m basically passionate about tech, passionate about helping people, and passionate about finding cool things to make a living out of that’s not a job,” Todd said.
The next step in promoting FreedomWifi will be about networking, building personal relationships, and becoming a part of the startup community.
“Just by going to a couple of networking functions, you’re actually building rapport with other people, getting to know them and understanding what they want,” Todd said.
“It’s not about selling, even though that’s what you’re doing…it’s about building community, and that’s what we’re trying to do, that’s the other part of the value.”
For more info about FreedomWiFi, visit www.freedomwifi.com.au