Sramana Mitra: You are acquiring these customers through these kinds of channels – through computers at work.
Issa Asad: We acquire 100% of our customers online.
Sramana Mitra: That’s what I’m trying to understand. It’s fascinating. Bear with me while I understand what you’re doing.
Issa Asad: When I went to the FCC to get my first license. I told them, “I think I can do this better because when you look at agents throughout the United States, the agents can only do business through brick-and-mortar stores. They can only do it through major metropolitan cities.” They asked why.
An agent is making $4 to $5 per handset. To make minimum wage, that agent has to sell 20 to 25 handsets at day. If you take that agent and you put him in a rural market, that agent can’t get that many customers a day. I wanted to target customers through Facebook and Google. They looked at me and said, “We don’t see how you’re going to reach the customers.”
I said, “I believe that there is a mechanism and there is a way that these people are reaching Facebook. I spoke to Facebook and they said that they cover over 80% of the United States. Even if I assume all 20% of the population they don’t cover is low-income, I do have a huge population that is built into the 80% that is low income. I believe that Sprint’s don’t go open stores. They don’t open stores in low foot traffic areas.”
I failed tremendously. The reason I failed is because I made a conventional website. I wasn’t capturing enough data to go back and retarget customers. I changed my website. The first thing I asked for was their Zip code and email address. I was able to start seeing traction because I was able to retarget that customer. They would research us online. We didn’t have a lot of data on us. People hold identity closely.
Then we started realizing how to overcome that and prove that we’re a legitimate company. That was the biggest challenge we were trying to face. We can only do that with not only an online website but also a lot of online presence. We started putting blog sites and putting articles up. We had to give ourselves credibility.
Sramana Mitra: Got it. Facebook is the primary way you touch people online. You bring them on to your website and collect their emails and zip codes. Then you retarget them into the next few steps of engagement.
Issa Asad: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: Really cool. You are going after geographies on Facebook that none of these other players are targeting. You’re going into these white spaces but there are people who are on Facebook and you’re able to target them online. These are probably very fragmented markets but each of those are accessible through Facebook.
Issa Asad: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: Very cool. You have two million customers. What revenue run rate are you operating at?
Issa Asad: $198 million.
Sramana Mitra: What do you plan to do with the company?
Issa Asad: We are Sprint’s largest customer in the United States.
Sramana Mitra: Does Sprint want to acquire you?
Issa Asad: Hopefully.
Sramana Mitra: So your whole endgame is that you want to sell the company to Sprint eventually?
Issa Asad: Not to Sprint, but someone who wants to acquire this company.
Sramana Mitra: This is a bootstrapped company?
Issa Asad: We have not asked for credit. We don’t have VC money.
Sramana Mitra: It’s an offbeat story at some level that I find fascinating. It was nice meeting you. Thank you for your time.