Airalo: Game-Changing Global Digital SIM Cards
Smartphones have changed since they first appeared on the market, but people continue to get hit by hefty phone bills upon returning from their holidays. Travelers have been waiting for a miracle to end the problems related to getting a smartphone SIM card when they visit a foreign country.
Ahmet Bahadir Özdemir and Abraham Burak knew that a physical SIM card was the missing part of the puzzle when they founded Airalo in 2019.
Airalo is a mobile app and telecommunication platform that prides itself on being the world's first eSIM (digital SIM card) store. Travelers can insert Airalo SIM cards into their modern smartphones, PCs, and tablets.
If you are curious to learn how Ahmet and Abraham came up with this ingenious idea that made life easier for millions of travelers, stay with us and keep reading!
A Novel, Groundbreaking Idea Emerges
Abraham Burak has a real nomad spirit. Ever since he was a young boy, he dreamed about traveling and living abroad. He followed his dream, and as soon as he finished high school, he moved to China.
Abraham fell in love with Asian customs and obtained a Bachelor's in Law from Fudan University before moving to Europe. He continued educating himself and experiencing beautiful countries, including the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Israel.
Holding a Doctor of Law degree from the University of Ottawa and a Masters of Art from the University of Chicago, Abraham admits that his biggest problem was the connectivity while traveling the world.
So, when he met Ahmet Bahadir Özdemir, he was more than motivated to find a solution for this issue and put an end to buying a new SIM card when visiting a new country or using expensive roaming, which was an even worse option.
Unlike Abraham, Ahmet comes from a middle-class Turkish family. His father was a virtuous person. Led by his dad's advice, Ahmet grew up adopting some of his mannerisms and beliefs. However, the way he experienced his life made him think differently from his role model.
As a teenager, Ahmet left Turkey, immigrated to Singapore, and later returned home.
Although it seems like a coincidence, he started a job in the ship food supply business, where he met many sailors who would politely ask him to help them get local SIM cards for cheaper communication.
Great Minds Think Alike
Ahmet’s idea to create a global SIM card that could work anywhere worldwide turned out to be a real cash cow. At first, he would package many international SIM cards at home and sell them like hotcakes to sailors and other passengers. After 15 months, Ahmet made three million dollars and was ready to fulfill his wish.
At that time, Ahmet and Abraham worked in the telecom industry but were in different sectors. They observed the telecom industry and were thinking about implementing new things and redefining the rules of modern travel connectivity.
Because people spent a lot of money on SIM cards, they concluded that instead of traditional SIM ones, they could work on creating global eSIMs.
After an exhausting conversation, planning, and calculations, in March 2019, Ahmet, together with Abraham and the web application designer and developer Duran Akcaylier, launched a global telecom company in Singapore called Airalo.
Thanks to their courage, travelers’ lives became easier, and they started using Airalo to download modern prepaid eSIMs at a competitive fee. The best part was that travelers could do that before they began their journey.
The World Stopped, But Airalo Continued
Airalo became a global company. Customers from over 160 countries started using its services. Soon they won the award for travel innovation in the Startup Category.
The revenues at Airalo were growing at light speed until COVID-19 arrived and forced the world to stop traveling. This raised some red flags regarding how the company would continue operating and generating revenue. It was vital to take advantage of the stay-at-home situation and develop a sustainable plan.
Ahmet and Abraham used the mandatory lockdowns to rethink Airalo. The company was pretty young, and there was an immense space for improvements to help the brand become an absolute beast on the market when the world started traveling again!
Even though Duran left Airalo in 2020, Ahmet continued doing his best to help Airalo remain an optimal choice for tourists. It wasn’t going to be easy, but it had to work!
During 2020 and the beginning of 2021, the Airalo team started focusing more on the educational component of their business. The goal was to let people in on the opportunities Airalo offered and how they could take advantage of them.
Digital SIM cards were relatively new for most people at that moment, even though millions of people already have eSIM-capable devices. So, Ahmet and his team continue working on educating the world about what eSIM is and introducing people to the benefits of this modern technology. This strategy proved super successful as it brought many new customers to the Airalo platform.
Airalo is one of the largest connectivity providers in the world, but they don’t own any networks. It means that these intelligent fellows never invested in buying telecom infrastructure. Instead, they focus on facilitating strong partnerships with companies in the telecom industry.
Ahmet was thrilled that he managed to become a mighty entrepreneur and fulfill his dream. Today, Airalo cards are compatible with both Android and iOS devices. Users can download the Airalo application via Google Play or App Store. Around 190 countries use Airalo services. More than 400,000 users can’t imagine traveling without an Airalo eSIM.
Airalo became a startup giant and went on to win numerous rewards. One is the “Award for Travel Innovation” in the Startup Category at the 2019 Phocuswright Conference.
Currently, Airalo doesn’t have any competitors on the market, as the founders are the first to collect local operators’ SIM cards in one place and distribute them to customers. Therefore, they’ve garnered a panel of investors and generous funding.
Airalo’s first Pre-Seed Funding Round from July 2019 raised $100K. Yet, the Seed Round from October 2019 was more successful and brought them $1.8M. The company closed its Series A in October 2021, bringing them $5.4M and impressive names of travel, telecom, and venture capital leaders.
Rakuten Ventures is their lead investor. They also have returning investors, including Antler, Sequoia, Singtel Innov8, GO Ventures, Wayra (Telefonica), Ground Control, and LG Technology Ventures.
So far, Airalo has had three funding rounds and has raised $7.3M.
Airalo will keep expanding rapidly by improving and increasing eSIM coverage worldwide. But what can we expect from them in the future?
Airalo’s Plans for the Future
Airalo aims to invest its money in company growth and optimize the customer experience. They will enrich their team with creative members to their hubs in Singapore, Istanbul, and Toronto.
They will also continue to hire new members remotely from any location worldwide. Airalo will keep establishing key partnerships in the travel and telecom industry.
Knowing that access to worldwide and cheap connectivity is vital, Ahmet intends to offer even more affordable plans. The company also intends to increase the number of plans it currently offers.
Although this brand has attractive discounts, they also discuss providing more attractive perks for their customers. One of Airalo's plans is to offer a single global number for all travelers. So, get ready for some excellent news from Airalo soon!