It was while vacationing with his wife in Paris for their one-year anniversary that Adam Bacsalmasi realized he could not even last half a day without plugging in.
“Every day we’d have to come back to our hotel at around noon to get back online to reload our Google Maps. I wanted to check my sports scores and she’d upload her photos to Instagram and Facebook,” said Bacsalmasi.
We live in a world that’s constantly connected, which has rendered the cell-phone-free, Wi-Fi-free trip a thing of the past. It often comes down to a choice between being bogged down by the price of roaming fees, or purchasing an expensive roaming plan.
“We just realized that we couldn’t go half a day without going online for some reason. Whether it was to find our next lunch destination or find tickets to somewhere we wanted to go, it just became a hassle,” he recalls.
Therefore, upon his return to Canada, Bacsamlasi began developing the solution to this problem for all those looking to travel to his home and native land.
Thus Similicious was born: a Toronto startup that’s developed a cost-effective mobile solution to all visitors to Canada looking to cut roaming fees from their travel budgets. By renting out temporary SIM cards with temporary phone numbers, Similicious travel plans have proven a cost effective way to stay connected in a world where being disconnected isn’t a viable option.
With the product ready to go, Bascalmasi reached out to Canada’s mobile giants, but never received a response. On that note, he decided to go into business for himself. Two months after his website went live, he sold his first SIM card.
“I figured I can start in Toronto. I can ride my bike, deliver some cards in Toronto and see what happens,” said Bacsalmasi. Little did he know that his first summer would earn him $30k in sales.
It’s even simpler than it sounds.
“Customers can pre-order on our site before they leave,” and Similicious is able to ship ahead to any hotel if the customer doesn’t order early enough—“or we can ship it to their local address or business address.”
“What we do is we activate it for them a day before they arrive. Once they get off the plane, the SIM card’s already activated. They get a local number and they can use it across Canada,” he says.
However, it wasn’t until he received an order from Vancouver that he decided to take Similicious national. Now, at the end of their third summer in business, Similicious has garnered a wide customer base, along with interest from Canada’s biggest mobile providers. Similicious has recently partnered with Rogers, and are now an official third party resale for Chatr, a Rogers affiliate.
As with any new product, there are bugs, despite their rapid growth, the team of five is still working out a few kinks. Bascalmasi stressed that he and his co-workers work around the clock to answer late-night requests and find minimally interfering solutions.
“We’re dealing with people that are buying our product and are using our service because they want to stay connected with friends and family and it’s really important to them.”
Though Similicious products have garnered positive feedback nationally, the many differences between various national carriers pose several obstacles to taking the product global. Though SIM cards are the global standard, Bascalmasi says that visitors to Canada are most in need of their services.
“Every market is completely different and Canada is a huge market to focus on. Over 35 million people visit every year. The Canadian carrier landscape is very different than the rest of the world. In a lot of countries you can get off the plane, buy a SIM card and use it locally. You can’t do that here. Other places we might be going in where they already have something in place.”
Similicious plans range from $20 to $60, whereas Canada’s big three mobile providers don’t offer a realistic alternative to international visitors, leaving a gap in the market.
Now that Similicious is “on a roll,” according to Bascalmasi, they’re focusing all their energy on expansion. Visitors can look forward to an international student plan, Canadian SIM cards as part of travel packages with international travel agencies, hotel packages, conference packages, etc.
“Our advantage is that we are a local company. We are Canadian and we use these carriers ourselves, so we can understand it.”