When Carl Krumins was fired from a job cleaning floors, twenty years ago, the aspiring tech entrepreneur realised he would never achieve success unless he pursued his passion. Today, his brainchild – mobile messaging tech provider SMSGlobal – is an international success story.
With 70 staff across five offices (New York, Dubai, Croatia, Melbourne and Auckland), the company delivers over a million SMS messages, per day, for more than 400,000 clients (including IBM, Microsoft, Etihad Airways, Samsung and AFL) across 165 countries.
The SMSGlobal founder and CEO spoke to Dynamic Business about realising his ‘garage fantasy’, the power of SMS messages as a communications tool, using the GFC as a springboard to success abroad, and plans to stay ahead of the curve in an ‘ever-changing landscape’.
DB: What circumstances led you to create SMSGlobal?
Krumins: I have always had a strong interest in technology – in fact, at a young age I began pulling apart computers just so I could re-build and enhance them. That said, my first job wasn’t in Tech. In 1998, aged 16, I cleaned floors at the Reject Shop. I lasted two weeks before being fired. It was at that point I realised two things – 1) I would never be satisfied working for someone else and 2) I would never be successful unless I followed my passion.
This realisation that prompted me to start my first business. I brought together a team of people and we worked on a variety of tech ventures including web design and web hosting. We made some good money but as the industry became quite commoditised I decided it was time to try something new.
Having utilised SMS for my business, I was familiar with all the benefits and the technology. When I was considering my next business idea, it dawned on me that there was a huge opportunity to enter the SMS market with a price-advantage over competitors.
Like many start-ups, SMSGlobal was born in my garage. I launched the business in 2007 offering the most competitive prices on the market. Where our competitors were charging 25-30 cents for a message, I charged 10cents, which was unheard of at the time. Plus, our mindset from day one was to ensure everything we do and everything we offer is scalable. The success of these strategies launched SMSGlobal from a garage fantasy to a bricks and mortar office in South Melbourne, with a small but committed team of technicians.
DB: What are the pain points your technology addresses?
Krumins: The most common pain point our state-of-the-art APIs and cloud based messaging platform address is communication inefficiency – both internal and external. Inefficient communications processes can cost businesses hundreds, to thousands to millions of dollars each year. Most businesses approach us after experiencing difficulty reaching their customers via more traditional methods of communication such as phone or email. They may be spending thousands of dollars on call centers, with very low cut through, or losing time and money when customers fail to show up to appointments.
DB: Are businesses awake to the advantages of SMS?
Krumins: Most customers we speak with understand that SMS is one of the most effective means of reaching your target audience, but perhaps not to the full extent. Some surprising facts that customers are unaware of are that SMS has an open rate of 98%, with 95% of messages opened within the first three minutes of being received. Another interesting stat is that mobile and SMS coupons see a 1000% higher buy rate than print coupons.
DB: How big is SMSGlobal’s global addressable market?
Krumins: With offices in Australia, Dubai, Easter Europe and the US, and with customers in over 150 countries around the world, our addressable market is a global one. With the continued growth of unique mobile users, along with demand for mobile applications such as mobile banking, mobile payments and e-commerce, it’s a market that I certainly expect will grow. Recent research by Infoholic supports this, stating the global application to person (A2P) market is worth around 55.6billion and by 2022 it is expected to grow to $78.61 billion.
DB: What have been some of SMSGlobal’s ‘greatest hits’?
Krumins: Launching our first international office in Dubai and investing heavily in our first major tradeshow. Both developments took place in 2009, which was a defining year for us.
Our decision to open an office in Dubai was a practical one. Having a hub in the Middle East allowed us to engage with customers in the UK and Europe, which was a vital component in our vision for global expansion. What we never anticipated was the extent of the damage caused by the GFC in the city. As we were entering the Dubai, other multinational organisations were fleeing. While this presented a number of challenges, it also presented opportunities. We were able to secure a long-term deal on a prime office space and were able to help fill a gap that was left in the market. Within our first year in Dubai, we secured a deal with Etihad Airlines and many other government owned entities in the MENA region, which firmly established our credibility in the UAE.
Our second milestone moment in 2009 took place at one of the world’s biggest tech tradeshows, Gitex. Exhibiting at Gitex was a huge business decision for us given the size of the investment. It was a decision that would make or break us. For a very small company we took out a very big stand, next to some of the biggest names in the industry. For us, this was an opportunity to get some face time with senior technologists and other key decision makers. It was a risk that paid off as traffic to our website skyrocketed after the event and led to the establishment of major accounts, many of which we still work on eight years later.
DB: What has been the most challenging part of growing SMSGlobal?
Krumins: The ever-changing landscape of communications and the introduction of new platforms and software. Fortunately, SMS has remained relevant and is still the most effective way for businesses to connect with their audience. Nevertheless, it’s critical for us to always be ahead of the curve with new features and software in order to remain competitive.
DB: What continues to excite you about leading the company?
Krumins: What excites me most is that as a tech company we can build anything. As new problems arise, this provides with valuable insights for new offerings and products. One project I’m particularly excited about is a new omni-channel product we’re developing in Croatia that’s quite unlike anything else on the market. We’re looking to launch that before the end of the year so watch this space….
DB: What other plans do you have for the remainder of 2017?
Krumins: Having recently launched our first office in the United States, our priority for the remainder of 2017 is to consolidate our team and ensure that all systems are in place to deliver an efficient and competitive service in keeping with our global standard. Once we have achieved the benchmarks demanded of us, we will potentially look to expand to the East Coast.