Aiming for international expansion

Newsroom 30/11/2009 | 00:00

Dan Boabes first entered the business world seven years ago, launching an interactive service through SMS. It involved using a mobile phone to make payments, interact with different media channels – such as TV, radio and print – and for entertainment (mobile content, games and ringtones). “I wanted to bring onto the market a service that was emerging on Western markets, providing technical solutions for SMS sending to a short number,” remembers Boabes, CEO of SimPlus Invest. Financial resources are key for any start-up. In his case, the money came the way it comes for many other young entrepreneurs: he borrowed USD 4,000 from relatives to provide the technical support needed for such a business. He signed his first contract in August 2002, following approval given by Atomic TV broadcasting to start such a partnership. “The interactivity service was launched on December 6, the same year, after we signed the contracts with mobile phone operators. I was surprised to see Romanians’ interest in such a service at that time,” says Boabes. The day before launching the service, a technical test was conducted in order to verify if everything was working. The display of a phone number to which viewers could send written messages took just 15 seconds. Seconds later, the interface was full of messages. “I thought something was wrong, because we had received over forty messages. It was very difficult because Christmas was coming and we had a six-month-old baby at home to take care of. When we realized what had happened, it was too late to find someone who wanted to be hired,” remembers the businessman. Therefore, the two entrepreneurs – Boabes and his wife – took care of the preparation of messages process for two months. But in a few months Boabes managed to subcontract out the specialized message-filtering service.The development of SimPlus seemed to come naturally, so in 2003 the company started to launch a new service every month, be it a quiz via SMS, audio chat or a television game. But the quick development surprised Boabes. “The growth of our project surpassed all of our expectations.” In time, he succeeded in turning a small company into a large one: it now collaborates with many broadcasters around the country and provides interactive services to over 16 TV channels. The interactive solutions provided by SimPlus involve TV display, micropayment – newspaper subscriptions and IPTV ones – TV games, dating services and mobile content. At present the company has a 25 percent market share, according to Boabes. But despite the rapid and unexpected growth, it has not all been plain sailing. The entrepreneur remembers when one of the company’s most important customers had to close his business, in 2005. “That customer contributed about 20 percent of our revenues.” He adds: “I think those are difficult moments: when you can’t control your revenues because the market is changing and players can reduce or even end their activity anytime,” says Boabes. He does not regret his business decisions, for a simple reason: he has learned that regrets hold you back. “So I prefer to learn from mistakes, to avoid them and most of all to educate my team to avoid making the same mistakes as I did,” says Boabes. One thing he would change if he could was not having started the business earlier, at the start of the 90s. The entrepreneur says that on top of the technical issues that he needs to solve perfectly, he requires innovation and involvement 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to make his business work like a Swiss clock. “Our customers are working at 3am as well as at 1pm, so we need to be permanently able to meet their needs in a short time and with professionalism,” says Boabes. Competition in the field is quite fierce but is currently decreasing, with the number of players significantly reducing over the last three years. “About 70 percent of the market is currently shared between six players which provide interactive solutions through SMS, mobile content or micropayment services. SimPlus is in the top three, ranked by turnover posted last year, along with Intel and Voxline,” says Boabes. He adds that according to the main players, the local market of interactive services through SMS is worth about EUR 20 million. The next step is foreign – and service – expansion. SimPlus has a very structured approach and intends to extend to eastern countries and into web and web mobile services. “We also intend to acquire some companies in order to make up our product portfolio. We have active services in Bulgaria, Hungary and the Republic of Moldova. Turkey and Azerbaijan are on our agendas for the months to come,” concludes Boabes.

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