Written by Robert Leitch.
Cincinnati, Ohio’s, Viaggi believes people should be able to go anywhere around the globe without having to worry about Wi-Fi access. CEO Nathan Ellis calls it the lily pad effect — when we’re not in our homes, we move from business to business connecting to different Wi-Fi networks that each requires separate authorizations. Viaggi is working to eliminate the hassle and provide consumers with constant secure internet connectivity whether they are at home, in the car or on a plane.
“The idea is consumers could connect to Viaggi at the business they’re in, stay connected while they’re en route to their next destination, and then maintain that connection when they get there,” said Ellis.
Businesses who partner with Viaggi become part of the startup’s growing network of Wi-Fi coverage. This means that consumers can sign up once for a Viaggi account and have their mobile phones automatically connect to the company’s Wi-Fi service wherever it is available. For example, Viaggi has partnered with Uber to provide Wi-Fi for its Uber BLACK program, a luxury version of the car share service where riders are picked up in high-end vehicles. If riders sign up for the Wi-Fi in one Uber BLACK, they will have access to the network automatically in every Uber BLACK from then on.
“In addition to Uber, we are establishing partnerships with taxis, car rental companies and public transit systems,” said Ellis. “We want to help these mobile businesses provide affordable, quality internet service.”
Viaggi’s service ranges from complimentary to paid day passes and subscription plans, depending on the business offering the Wi-Fi. Customers have unlimited internet access, meaning they do not have to worry about decreased internet speed or data restrictions if they’re a heavy user.
Ellis developed the idea for Viaggi in 2010 when he received an iPod Touch for Christmas. He didn’t realize the device required Wi-Fi to connect to the internet and was disappointed that he couldn’t use it at all times. This became a bigger issue with the introduction of the iPad, with users unable to use its internet capabilities in areas that don’t have Wi-Fi. Ellis wanted to create a company to solve this problem.
Viaggi has worked with CincyTech and Cintrifuse, both southwest Ohio partners of Ohio Third Frontier. CincyTech helped Viaggi set business development milestones, and continuously monitors the company’s progress to make sure they are met. The organization also awarded the company a grant in 2014, which was used to move the Viaggi technology from prototype into beta testing. Cintrifuse provides Viaggi with office space and helps the company network with potential customers.
Viaggi is currently working to increase its customer base with the goal of expanding its Wi-Fi service to international hotel brands, hospitals and airlines. Ellis plans to double his company’s employee count to 14 by the end of 2017, and says Viaggi’s location in Ohio has been integral to its success.
“When you start a company somewhere like Silicon Valley, you open your doors to the biggest tech community in the world to find investors. So everyone around you knows what you’re working on and can beat you to it. You end up rushing,” said Ellis. “Our location in Ohio allowed us to fly under the radar and start a company at a pace that ensured we were able to provide optimal service from the day we launched.”