On the up · 9 June 2017

Swytch: A flexible mobile network killing off the work phone

flexible mobile network
Swytch’s flexible mobile network gives each employee the chance to use their chosen device at work

With all the capabilities of modern devices, the absence of a flexible mobile network is problematic for agile companies looking to integrate numbers onto a single phone.

To solve this problem, Chris Michael conceived a system that could give a mobile device multiple phone numbers at any given time. With a clear target of creating the “go-to mobile network for any business”, he founded Swytch.

An impressive 300,000 organic downloads in the first year led to significant investment in the business, capping off a successful first year that saw Swytch gain recognition at Prince Andrew’s Pitch@Palace.

Business Advice caught up with Michael to find out why his flexible mobile network could revolutionise the way small companies handle internal telecoms.

  1. Who are you and what’s your business?

My name is Chris Michael and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Swytch.

Swytch is killing off the work phone by providing multiple numbers that can be used on one mobile phone. Numbers are available on-demand through a simple online dashboard and can instantly be added, removed and transferred at any time.

Businesses can now provide their teams with a work mobile number on their personal handsets. As the numbers are cloud based, they are accessible from any connected device and work in exactly the same fashion as any other mobile numbers. Calls and texts can be made from the Swytch app while the company manages their stock of numbers from the Swytch online dashboard.

Swytch combines the control and ownership of a work phone with the flexibility and simplicity of bring your own device (BYOD), while removing the pain points of each

  1. How long have you been around for?

We launched Swytch in 2015 and achieved more than 300,000 organic downloads in the first year. This helped us secure the investment we needed to develop and launch the Swytch online dashboard.

We are now the first mobile operator in the world to offer an online dashboard that gives businesses access to on-demand UK mobile numbers which they can assign to employees and manage from a central location.

  1. How does your flexible mobile network make money?

Swytch is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform with a simple subscription model.

Mobile numbers are £5 per month and outgoing calls and texts to UK mobile or landline numbers cost between five and six pence per minute. All international calls are charged at local rates.

The great thing for businesses is that calls made to other Swytch numbers are always free.

  1. What makes you different and why should people take notice?

Multiple numbers on one mobile phone is just the beginning. Our vision is for Swytch to be the go-to mobile network for any business – to be synonymous with business communications, and offer powerful features that go beyond anything available with traditional mobile numbers.

We believe mobile numbers should work for businesses, enhancing their productivity and providing benefits far beyond simple mobile communication. We want every team member to be able to use their chosen personal phone at work, while having complete control and visibility over their business and personal calls.

  1. What was key in terms of getting started?

I came up with the idea for Swytch whilst running another business – and managing my communications on one device!

I wanted to create a new way to separate business and personal communications – a better way for businesses and their employees. This wasn’t an easy task though.

Although I had the idea and passion, I quickly realised this would not be enough to bring investors on board. Instead, I partnered with my co-founder, Xavier de Solms, to structure the idea properly.

Chris Michael and Xavier de Solms
Swytch co-founders Chris Michael and Xavier de Solms

We bootstrapped development of the prototype, working with a main UK mobile network operator to integrate premium UK mobile numbers into the Swytch cloud-based mobile network. Only then were we ready to secure investment to launch the initial product.

As it turns out, this was the best thing that could have happened to us. We’ve remained a small, agile and lean startup, achieving a huge amount in a relatively small space of time.

Swytch achieved more than 300,000 organic downloads in the first year, gaining recognition across the UK startup industry, including finalist positions at Pitch@Palace and the British Small Business Awards.

  1. What’s your biggest achievement to date?

While creating and successfully launching the platform was undoubtedly an amazing achievement, it’s really been the positive stories from users about how Swytch is helping their business that’s been the biggest reward for me.

We committed at the very beginning to focus on our users. Hearing stories about how Swytch is solving problems they have been dealing with for years is so rewarding – it makes the blood, sweat and tears worthwhile!

  1. What setbacks have you had along the way?

Bootstrapping a startup is hard. You have to prove your worth at every single stage to keep moving forward. There is obviously huge pressure to succeed and grow – both before you receive funding and most certainly after you do.

We’ve had some big headaches along the way. We missed our beta launch deadline for one. Really, the majority of our setbacks have boiled down to decision paralysis – taking too long to think about things. Going through the process has taught me you need to be quick, decisive and ready to take action.

  1. In five years’ time, I will be…

An established name in the mobile industry and business community. Our vision is to be a global network operator, offering numbers from anywhere in the world to any business, regardless of location.

We want Swytch to be synonymous with business communications, and for every employee that needs a work phone number to be using a Swytch number on their personal device.

  1. What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Be quick, be very quick! Stop thinking, start doing. Don’t wait for perfection, take action now. The best way I know to describe it is to act as if you have a fire inside you.

The reason people say that you don’t always need to be the first to an idea is that someone is always chasing you. They’re working hard, getting better and they are coming for you. Your time to succeed is running out.

If I speak to anyone who is thinking about launching a startup I recommend they read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Just get something out there and listen to what people have to say about it.

  1. Who are your business heroes and why?

Zukerberg and Jobs were always big heroes of mine. But while they certainly had an impact on my decision to be an entrepreneur, they’re pretty standard answers.

Now, I would say that Stewart Butterfield and Cal Henderson, the founders of Slack, are a big influence for me. Slack is a brilliant tool – I use it every day – and the founders credit user-focused development as the main reason for their success. This really struck a chord with me and is something we have built into the foundations of Swytch.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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