TechCrunch came across Swytch last October, touting their plans at Disrupt London’s startup alley. At the time co-founder Chris Michael said he was hoping to get a service up and running by January. It’s clearly taken rather longer than hoped — that’s been down to a combination of “technical teething issues” and the (previously bootstrapping) startup taking time out to take in a small seed funding round, he says now.
Swytch closed this round in April (the amount is not being disclosed). Investors include Neil Hutchinson (Neon Adventures); James Hilton, CEO of M&C Saatchi Mobile; and Yannick Roux, Principal investor at EC1 Capital.
The team has also been beta testing the service for the past six months, with 1,000 beta users split evenly across Android and iOS.
There are of course multiple burner phone number services already established in the market — whether it’s Burner, Hushed, Line2 or even Skype (which lets users run a landline number that non-Skype users can dial to ring their Skype account).
The difference between Swytch and existing services is it can offer users cloud-based U.K. mobile numbers — because it’s been working with a U.K. carrier to get access to those numbers — whereas Michael claims “almost everybody else is only able to offer U.S. numbers”.
“We’re only able to do this after working with a UK mobile network operator. It’s this requirement to have a network operator on board in order to access their number ranges that has prevented a similar service from launching earlier. And now we’re making headway with other operators too,” he adds.
Another differentiator he points to is that Swytch is offering U.K. mobile numbers worldwide — allowing people anywhere to pay for a U.K. mobile number, not just people living in the U.K. “Hushed offers U.S. numbers to worldwide users, but it only offers U.K. landline numbers, not mobile. Even newer entrants like Shuffle still only offer U.S. numbers to U.S. users,” he adds.
Pricing wise, Swytch is offering users one number free for six months — including 50p credit for outgoing usage (incoming comms to a Swytch number are free) to get the ball rolling.
The pricing structure thereafter is £4.99 per number (with 50p credit) for one month; or £14.99 for six months (with £1 credit); or £24.99 for one year (with £2 credit). There’s no contracts for these additional numbers — beyond whatever the user chooses to pay for.
Swytch says outgoing comms from one of its cloud numbers are cheaper than “traditional” carrier call charges — especially when compared to pay as you go. For example, calls to U.K. mobile numbers cost 6p per minute, or it’s 6p per SMS sent to U.K. mobile numbers. So price wise it’s more lining up against players in the U.K.’s MVNO market, albeit those players typically requires users switch their SIM — something Swytch users don’t need to do.
Why would phone users want to run an additional — or multiple — U.K. mobile phone numbers off their existing SIM? Swytch points to various use cases, from business users wanting a local number to offer U.K. customers or wanting to separate their work and personal communications on the same phone, to Brits traveling or living abroad wanting to retain a local number for cheaper comms, or people wanting not to have to give out their actual phone number when signing up for services.