Portfolio News

SayCel Graduates From Seed Stage Funding

Apr 11 , 2018
SayCel Tower
On this page

UNICEF Venture Fund is proud to see portfolio member, Saycel — graduate. They’ve come a long way – from numerous product iterations, to deep diving into understanding their ecosystem better, strengthening their business model, and gearing up on taking their solution to market. They’re now at a stage to collaborate at a larger scale – as they find new pathways to work with partners, investors, and the open source community.

Our WebPh.one platform, available on beta release, has provided 17 community cellular networks in Nicaragua and Mexico and five emergency mesh networks in New York City. And about 34,000+ minutes of calls have been conducted with an average of 44% savings compared to other networks.

700 million people in the world do not have access to communications, and when they do have access many cannot afford it. In Nicaragua, the average cost of a cellular call is $0.48 a minute, and the internet penetration rate is at 15.5%.  The cost of communications is a huge financial sacrifice for people making $2 a day, and it limits their security and economic development.

SayCel focuses on increasing access to communication through the deployment of last mile Fiber Optics, Freemium Wifi HotSpots, Open Source Community Cellular and we bridge all these networks with the WebPh.one application. 

SayCel, Freemium ISP, Community Cellular Networks, and the WebPh.one Application

Key Achievements

Our major milestone. Developing WebPh.one – an open source progressive web application that allows you to make calls to Community Cellular Networks and to each other. WebPh.one technology allows users of open source cell networks to circumvent the traditional phone system (PTSN), which dramatically decreases the cost of communication.

The WebPhone is an extremely important accomplishment as it bridges the gap between data network users 3G/4G Smartphones (common in cities, and more developed areas) and rural community cellular users 2G feature phones (still very common in developing regions).

As of November of 2017,  This application was released in November of 2017 in collaboration with 17 CCNs in Oaxaca, Mexico and Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua. In April 2018 WebPh.one will be deployed in NYC in 6 Community Mesh Networks by Resilient Communities and Othernet (Eyebeam).  

Webphone has now generated 534 users, resulting in over 11,034 calls and 34,584 minutes of talk time. WebPhone users have reported a monthly savings of $7.87.

We’ve also created an open source cellular testbed called PearlCel in Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua. It is a partnership with the Pearl Lagoon Autonomous Community Government. In addition, the SayCel cellular system provides a local emergency 911 phone number that connects directly to the police station. This is the first time this emergency phone service has been installed in any community on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. SayCel’s Mass SMS provides daily weather reports, weather warnings, and local government announcements. The network currently has 296 users since it inception in February of 2017 has produced 97,256 SMSs, and 16,836 voice calls. and has produced 97,256 SMSs, and 17,390 voice calls.

The network currently has 296 users since it inception in February of 2017 has produced 97,256 SMSs, and 16,836 voice calls. and has produced 97,256 SMSs, and 17,390 voice calls.
SayCel Tower

Photo Credits | Top & In Article: © SayCel 

Users report saving on average 44% on their communications cost with an average spend of $9.25 per month for SayCel users vs. $17.25 per month for non-SayCel users. In addition knowledge of 911 emergency service is at 98% for SayCel users, while prior to SayCel, knowledge of emergency communications was not available.

SayCel developed FISHLINE, an SMS based advertising platform. Users of FISHLINE can advertise products and goods and send it out to the PearlCel user base. Recipients of the text message can respond to announcements and easily connect to the seller.

SayCel installed an internet connection in Pearl Lagoon, connecting the open source cellular system to Bluefields via a 23 mile wifi link from Aberdeen Hill, to a hub in Central, Bluefields. This infrastructure lays the groundwork for reliable expansion of SayCel’s data communication networks as a last mile provider in rural regions of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua.

SayCel received an ISP License from TELCOR, the Nicaraguan telecommunications regulator. The solicitation process took over a year, and is not easily accessible in Nicaragua. An ISP License further strengthens SayCel’s long term sustainability as last mile provider in the region.

Way Forward

We are currently in talks with Microsoft Affordable Access to obtain a grant to connect rural communities surrounding Pearl Lagoon and Bluefields to affordable internet. We submitted an application for funding to deploy WiFi hotspots in Bluefields under a freemium model ISP with WebPh.one as a free local communications application.

We are also in discussions with Movistar Nicaragua for possible collaboration in the future installation of Community Cellular Networks in Nicaragua. We are also connecting with UNICEF’s Office of Innovation in Nicaragua to coordinate on future projects in the Caribbean Coast, offering tech support, consulting and research services. Finally, we are looking to obtain additional funding from the World Bank in Nicaragua to help with efforts such as the disaster readiness project.

Share this story