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This startup wants to make free wi-fi work for businesses

The co-founders of Nimbus & Co are: Mr Thio (left), Mr Huang (second from left) and Mr Goh (right). Mr Andrean (second from right) is appointed to its Jakarta office. Beyond providing free wi-fi to customers, businesses such as restaurants can tap Nimbus Social to understand customer behaviour and do more targeted digital marketing.


A HOMEGROWN startup is taking aim at a service from which people derive great pleasure when they are out and about: free wi-fi hotspots.

Social wi-fi company, Nimbus & Co, wants to help businesses put to work their free but otherwise mostly idle hotspots, to boost marketing efforts and improve sales.

Nimbus is doing that through its core offering, Nimbus Social, which applies analytics to existing wi-fi infrastructure to help businesses "monetise their wi-fi". Rather than merely providing free wi-fi to customers, businesses such as restaurants, gyms and malls can tap Nimbus Social to understand customer behaviour and do more targeted digital marketing.

Michael Huang, co-founder of Nimbus, said: "The number one pain point that we are trying to address is the lack of social engagement and digital footprint among many businesses in Singapore."

That is, businesses here either have no fan base or have an "unengaged" one, as well as "poorly optimised" social media accounts, websites and campaigns. Nimbus wants to change that through Nimbus Social, in addition to providing consultancy and digital marketing services.

"The idea of monetising wi-fi is not new, but our approach to monetising wi-fi is," Mr Huang told The Business Times. "Nimbus takes it a step further by providing a holistic solution which addresses the above issues. We help clients make sense of the data and craft a comprehensive action plan, rather than just collect data and hand it over to businesses."

Social wi-fi, the technology that powers Nimbus Social, works by allowing customers to connect to a business's wi-fi network, log in using their email or social media plugin, and view the business's welcome page - from which they may surf other sites or apps.

Businesses, in turn, gain user data (for example, name, contact, gender, age) and a direct communication channel with their customers.

This means that customers can be kept informed about special offers and discounts in real time, and businesses can obtain a better understanding of who their customers are, giving them an intelligent way to engage with targeted, automated digital content (such as sending customers a birthday promotion) and build loyalty.

Mr Huang said: "Digital allows for less costly and more tailored marketing campaigns, as opposed to traditional offline methods that are costly, not targeted and lack traceability."

Nimbus Social's clients include cafe chain J.CO Donuts, hair salon group Team Salon, as well as Katrina Group restaurants such as Bali Thai, Sopho, Streats and Spize. Nimbus has also provided consultancy or digital marketing services to brands such as Hermes, Novotel and Anytime Fitness.

Its two other co-founders are Alexander Thio and Donovan Goh. Mr Goh's parents co-founded and run Katrina Group, which in July was listed on Catalist. Nimbus is at present setting up shop in Jakarta, for which it has appointed local partner Putra Andrean, who manages brands such as J.CO and BreadTalk Indonesia.

Mr Huang said: "For now, our plan is to grow with our clients. We are always on the lookout for new advancements and technology that are complementary. Apart from Indonesia, we are also strategising on Malaysia."