We’re introducing you to three time rollerblading world champion and fabulous founder of OnOff, Taïg Khris
Taïg Khris is not your average startup founder.
A professional sportsman and three time world rollerblading champion, Taïg came to tech late in life.
Taïg’s journey as a tech entrepreneur began in December 2014. Approaching 40 and laid up in hospital with a broken leg and a feeling that his high-level sporting career was coming to a close, Taïg decided to do something completely different. All he needed was a big idea.
His broken leg gave him time to think. Looking into the telecoms industry, he found it strange that with so many of the tools we use (email, computer files, music..) being based in the cloud, our mobile phone numbers should be stuck in plastic sim cards in our phones. If you lose your phone or it runs out of battery you can no longer access your number until you find a new sim card or get to a charger.
He therefore came up with the idea of storing telephone numbers in the cloud, so that they are accessible from other devices, and also of enabling people to have as many telephone numbers as they do email addresses. To help put his idea into action – and after baffling existing telecom providers who said they were unable to help – Taïg enlisted a chief telecom architect and found a telecom operator willing to rent out it’s networks. A few months down the line with financial support from friends and family and some new team members, OnOff was launched.
OnOff is an app that allows everyone to use multiple numbers on one smartphone, instantly. OnOff numbers are used with any regular SIM card and can be switched ‘on’ or ‘off’ by users, allowing them to control their availability. The numbers are stocked in the cloud and users can access them quickly and easily via their OnOff account.
If you are travelling to a different country then OnOff will allow you to operate with a local number without having to change your phone or your sim card, meaning that residents can call you and be charged local rates. You can also collect as many temporary telephone numbers as you need. This can be particularly useful if, for example, you’re selling something online and you don’t want to share your personal number with unknown potential buyers or you want to separate your personal and professional numbers.
Why OnOff ?
Today OnOff functions as a telecom operator in 21 countries and is able to provide numbers from 33 countries. The jump from extreme rollerblader to tech entrepreneur, however, wasn’t an easy one. Early users encountered frequent problems and the young CEO was dogged by regulators as existing laws didn’t cover this new field of activity. When first approached back in 2014, institutional investors also refused to fund OnOff either failing to see its potential or deeming the venture too risky.
Short of cash, for four years he struggled to pay his team and monthly network rental charges. Times were hard but Taïg Khris is not one to give up.
Thanks to his impressive lobbying skills and the support of family, friends and contacts – including his surgeon 🙂 – Taïg managed to gather together a remarkable 10 million euros to fund OnOff’s early development. This meant that he was able to embark Venture Capitalists on his next funding round in 2017 armed with four patents and metrics proving his business model to be viable. He raised 10 million euros with Breega, IDInvest and One Ragtime .
When asked what it was about Taïg and his company that caught his eye, Breega Founding Partner François Paulus, who is himself a telecoms entrepreneur tells us:
“When I first heard about Taïg’s idea, I’ll admit to being skeptical. Nothing like this had been attempted in the telecoms industry and I wondered whether there was a market for it. Curious, I looked into Taïg’s business model and the new technology he proposed. I was more than impressed with what I saw”.
So much that Breega offered to become an investor.
Why Breega ?
Taïg tells us that François’s knowledge of the telecoms sector, his technical expertise, and the advice and contacts he provides make him a very valuable board member. He also appreciates the advice and qualified engineers presented to him by Breega’s HR & Talent squad.
The 10 million in funding Taïg received in 2018 gave him and his company a new lease of life. Today, over 2 billion messages have been exchanged using OnOff’s patented technology and the company’s turnover has doubled each year, turning over € 10 m in 2020. Traditional operators are at last catching on. After launching a B2B offer, OnOff recently signed a deal with French telecoms giant, Bouygues telecom, that now sells OnOff’s services under its own name. And Taïg tells us that similar partnerships with American operators are soon to be announced. Exciting times!
So what other goals does the ex-champion have in mind for his company ?
Taïg says that he will soon be embarking on a large multi million funding round that should help OnOff to become the Netflix of telecommunications. A billion dollar company that will have forever changed the way mobile telephone numbers are stored and used.
At Breega we believe Taïg’s goals to be well within his grasp. The same tenacity, energy and vision that enabled him to become a world rollerblading champion will no doubt also power this self-taught entrepreneur to global success as he continues to leap with vigour over all the obstacles he encounters.
…When you think about, In Taïg’s case, breaking a leg really did turn out to be lucky.