Today, we had the chance to interview Sebastiano Bertani, the co-founder and CEO of Tanaza.
Tanaza is a Milan-based startup that provides a centralized, cloud-based service to manage wifi access points, without any expensive dedicated hardware controller. The young company, which was founded in 2011, aims to provide its customers (IT managers and SMEs) with enterprise level performance, at a fraction of the cost.
When did you or your co-founders have the idea for Tanaza and what made you sure it was the right one?
The idea started to come out in 2008-2009. At that time me and the other co-founders were installing various access points in our houses and all had the same problem, which was how to manage them in an effective way. We started thinking that a centralized dashboard would be very useful for us, and it would have solved a real pain that we had. In the meantime, while working for Accenture, I discovered that the problem of managing wifi was very common in all kind of companies, from small businesses to large enterprises. We started to develop a prototype just for fun, but in 2009 started to believe in the possibility of creating a real startup, as the feedback we had from some System Integrators was amazing.
How did you finance the startup phase of Tanaza and who invested?
Tanaza was financed by OrmaPrima, an private Italian investment firm focused on high-tech ICT startups. It’s made by a group of professionals with strong backgrounds in the telecommunication and wireless industries; they understood quickly the concept of Tanaza and the market potential of a cloud-based compatible Wi-Fi controller.
What makes Tanaza’s solution to manage Wi-Fi Access Points unique or better than other solutions out there?
We are the only company offering a solution that is 100% compatible with third party products. We can literally add centralized enterprise-level features to consumer-level access points, without changing any device or firmware. Thanks to our innovation, which is IP protected, we can deliver the lowest cost solution to the market.
The basic version of Tanaza is completely free and enables users to manage two Access Points (APs). In addition to the free plan, users can buy credits ($1.99 per month) in order to handle additional APs. How many APs does the typical Tanaza user manage, and when are you going to launch a premium plan for unlimited Access Points?
We have two kinds of customers: end users and system integrators. End users are small businesses, hotels, schools and usually have a network made up by 3 to 20 access points. End users with IT skills can directly manage their networks through Tanaza. Non-skilled end users can do it through a System Integrator. System Integrators usually have 5 to 10 customers and manage multiple networks through their Tanaza centralized dashboard, getting volume discount. We are also going to launch a Lead User programme, in order to allow unlimited access to our ‘special’ customers.
Right now Tanaza.com is available in English, Italian, French, German and Chinese (through Google Translate). Are there any plans to add even more languages soon (with or without the help of Google) and which ones are these most likely to be?
As we provide the lowest-cost wifi management solution out there, we think that BRIC countries are going to be an interesting market, as no one there can afford an enterprise-level solution. For this reason, our website will be soon translated into new languages, starting with Chinese. Google translation is just a temporary solution and we are aware that genuine translation are more effective.
What’s your impression of Tanaza’s market acceptance so far and what kind of marketing strategies do you use in order to promote your product and Tanaza as a brand?
Tanaza is considered by many IT experts as a very ambitious project; in fact, managing Access Points by Netgear, Ubiquiti, TP-Link, D-Link and others is a difficult challenge. People that see that we can do it are usually amazed, as we solve a very specific problem right from the cloud, which is cost effective. Our marketing strategy is based on the freemium concept and an aggressive value pricing; users can try Tanaza for free with a limited number of access points and see how it works, and then convert to premium customers, at a price that is perceived as very low, in comparison to the value received. Regarding communication, we rely mainly on engaging Lead Users and PR in generating content about Tanaza. It’s usually a good story to tell.
Could you give us a brief overview of your roadmap for the next 12 months and maybe a sense of where you’d like to see Tanaza in about 3 years from now?
In the next 12 months we will support more than 50 models of Access Points, including the main models from top-leading brands such as TP-Link, D-Link, Netgear, Ubiquiti, Xirrus and some low cost solutions.
Our long term mission is to become the global price leader in the Wi-Fi Management solutions market.
Is Tanaza hiring right now? And if so, what kind of talent are you looking for?
Yes, we are hiring talented R&D web and java developers, Quality Assurance managers, Tech Support reps., Marketing & Sales managers. We are growing and structuring our processes and functions.
What is your experience of Milan as a location to start up a company?
The Italian startup environment is getting better and better every year, and Milan is a good place to start a company. We know that places like Silicon Valley would offer some advantage, but we believe it’s also possible here, if you work with a flexible lean structure. We have a wide network of relationships within the US, Taiwan, China and India, where we outsource non-core activities to the best professionals: user experience designers, web developers, marketing partners and communication partners.
By the way: You can find out about other interesting startups from Italy in this list.