One of the first things I did when I moved to Paris back in 2000 was go get a cell phone, it was my first. Even back then I couldn’t manage not staying connected in this very social city. Sixteen years and a gazillion technological light years away, today I couldn’t imagine surviving in this city without, not just any phone – a smartphone. As such, when I was e-introduced to Nina Forlani by the lovely Patricia Parisienne, I was intrigued to learn about the unique new smartphone rental company which she created with her brother: INSIDR. Nina and I met for coffee and she gave me the inside scoop on these much beyond average phones which connect visitors to the real pulse of Paris.
Tell us a little about yourself (and Benjamin)
We are sixth-generation Parisian siblings. We both share the same love for travel; Ben has lived in more than 20 countries with a long stay in Japan, and I have lived in Asia for a stint too. We also absolutely love our home city. Despite these similarities, however, we have very different backgrounds. Ben is a former consultant in financial strategy working for a big firm and I was a fashion designer!
What exactly is INSIDR?
We provide tourists coming to Paris with a smartphone, which functions as an interactive, digital travel guide. The INSIDR smartphones are equipped with unlimited 4G and WIFI hotspot to solve traveler’s connectivity issues whilst travelling abroad. But that’s not all! We aim is to give travelers a practical tool that gives them access to the Parisians Paris for a more authentic travel experience. With our smartphones, you will have access to our specialized maps which point you to the very best spots Paris has to offer, all recommended by local Parisians, so whether you are looking for an outdoor terrace for a cocktail or a cozy café for brunch or a hidden museum open on a Sunday, your answers are but a click away!
On top of that, all our travelers have instant access to a community of Parisians who give them live responses to their Paris related questions; whether that be a query about transport or recommendations for a place to eat, the INSIDERS have got you covered.
How was the project born?
Our passion for Paris, as well as our experience as AirBnB hosts led us to create INSIDR Paris. We felt the travellers we came in contact with in Paris were seeking a rich, authentic travel experience, yet often ended up doing the same-old mass tourism activities that didn’t reflect the city we know and love – and as Ben and I were both looking for a career change, we decided to create a business which tackled these issues!
What makes INSIDR different from other phone rentals or buying a local sim card?
From the get go, we wanted to created a much more personable service that addresses the needs of tourists than what is currently available on the market. Our maps are equipped with over 700 recommendations that we constantly update, so you don’t need to trawl through endless blogs and articles to find the most current, trendy things to do in Paris – with our phone it’s all in one place, and just one click away – you certainly don’t get that by buying a SIM card! Our community of Parisians who are ready to answer your questions via our smartphones is unique to INSIDR. We have also carefully selected the most useful apps & services for travelers in Paris, so instead of a generic SIM card, our phones are geared to helping tourists have the best trip!
Where are your clients mostly from?
They are from all over the world, but we have a lot of travelers coming from American, Canada and Australia as well as from Asia (Taiwan and Singapore), Latin America and occasionally Europe.
Have any surprises come up since the launch?
We have been pleasantly surprised how our business is growing thanks to word of mouth! Many of our travelers share how they enjoyed using INSIDR with their friends and family so our own customers become INSIDR ambassador’s.
It has also been a nice surprise to see the many hotels and companies that initially turned their nose up at INSIDR when we were small, but we are finding more and more that as our start-up is expanding, these same hotels and the ones approaching us, the tables are definitely turning!
How have most of your customers found out about you?
We have partnered with some wonderful apartment rental companies who recommend our services to their guests, so a lot of our clients hear of us through apartment hosts. Word of mouth has also been very effective as well as people who are googling questions about internet connectivity abroad and Paris tips.
What have you learnt from the endeavor so far?
It certainly has been an intense rollercoaster of an adventure. There has been ups and downs, but all in all it has been a steep, but enjoyable learning curve! This year has been tough for everyone working in tourism, but that’s taught Ben and I real stick ability and creative thinking in our business strategies!
What’s next? Do you have any connected projects or enhancements coming up?
We’re currently working on two new features which we will be adding to our phones very soon! Our INSIDR Walks are guided walks around Paris that you can follow on the INSIDR smartphones! We also have a Paris expert map which share with our travelers the top addresses of our favorite Paris bloggers!
Merci beaucoup Nina! Actually on that note… INSIDR users will soon have access to my special romantic Paris map which I created exclusively for INSIDR! More on this to come!
Rental fees for a INSIDR phone start from 29 euros which includes delivery and a personal instructional tutorial. See full details on their site here.
Or to see how the phones work first-hand… watch this fun video they produced!