May 1, 2024

Washington Business Journal DC Inno

Small Ashburn startup aims to take on world’s biggest SIM card players

Chris Jahr

He’s starting off small, but Christoph Jahr hopes to someday take on the few global vendors that produce nearly all of the SIM cards for mobile devices globally.

RiPSIM Technologies, the Ashburn startup he co-founded in 2021 and for which he is CEO, has already begun this work by producing digital SIM cards for small wireless communications firms, such as Hawaii mobile carrier mobi, South Dakota-based telecom firm James Valley Wireless and military-grade micro datacenter maker in Colorado Springs. These small carriers use RiPSIM’s cloud-based eSIM creation platform for their wireless devices, which connect to networks run by these operators.

But he believes the SIM card market is ripe for disruption, and his goal is to someday produce eSIMS for wireless carriers with tens of millions of subscribers such as AT&T Inc. or Verizon Communications Inc.

It was about a decade ago when eSIMs began to replace physical SIM cards in smartphones and tablets, but the technology has really taken off since 2022, when Apple Inc. launched the iPhone 14, which lacks a dedicated SIM card tray and only supports eSIMs.

But as Jahr, who worked for German SIM vendor Giesecke + Devrient for nearly 25 years, explained during a video interview, wireless carriers still rely on legacy SIM vendors for the production of the authentication technology behind eSIMs. Because of this, he said smaller carriers like mobi, which don’t have high volume requests for eSIMs, are often ignored by the largest SIM vendors, like Giesecke + Devrient or Netherlands-based Thales DIS.

“[Mobi] told us point blank these SIM vendors wouldn’t call them back,” Jahr said. “This is a carrier with 60,000 subscribers with ambitions to move over to the mainland, which, if they execute on their business model, they could have one million to two million subscribers.”

RiPSIM is also working to serve military-oriented customers like, a Department of Defense vendor that makes telecom infrastructure for first responders and government clients. Since none of the legacy SIM vendors are based in the U.S., Jahr said RiPSIM could become a desirable, sovereign provider for customers that cater to DOD and other military partners.

Still, he has much bigger ambitions. RiPSIM’s cloud-based eSIM management platform is powered on the back-end by Amazon Web Services Inc. and can easily scale to meet the eSIM demands of the AT&Ts or Verizons, he said. RiPSIM could churn out about 25 eSIMs per second if need be,he added.

“We ultimately want to be the Netflix of the SIM industry; once upon a time there was Blockbuster Video, they made their money by charging for late fees, they made you drive to and from the store, the videos you wanted to watch weren’t always in stock. What has Netflix done? They’ve put everything in the cloud, made it easy, made it simple and made it affordable,” Jahr said. “That’s how we describe what we’re doing with RiPSIM.”

Jahr acknowledged that RiPSIM isn’t producing “a lot of revenue yet,” but said that within the next 12 months he envisions booking “Tier 1 carrier” as a customer.

He’s enlisted his former “arch nemesis,” Juan Carlos Lazcano, to lead sales for RiPSIM. Lazcano previously worked at Thales DIS for decades. RiPSIM has 12 employees, five of whom have prior experience at one of the top European SIM vendors.

“They came over lovingly and freely and with enthusiasm,” Jahr said with a laugh.