GSM Nation

What it does: Sells unlocked cell phones
Founders: Junaid Shams, 25, and Ahmed Khattak, 25 (pictured left to right, with head of technology Enam ul Haque)
Based: New Haven, Conn.
Revenue 2010: $8 million
Revenue 2011 (projected): $35 million

During a year off spent working in London, Yale student Ahmed Khattak saw that Europeans commonly used cell phones free of contracts with wireless carriers. In 2008, after he returned, he started a business selling unlocked phones online with friend Junaid Shams, a student at George Washington University. The pitch: Customers get cheaper, contract-free service and save hundreds of dollars each year, says Shams, giving GSM Nation an advantage over retailers that sell phones only with expensive, multiyear commitments. With about $150,000 of their own and their families’ money, plus free office space and support from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, the two launched GSM Nation in March 2010. The site sells mobile devices such as iPhones and BlackBerrys that have been unlocked by the manufacturers and can be connected to any wireless carrier. “The whole point was to educate the consumers,” says Khattak. Clients range from individuals to government agencies such as the U.S. State Dept. GSM Nation, which has 12 employees, has sold 50,000 phones since it launched, according to Shams. A large share of sales come from abroad, but Shams expects U.S. sales to increase as consumers become more familiar with contract-free service. —Venessa Wong
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