How I Built An SMS Automation Tool For Anyone To Get Their Global Entry Interview Appointments Quickly

Published: April 26th, 2023
Global Entry Alerts
from New York, NY, USA
started March 2022
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi all! My name is Vlad Verba and I founded Global Entry Alerts, the easiest and quickest way to skip the line and get your Global Entry interview appointment.

We help users get a Global Entry interview appointment without having to wait an average of 365+ days. The main product we sell is SMS alerts, which will tell you when an appointment is available in your location.

Today, Global Entry Alerts makes over $1,200 / month profit, with very minimal effort required.

A big advantage of a software business is that startup costs are relatively low. This made me very comfortable with pursuing the idea because I knew I wouldn’t be losing tons of money in trying to build it out.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Global Entry Alerts started back in March 2022, when I was applying to get for Global Entry for myself. Global Entry is a service that allows pre-approved travelers to get expedited clearance through security upon arrival into the United States. Global Entry also gives the holder TSA PreCheck, which significantly speeds up the security line process at airports. For those of you who aren't familiar with the process, it requires you to pay a fee, submit an online application and finally attend an interview.

After getting conditionally approved I noticed that most locations have wait times of over 365 days. I started looking around online and noticed that some people figured out ways to scan Global Entry appointments and find openings. I had some technical experience, so I decided to build out a version that would alert me of appointments that opened up in my desired locations. I was able to change my appointment from October 2022 to April 2022.

I figured that I can help out other people in the same situation. So I made a Twitter feed that would tweet out every time an appointment opened up in a location near me. I let it run and didn’t think about it for 1-2 weeks. I came back to the Twitter page sometime later and noticed that close to 200 people followed it in that short period of time.

This was the ‘aha’ moment that validated to me that I wasn’t the only one with this problem. I decided to update the Twitter feed to include appointment notifications for the biggest airports in the United States, hoping to help as many people as possible.

As the Twitter page grew, I had people sending me DMs asking for alerts for certain locations. This is where I figured out that people needed a solution to this problem. I started working on a paid system that would allow users to sign up for up to 3 locations and receive interview appointment alerts for that location directly through SMS.

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

The first version of the product was the Twitter feed which tweeted out Global Entry interview appointments for free. This is something that people still use, but it’s a bit more difficult to follow and find the appointment you need since it is mixed in with so many other random locations. So I came up with a paid version where you can sign up and get personalized SMS alerts for any 3 appointment locations.

This was honestly a long process. This was my first time building any sort of full-fledged production software. I had to do a lot of research on what tech to use, places to get website templates to build quicker, etc.

My general philosophy is to use what you know. I’ve seen a lot of people jump from different languages to frameworks, to databases. I believe if you have experience in something, use the experience you already have. My general tech stack is just Python and PostgreSQL. I usually try to leave the front end to a website template.

I always read about how important it is to ship quickly. I didn’t want to spend months building a product, especially if I realized people didn’t want it.

Something I knew I could to do ship ASAP was not build the website design and front end by myself. I asked around on Twitter and stumbled on, which has a bunch of modern website templates. This is how I made the front end of I haven’t changed it since.

I then started looking at how to collect payments and decided to go with Stripe. After many hours of Youtube videos, I was able to integrate Stripe with my website backend.

I also had to learn how to use Twilio (to send SMS messages). This was pretty easy to understand and build on top of.

A big advantage of a software business is that startup costs are relatively low. This made me very comfortable with pursuing the idea because I knew I wouldn’t be losing tons of money in trying to build it out.

The biggest thing I learned from this is how important it is to ship quickly. Your customer doesn’t care about dark mode (even if they say they do). However, I also learned that shipping quickly is a skill. Being comfortable with tools, tech stacks, and integrations, that all takes time. I was discouraged at first that I couldn’t launch as quickly as I wanted to. But now I understand that everything is a learning process, and with each iteration, you will get better.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I have always enjoyed doing small side projects while I was in college and still enjoy it now that I have a career. Throughout the years I have made things from iPhone games, drop shipping websites, social media meme pages, and other small coding projects. Although these were all fun and I gained a larger skillset, it took me a long time of trying and learning new things to get to Global Entry Alerts.

Throughout the years and projects I’ve done, I started to notice I got more interest in my projects when they fixed a problem for others as well as myself. Global Entry Alerts started as a way for just me to get an appointment and spiraled into a place where I can help other people start traveling stress-free.

The project started as a free Twitter page, to which I later added a website where users can sign up for a paid SMS option. During the initial launch, I was getting about one sale every other day or so for about the first month. I then got a shoutout from a travel influencer on their Instagram story, which sent a lot of traffic to my Twitter and website. Sales started consistently ticking up from there.

After seeing the uptick in sales I asked for testimonials from customers and put them on the website and Twitter page. I believe hearing real testimonials about how the software was useful to others also helps bring in more customers.

The biggest thing I learned from my launch is the importance of a good product, and good marketing. Both are crucial in gaining traction and helping your business grow. I had a marketing channel set up (Twitter), and I was able to build a product so good, that influencers were posting about it for free. I think this is an edge case, but it showed me the importance of solving extremely painful problems that help people.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

This project has been interesting because I’ve had to do virtually nothing to attract customers. My main source of traffic is the Twitter account, @AlertEntry, which basically runs by itself and just continually sends out tweets whenever a new interview appointment is available. Most users find the Twitter account through search, and then if they are interested in getting alerts via SMS, sign up through the website, which is linked in the account bio.

In the beginning, you don’t even need a defined direction, you just need to get something done.

I have also found some success using Reddit. I believe Reddit is a slightly more complicated platform, and the users are more critical. However, if you can solve a genuine pain point and help people without spamming, you can get a lot of good feedback. Posting on related travel subreddits helped a lot.

I have also been lucky enough to gain a lot of customers organically. Travel influencers (such as The Points Guy) have posted about my tool to their audience. I’ve also been organically posted by people on Facebook travel pages. I do not believe in the ‘build it and they will come’ motto. However, I think having a genuinely useful product helps attract users and interest from the community.

A combination of these marketing channels helps the brand build awareness online, and drive users from every corner of the internet. Diversifying helps.


One flaw of this business is that there aren’t many ways to retain customers. The current tool is set up as a one-time payment. Once the user gets their Global Entry appointment, they opt out. However, I find that many customers recommend our tool to their friends because they are very happy with it.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today, Global Entry Alerts is a relatively low-maintenance project. I do not spend any money on paid ads, influencer marketing, etc. My main costs come from sending the SMS messages, and general hosting/ tech.

Something I want to improve on is our SEO. I don’t post blogs or have any way for users to find us organically.

I think Global Entry Alerts is a fun side project, not necessarily a huge business. It’s something fun that I can keep working on and feel like I’m making a small difference in people’s lives.

I haven't thought about ad revenue. I've tried product affiliates for a little bit but it never really took off.

I’ve had some ideas around other ‘travel hacks’ type tools and content, but I would need to test it out to see if people need it.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Do what works. I believe so many people try to come up with a billion-dollar idea. I’ve never really been into that. The risk there is very high. I think being able to find a business that works and improve on top of it, is a safer way to start making money with a business.

This is especially true if you’re just starting out, since getting some instant validation will help motivate you. In my case, I found some examples online of people building tech that helps them get Global Entry appointments faster. I took those ideas and built them on top of them to make a better product.

Ship fast. This is super important and will help you from burning out and feeling discouraged. If you spend 6 months building something that no one wants, you likely wouldn’t want to go through that paid again. For that reason, I think it’s important to build fast and ship fast.

It is important to note, I found that shipping fast is a skill just like any other. It’s difficult to ship fast on your first project. But as you get comfortable with the tools you use and familiarize yourself with what it takes to ship, it’ll get easier. I also don’t think shipping fast is an excuse for being sloppy. The last thing I’d want to do with a side project is clean up technical debt for weeks. I read a quote somewhere once: ‘Slow is smooth, smooth is fast’.

Ask for feedback. You should always be listening to your customer and asking for feedback. It’s as simple as sending a direct message or an email and asking what they thought about your product. I still reach out directly and ask for testimonials. Your customers understand your product, and what they want out of your product. If you don’t have customers, reach out to potential customers. Offer a free month of your product for a testimonial. If your business solves a real pain point for them, that’s a no-brainer.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

There aren’t too many tools that I use to run the business. I believe that when there are too many moving parts, things get a lot harder to manage. Here are the tools that are essential to running Global Entry Alerts:

Python: this isn’t a tool per se, but the Python programming language is crucial for all the automation and functions of the business. I highly recommend people learn Python and explore how much they can do with it. My favorite book for this is Automating the Boring Stuff With Python.

Stripe: I’m sure this needs no introduction. Stripe is my payment processor of choice. I’ve read many convincing arguments against it, but it has served me well so far.

Twilio: I use Twilio’s API to send automated SMS alerts to users who sign up for the paid service.

Google Analytics: I use Google Analytics to analyze site traffic and that sort of thing. It’s super complicated for me so I am still learning.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I’m not a huge fan of reading books, since I’m young and naive, and think I can absorb more knowledge through Twitter. One thing that I found that helped me a lot was curating a good Twitter feed. This includes following builders, entrepreneurs, indie hackers, etc. This way you’re able to ‘surround yourself’ with like-minded people and learn from them.

I’m also not big on podcasts, but someone recommended the ‘All-In’ podcast to me. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly helpful with starting a small business/ side project, but I listen to it for a macro view of tech, politics, trends, etc.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

For entrepreneurs just starting out, the most important thing is to start. So many people consume business content but never actually apply it. It’s easy to get dopamine hits from business motivation, or screenshots of someone else’s success. We somehow convince ourselves that consuming this content is helpful for us. It’s not. The best thing you can do for yourself is to take the first step and go from 0 to 1.

In the beginning, you don’t even need a defined direction, you just need to get something done. Your projects, experiments, and businesses will all stack on top of each other, help you develop your skills and eventually build something great.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Not looking to hire currently. If you’re interested in sending some ideas my way, feel free to reach out on my personal Twitter.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!