Wikipedia founder backs "good causes" mobile operator

LONDON Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:44pm IST

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales attends the international Wikimedia conference in Hong Kong August 9, 2013. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales attends the international Wikimedia conference in Hong Kong August 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Tyrone Siu

Related Topics

Stocks

   

LONDON (Reuters) - Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has taken a "substantial" stake in The People's Operator (TPO), a London-based mobile provider that pays 10 percent of revenue to good causes, with the aim of taking it to the United States and other markets.

Wales said TPO had pulled off the difficult feat of creating an inspirational business that had solid commercial foundations.

"Its big vision is to generate massive sums of money for good causes," he said in a telephone interview on Monday. "But when I worked though the numbers and looked at the business model, it made a lot of sense to me."

TPO is a so-called mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which means it relies on an existing operator's network, in this case EE, the British joint venture between France's Orange (ORAN.PA) and Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE).

It launched a pay-as-you-go operation in November 2012 and followed in April 2013 with a contract offering unlimited voice, mobile and data for 14.99 pounds a month. Ten percent of revenue is directed to any good cause chosen by the customer and the company also pledges to pay 25 percent of its profits to charity.

Mark Epstein, chief executive and one of the company's founders, did not reveal customer numbers, but said there had been a rapid increase in take-up since it introduced its unlimited deal, from which hundreds of good causes were benefiting.

TPO, which is not yet profitable, does not spend huge sums on marketing, Epstein said, relying instead on word-of-mouth and promotion by the organisations it helps.

Wales, who launched online encyclopaedia Wikipedia 13 years ago, said he would help TPO expand internationally, starting with the United States. He will be co-chairman of the company.

"We need to go global as quickly as possible," he said. "We will really push into other markets as soon as we can get deals done."

He said he would also help create a louder online buzz for TPO. "One of the reasons they were interested in me is to really build that online community - an online offer that has all the tools they need to accelerate virally." (Editing by David Holmes)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Hacking

TECH SHOWCASE

Weak Demand

Weak Demand

Sony warns smartphone weakness will brake profit progress after Q1 surge.  Full Article 

Bruising Years

Bruising Years

New products to return Taiwan's HTC to growth by year end.  Full Article 

Making it Big

Making it Big

Xiaomi's star rises as Chinese handset makers gnaw at Samsung's share: report.  Full Article 

Privacy Concerns

Privacy Concerns

Microsoft ordered by U.S. judge to submit customer's emails from abroad.  Full Article 

Smartphone Scare

Smartphone Scare

Smartphone management flaws puts users at risk, researchers say.  Full Article 

Samsung Results

Samsung Results

Samsung downbeat on Q3 prospects as profits slide.  Full Article 

Under Scrutiny

Under Scrutiny

Factbox - Google under European regulatory spotlight.  Full Article 

Internet Effort

Internet Effort

Facebook mobile app to offer free, limited Internet in Zambia.  Full Article 

Reducing Workforce

Reducing Workforce

Apple to lay off about 200 people at Beats - Bloomberg.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage