LONDON Jan 20 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
and Deutsche Telekom.
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 ($24.61) 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
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
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
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."