Solavei Launches Recruit-Your-Friends Wireless Service
6:30 PM -- There's another new mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) breaking on the scene, and this one has the most inventive business model yet. T-Mobile US Inc. wholesaler Solavei announced its "social commerce network" ambitions today.
Here's how it works: you sign up for a $49-per-month unlimited voice, text and data plan. You tell your friends. They sign up. You earn cash. Their friends sign up. You earn cash!
For some reason, when I read about Solavei's new service, this scene from The Office kept coming to mind.
But, Solavei swears it’s not a pyramid scheme. Rather it's turning marketing on its head, using its customer's social connections rather than big ad bucks. You can earn $20 per month on every three mobile-service members, called Trios, you or someone in your network signs up to Solavei. Get three Trios, and your service pays for itself. Add more, and you start to actually make money on your wireless plan.
The company has some big names and big dollars to back it up too. It just closed its second round of funding at a $120 million valuation, and its board of advisers and investors include alums from T-Mobile, News Corp. (NYSE: NWS), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), Wal-Mart and even the former chief of staff of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) . Its CEO is Motricity Inc. founder Ryan Wuerch.
Those who sign up can choose from the High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) One, HTC Wildfire or ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) Origin. The company says it's in pre-launch with thousands of members and will launch nationwide on Sept. 21.
I think it's great that all these MNVOs are popping up now with different, innovative business models. It makes for more choice in wireless, cheap alternatives to hefty wireless plans and, at least, makes the space more exciting to watch.
That said, I don't expect them all to make it, and after getting invited to more than my fair share of Stella & Dot and Arbonne parties, I tend to be skeptical of anything that requires asking others for money. But, it'll at least be interesting to see which ones catch on and which ones fall flat.
Check out a few others here:
- Sprint Builds an MVNO Factory
- Startup Taps Devicescape for Wi-Fi-First Network
- Meet the New US Wireless Operators
- FreedomPop to Phase Out Clearwire for Sprint LTE
- Ting: Bad Name, Great Idea
- 4G Is Nearly Free With NetZero