Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is launching a new social network and phone service in the U.S. on Tuesday, and it’s all designed to make it easier for the everyday person to support their favourite cause.
The social network is simply called “TPO,” named after “The People’s Operator” — the charitable mobile phone service that’s existed in the UK since 2012, allowing people to automatically donate 10% of their monthly phone bill to the charity of their choice.
“We offer a good value in the marketplace, so we don’t cost any extra,” Wales told Business Insider. “But we say to you, look you can stay with your existing provider and they will spend more than 10% of your money on more TV commercials, billboards, magazine ads, etc, — or you can switch to us and we’ll spend it on something you care about. And then what we ask in return is that you tell your friends and your family.”
The People’s Operator, is officially launching in the US on Tuesday, piggybacking off of Sprint’s mobile infrastructure, with a variety of off-contract plans including the “Unlimited Goodness” plan that includes unlimited texting and talking for $US32 a month. In addition to allowing customers to donate 10% to the charity of their choice, The People’s Operator will also donate 25% of its total profits to charities including the NSPCC and Childline.
“As Mark says, we can’t be like organic tomatoes in the super market,” Wales said, referencing The People’s Operator co-founder and CEO Mark Epstein, and how their mobile plan won’t cost any extra. “People say, ‘Well of course you give 10%, because you charge me 10% more — we have to be a good value in the marketplace. Our pricing should be good value so we can say, ‘Switch to us, you might save a little money, and support a good cause instead of supporting more TV commercials.'”
Wales says the bigger story, however, is the launch of TPO, a social network that he says is “more like Twitter than Facebook,” that’s designed to give people the tools to connect, organise, and rally others around donating to compelling causes — without worry about the social platform taking a commission or portion of the donation.
“TPO is a general interest social network where people can post their status updates, and photos, and join groups — all the normal things you do on any social network — but also we have our cause partners who are on the social network,” Wales said. “People can also use it as a donation platform, directly raising money. So if you want to raise money for something that you care about, we give you a lot of tools to do that. You can invite them to join your social platform, come to your donation page, or switch their phone service. It’s another way to show support, we’re trying to be a full suite solution.”
Of course, the biggest hurdle Wales and Epstein will face is the friction that exists in convincing people to ditch their phone plan for The People’s Operator, and getting people visit TPO instead of visiting their favourite charity’s page on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. But you could also argue that both options are still easier than the typical donation process found at many organisations, and both Wales and Epstein are betting people’s generosity combined with the efficiency of The People’s Operator will convince people to switch.
“We’ve had a great reaction here in the UK and we can’t wait to launch in the US, and along with that the social network is just going to be huge,” The People’s Operator co-founder and CEO Mark Epstein told Business Insider. “We find something that people would like to do more of, and actually make it seamless and easy.”
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