Americans love nothing more than getting a deal. So, it’s not a surprise that Solavei, a controversial new mobile phone service that rewards customers for signing up friends, co-workers and relatives, is gaining traction.
The Seattle area company, led by former Motricity CEO Ryan Wuerch and former Congressman Rick White, said today that more than 65,000 people have signed up for the $49 unlimited voice, data and text service plan since it launched on September 21. As part of those sign ups, the company also announced that it has paid out $1 million in member commissions.
Solavei is one of more unusual startups we’ve encountered this year, driven in part by a controversial model that rewards customers for essentially becoming the boots-on-the-street marketing department. (Readers have debated the merits of the company’s business plan at length, and there are no shortage of critics of the Solavei model).
Here’s how it works: Users who sign up for Solavei earn money for each new customer they recruit. Recruiting three new customers, dubbed a “Trio,” earns users $20 per month. Three trios, or nine new customer additions, equates to $49 (or the cost of one’s monthly service).
In a press release today announcing the customer milestone, Wuerch said that the response has been “tremendous” to the Solavei business. Investors in the company include Jonathan Miller, the chief digital officer at News Corp. and former CEO of AOL; David Limp, vice president of Kindle at Amazon.com; and Gary Adams, an oil & gas executive from Oklahoma.
As we noted a few weeks ago, the company also is drawing on celebrity endorses and member testimonials to draw interest in the concept. The message has the feel of a late-night infomercial.
Here’s actor Stephen Baldwin talking about the concept.