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Wikipedia boss invests in The People's Operator

by on22 January 2014

Wants to export the idea to the US

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has made a "substantial" investment in The People's Operator (TPO). TPO is a London-based mobile provider that pays 10 percent of revenue to good causes. Wales thinks the idea has legs and wants to take the idea to the United States and other markets.

In a statement, Wales said TPO had pulled off the difficult feat of creating an inspirational business that had solid commercial foundations. He said that while the idea was to generate massive sums of money for good causes the numbers and looked at the business model all worked.

TPO is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which means it relies on an existing operator's network. In the UK this is 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 pledges to pay 25 percent of its profits to charity.

None of that is relevant as the company is unprofitable. However, it does not spend huge sums on marketing and relies on word-of-mouth and promotion by the organizations it helps. Wales said he would help TPO expand internationally, starting with the United States. He will be co-chairman of the company.

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