Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia Launches Charity Mobile Network

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launches a phone service and social network to make easier donations to charity

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia is bringing his social action-oriented mobile service to the U.S. As a part of his newest venture, Jimmy Wales has announced the U.S. launch of The People’s Operator. This venture is both a mobile phone service and an attempt at a new kind of social network placed around community service and donations. 20 percent of company profits and 10 percent of customers’ monthly bills are donated to charities at no cost to customers.

The social network, launching at tpo.com, has typical features like following certain people, posting status updates and photos, along with the ability to directly donate to charities.

From the time TPO has launched in the United Kingdom in 2012, customers have transferred funds to hundreds of causes including The British Heart Foundation, The Trussell Trust and Emerge Poverty Free. In the U.S., TPO has collaborated with a variety of causes including Save the Children, Feeding America, the World Wildlife Foundation, WaterAid America and the Wounded Warrior Project. Customers can donate to any certified charity, in addition to these causes.

Mark Epstein, TPO CEO and co-founder expects the new mobile service will raise “billions” of dollars for charitable causes in the U.S.

“Americans are very strong on charitable giving,” said Wales, who joined TPO as an adviser last year and became Executive Chairman in December. Wales hopes that the charities will be attracted to TPO because it provides them a cheaper way to take donations and that their supporters will sign up for TPO’s phone service to help further support the causes. TPO’s network will not charge a commission and ask only that charities to cover the bank fees associated with their donations, Wales said.

TPO funds charities with money which would apart from that be used for advertising by a conventional mobile network provider. TPO depends on its escorting social community for promotion. “Let’s redirect [our money] to great causes and give our customers away to tell that story,” Wales explains of the business model. “To me, that’s a big business opportunity.”

Epstein says that whereas many social networks are “invasive about our information because they want to sell it to advertisers,” with TPO “the purpose is to tell your friends about what we’re doing. And invite your friends to raise money for something. There’s certainly nothing out there that’s like that.”

Having collaborated with Sprint, TPO offers pre-paid “Goodness-to-Go” and monthly “Unlimited Goodness” plans at a range of price points to match with each customer’s mobile needs. Customers will get to direct 10 percent of their monthly wireless bill to the cause of their choice. Plans include a Unlimited Goodness $32-per-month option that offers unlimited talk and text plus 2 gigabytes of data. Customers can also switch to the mobile network service using their current unlocked device; or choose to lease or buy a device.

TPO’s social network is ad-free and customers select the charities that would receive their donations. “TPO puts consumers and the causes they care about first,” Wales says. “The TPO Community is designed as a space that works for what people believe in and unites that with the causes they care about and a simple, commission-free way to give.”

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