[social_share style=”bar” align=”horizontal” heading_align=”inline” text=”” heading=”” facebook=”1″ twitter=”1″ google_plus=”1″ linkedin=”1″ pinterest=”1″ link=”” /]
Article by David Hudson. Published on Gay Star News
A San Diego-based entrepreneur is hoping to launch PRIDE Wireless: a new cell phone carrier for the LGBTI community
A US businessman has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help realize his dream of bringing the world’s first LGBTI majority-owned wireless company to market.
Plans for PRIDE Wireless have been in the pipeline since last summer. Earlier this month the company announced the launch of an IndieGoGo campaign to help it raise capital to help with marketing.
The venture is the brain child of Patrick Adams, who has worked in the wireless and mobile industry for the past 11 years. This includes stints with Jitterbug (a wireless service aimed at senior citizens), and mobile hotspot service Truconnect.
‘I’ve now found my life’s passion in launching another wireless provider targeting a specific demographic – this time my own, the LGBTQ community, where profits are directed back to strengthening my community.’
Adams says that once up and running, PRIDE Wireless will donate a portion of its profits each month to community organizations as voted for by customers.
‘While PRIDE Wireless customers will benefit from the same phones and 4G/LTE networks, significant service plan savings, and discounts through its deals membership program, they will also have the added benefit of fabulous “gay” customer service,’ said a company spokesperson in a statement.
‘Yet the biggest benefit customers receive is the satisfaction from becoming a philanthropic partner with PRIDE Wireless. The goal is to advocate for, give back to and help advance the health, safety and equality of the global LGBTQ community.’
Adams notes that following the recent US Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, there remains many areas where LGBTI people face legal inequality. One of these is discrimination at work.
Adams says that he himself was fired from his first major executive position for being gay.
‘Myself and partner at the time relocated to take up this position. However, I hadn’t picked up at the interview process that the CEO, President and Executive Secretary were all Southern Baptists. Once there, I would often hear, “You should come to our church!” and “Are you married?”
‘After 9-10 months, and after a satisfactory job performance review, I was called into the CEO’s office one day. He just said “We’re not communicating.” I asked him what we meant, and he again just said, “We’re not communicating.” I said, “Dude, you have to tell me what you’re talking about because this is stupid.”
He just said again, “We’re not communicating.” After that, the HR executive said “Come with me”, and I was walked out of the building.
‘There was no court case. There was no ruling, so you can’t be 100% sure, but in my mind it was because I was gay and they found out. But we settled and I signed a confidentiality agreement as part of that, so can’t go into more details.’
At the time, the state he resided in did not have LGBTI employment non-discrimination protections – something still lacking at a federal, nationwide level.
He believes that launching PRIDE, and donating some of its profits to advocacy groups, is a way to help remedy this.
Adams explained why he had turned to IndieGoGo for community help.
‘Me and my co-founder have funded the business for over a year with our own funds. In fact, I’m pretty much betting all of my retirement on the venture.
‘The company currently has three angel investors and is also in discussions with venture capital and private equity firms.
‘PRIDE’s preference is to not take those business investments and that’s why we’ve launched the IndieGoGo campaign in hopes that the community would provide us with funding so that we’re not as beholden to outside investment. We’re looking to maximize the profits that we return to the global LGBTQ community.’
He says that he is ‘very, very confident’ that PRIDE Wireless will launch at the beginning of October, whether the IndieGoGo campaign is a success or not.
‘Thanks to angel investors, we have the funds that we need to get to market. I’m pretty confident that we have all the resources in place. What I don’t have is a large marketing budget, so we will be able to take orders, ship those orders and provide customer support to customers to whom we sell in a guerrilla marketing fashion, so we have enough funds to do that.
‘What I’m trying to raise money right now for is marketing.’
Adams knows that people are unlikely to support PRIDE purely because its gay-owned. However, he says that focus groups he has consulted with have shown a ‘very positive response’: provided PRIDE can get the same quality phones, access the same 4G networks, and donate to worthy LGBTI causes.
Asked if anyone had directly queried the need for an LGBT-operated mobile phone company, he replied: ‘No, but people often tell us that they never knew it was even possible, given the complexity and perceived large investment required to service a relatively small market size.’
Explaining why someone might choose to switch to PRIDE Wireless, he said, ‘In addition to the major benefit of advocating and giving back to LGBT causes, PRIDE offers the same quality phones (i.e. Samsung, iPhones included), fast 4G/LTE networks, savings from both the service plans plus its PRIDE Deals discount program.’
Pushed on what constituted ‘gay’ customer service, Adams said: ‘PRIDE’s plan is to make the customer service gay, campy and fun – yet provide high quality service and quick problem resolution.
‘We also want to remove the typical frustrations – for example, PRIDE customers will always get a live person and not an IVR (‘press 1, 2, 3, etc’). In the event that they get put on hold, they’ll be able to select the artist/genre of hold music they want to listen to. Think Madonna ‘Ray of Light’…’
PRIDE Wireless is aiming to launch at Atlanta Pride in October. At the time of going to press, it’s IndieGoGo campaign had raised just over $5,000 of a $50,000 target. Perks for donators include a free SIM card for those who pledge $25, up to a pair of Pride phone and five years of free service for anyone who donates $5,000.
Should it successfully manage to get a foothold in the US wireless market, it could prove hugely profitable.
The market – dominated by Verizon, AT&T, Spring and T-Mobile – is valued at around $195billion annually – a figure only set to grow as wireless data moves beyond mere phones and tablets and is increasingly used by other devices, such as watches and smart cars.