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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

July 26, 2012 at 9:47 AM

“Social” wireless company Solavei launches in Bellevue

A new kind of wireless company surfaced today in Bellevue, one that encourages subscribers to sell subscriptions to friends and family members.

It’s kind of like the Amway of wireless companies.

Called Solavei, the company is running on T-Mobile’s 4G network, offering service bundled with a social network. It’s now in limited testing and will launch nationally on Sept. 21.

Solavei will encourage subscribers to use the social network to get their friends and family members to switch to the service, which costs $49 per month for voice, data and text messages.

For every three people signed up via the social network – a “trio” – customers will get $20 per month. This is applied to the initial customer’s bill, or returned as cash if the person generates enough business for the company. If they line up more than three trios, or nine subscribers, they’ll start earning income from Solavei.

Solavei designed the approach to sell subscriptions virally, saving the company money on traditional marketing.

“We are going to make a difference in people’s lives by shifting billions of dollars from traditional mass-media advertising into the greatest advertising vehicle today – people,” founder Ryan Wuerch said in a release. “Solavei is the first company to create an economic linkage between mobile service, social commerce and social-networking technology.”

Solavei will sell phones – including the HTC One S and HTC Wildfire – or let customers use their own, unlocked GSM phones.

Solavei has more than 140 employees and was valued by investors at $120 million, according to its release. The company is in the process of finalizing its latest round of funding, which will bring the total to $16 million.

Wuerch, the chief executive, earlier started wireless company Motricity. He was terminated from Motricity last August after the stock tumbled and a number of shareholders sued the company.

At Solavei, Weurch has lined up an A-list team, including former executives from T-Mobile, AT&T and Motricity.

Former U.S. Rep. Rick White is the company’s “head of legal and policy.” Advisors include former FCC chief of stafff, Eddie Lazarus; former T-Mobile chief operating officer, Sue Nokes; Amazon Kindle Vice President Dave Limp; former Coinstar CFO Brian Turner; News Corp. chief digital officer and former AOL CEO, Jon Miller; and John Rittenhouse, a Walmart and Target veteran now chief executive of Cavallino Capital.

Before he resigned in June, T-Mobile Chief Executive Philipp Humm had been working to line up additional mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs, to offer services piggybacking on the Bellevue carrier’s network.



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