Does The World Need CellBreaker?
Posted on by Jon Colgan
Earlier this week Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt outran a no. 59 bus in Buenos Aires, Argentina. If a person can travel farther faster than a bus, then why does the world need buses? This mirrors a question I’m often asked:
If a consumer could figure out how to get out of a cell phone contract through research, trial, and error, then why does the world need CellBreaker?
It’s a fair question, one I answered in August 2013 at the Startup Alley Pitch Competition. Justin Miller, founder of WedPics and one of the eight judges tasked with scoring the pitches, asked me:
There’s all kinds of information on the internet about how to get out of a cell phone contract. What’s to stop me from just figuring it out on my own?
He wanted to know why the world needs CellBreaker, but I only had three minutes to respond to eight questions. So, I answered Justin’s question with one word. “Nothing.”
We didn’t win that competition. I don’t know if my one-word answer worked for or against us when the judges deliberated. Nevertheless I’m thankful that Justin asked the question, because it’s in this precise area of inquiry that CellBreaker’s value proposition can be best understood.
CellBreaker’s value proposition is analogous to Usain Bolt beating the bus. If a person is willing and able to expend enough time and effort to become adept at doing something, he can. Men can beat buses. Consumers can beat contracts. Yet, the world still needs buses. Why? Not everyone can or will invest enough time and effort to become an expert runner, partly due to scarcity and partly due to preference.
Time is scarce. We have a finite amount of time to accomplish both what we wish and must. On the must side we have bills and basic needs like food and shelter. On the wish side we have the things that fulfill us like family-time and artistic expression. Usain Bolt is able to beat buses precisely because his must side is addressed by investing in his expertise as a runner. Not everyone is or can be a professional runner though. Nobel prize-winning economist Gary Becker said it best in his Nobel lecture:
Actions are constrained by income, time, imperfect memory and calculating capacities, and other limited resources, and also by the available opportunities in the economy and elsewhere. . . Different constraints are decisive for different situations, but the most fundamental constraint is limited time.
Technology saves time. It’s true of buses for travel, and it’s true of CellBreaker for “cellbreaking” (I’m lobbying for this word’s inclusion in next year’s Oxford English dictionary). That’s why the world needs buses–not because people couldn’t walk or run, but because buses save travel-time.
The analogy I like to use when answering a question like Justin’s is that of a footrace between you and your cell phone carrier. Regardless of who is the fastest runner, if you’re given the advantage of a car to drive while your opponent has only his feet, you will go farther faster (unless your carrier is Usain Bolt).
CellBreaker automates the process of “cellbreaking”–that is, getting out of your cell phone contract with no early termination fees. With CellBreaker’s software (we call it the Breaker), our customers might spend 10 minutes throughout the whole process, whereas the carrier might spend 10-20 man-hours at varying pay-grades just to keep up. At some point, the carrier realizes that it’s not an economical use of resources to continue. So, the carrier gives up.
Bobby knows how time-consuming fighting a carrier can be. He spent over twenty hours fighting with his carrier over a six-month period, trying to figure out a way to get out of his contract. Bobby’s an attorney, and his story offers a better response to Justin’s question than I could. “What’s to stop people from figuring out how to do it on their own?” Nothing. But does the record show that DIY is a viable option?
Bobby spent three years in law school learning, among other things, how contracts work; over a decade honing his craft as a practicing attorney; another six-months trying to figure out how to get out of his cell phone contract; and another twenty man-hours of actually arguing with carrier reps. In the end, he decided it wasn’t worth his time to proceed any further: he paid about $600 in early termination fees.
Months later, Bobby learned about CellBreaker, after he had expended so much time and effort. He was very interested in the concept. So, he reached out to me. Bobby told me right away that he understood CellBreaker’s value proposition, because he had run the gauntlet without it. “It’s genius, a great idea,” he said.
So, Justin, Bobby thinks the world needs CellBreaker, and that’s the answer I would have given you had time not constrained our exchange in August.