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Why I Founded a Community

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Why I Founded a Community

Note: originally published at The Breakery.

Standing on The Shoulders of Giants

Have you heard the expression, "standing on the shoulders of giants?" It's used to note that many great feats have only been possible because of the previous feats of others. One great writer today becomes such only because he grew up reading and learning from the masters. One scientific breakthrough picks up where another left off. One person's eureka spawns another's epiphany.

Sharing Information About Outcomes, Or Not

Fundamentally, this phrase speaks to the idea that we all grow smarter if we learn from the mistakes and successes of those who have gone before us. This is, basically, how the world works. It's natural for people to share information about outcomes.

I tried this but struck out. Here's what I learned, though. I encountered this problem and attempted to solve it in this way; here's how that panned out. I discovered the magic formula for negating that problem is x-y-z.

What's not natural is the opposite, when outcomes are not shared but suppressed. This happens all of the time, too. In business, we call these outcomes "trade secrets" and the suppression of those trade secrets a "competitive advantage."

There's nothing wrong with trying to maintain a competitive advantage. But there's also nothing wrong with trying to negate that competitive advantage if you're the competitor.

Why I Founded a Community

The reason I founded CellBreaker to be a user-driven community rather than a CellBreaker-driven service is this. In the arena of cell phone service, the two most powerful forces are:

  1. Cell phone carriers' desire to keep consumers confused, under lock and key.
  2. Consumers' desire for equal bargaining power and fair treatment.

In other words, CellBreaker is not one of the two most powerful forces. Consumer sentiment--every man, woman, and child's innate desire to be treated fairly--is far more powerful than any CellBreaker-driven service could be.

A Place For Sharing Outcomes Data

Recognizing, then, that the main reason carriers have remained so disproportionately powerful for so long is that they have effectively stifled consumers from sharing claims outcomes with each other, I realized that the most powerful CellBreaker I could imagine was a user-driven community where consumers could stand on the shoulders of consumers before them.

Having a community, where people can share ideas, ask questions and talk about different strategies and tactics for pursuing and winning claims against cell phone carriers, would benefit everyone except cell phone carriers.

And that's exactly the kind of pushback the cell phone space needs--pushback, in the direction of equal bargaining power. I like how my colleague Todd Dunphy--founder of Validas, another cool company in the cell phone space--puts it (speaking of this unequal bargaining power): "philosophically, why should we let just a handful human beings (cell phone carrier executives) dominate millions of other human beings (consumers, 300+ million in the US)?"

When consumers pushback against carriers and share data on the outcomes they achieved and the tactics they tried, all consumers get smarter. We get better. We become more powerful as a community, more effective at standing up to the titans of the cell phone space.

The CellBreaker team and I always learn a ton every day from the community that we've been building since May 2013, and people who are part of it say the same. Aside from the progress we continue to make toward making cell phone contracts more just for consumers, that feedback from the community--that users are actually learning and growing smarter from each other's outcome data--has been the most exciting thing. The most surprising (and delightful) thing is that by applying what we’ve learned from the community--the outcomes data that users have shared--we’ve been able to scale up CellBreaker's contract-breaking utility itself, making it more effective for more consumers.


Why You Should Join The Commnuity?


Insofar as carriers can continue to suppress outcomes data, nothing will change. But insofar as consumers learn from each other's trials, victories and outcomes, we all grow smarter, and we all win. That's what the CellBreaker community is all about. We're standing on the shoulders of giants.