Pinger, a startup based in San Jose, California, aims to challenge Skype (and others) by offering free voice calls. They are doing so by piggybacking voip on their hugely popular TextFree application, which allows sending free text SMS messages.
TextFree is unusual in that each user gets its own phone number, thus the 8 million TextFree users are in fact 8 million phone numbers (putting Pinger in the Top 10 US mobile carriers). For comparison, Q3 2010 Pinger distributed 1.7 million phone numbers, AT&T distributed 1.6 in the same time span.
Their current revenue model is ad-based, showing ads while the user is composing her message. As an indicator of profitability, the startup has already been backed up by venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and others by raising more than $11 million.
Pinger is currently serving 1.2 billion ads and sent 4 billion messages each month and is only expected to raise its numbers. As Pinger’s target audience is between 16 and 26, advertisers are already eager to participate to set buying habits and brand loyalty as these users turn into adults.
For phone calls, users will have a limited amount of free monthly minutes, which they can increase by downloading other apps, completing 3rd party offers (a model coming from social media games) or by credit card payment. Pinger says that they are aiming to offer a worldwide service, disrupting the mobile industry and profiting from the huge markups phone carriers apply in their prices. Time will tell if they are able to make it.
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Ruben Berenguel blogs in mostlymaths.net about productivity, time management and a little programming while he finishes his PhD in Mathematics. Don’t miss your opportunity to subscribe to his RSS feed.