We don’t usually look backwards here at Republic Wireless, but as we get ready to launch our next phone, the Moto E later this month, now is as good a time as any to take a trip down memory lane and see just how far we have come in the last three years.
Our parent company, Bandwidth, started in 1999 reselling internet connectivity to small businesses in Utah, and in 2001, relocated to North Carolina. That’s when David Morken and Henry Kaestner joined forces and grew Bandwidth from there.
In 2004, we started offering VoIP and SIP Trunking to small businesses, and continued to grow to the point where we could see the market growing for IP based services. By 2007, we built a nationwide IP network. This is one of the components of Republic Wireless. Just for context, the first iPhone was launched in 2007.
In 2009, we launched Phonebooth, which is a hosted phone system for small and medium sized businesses. This product saves small businesses a lot of money by letting them create a professional phone system entirely through a web interface. This product continues today and was another component of the early Republic platform. Check it out at www.phonebooth.com.
To capitalize on the explosive growth of mobile for the small and medium sized business, we launched Phonebooth Mobile in 2010, as an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) reselling Sprint service and devices. One of the devices we were selling was the LG Optimus. This agreement, and the time we spent there, was very valuable. This was a small team that became the nucleus of the Republic team, and the MVNO agreement was another piece of the Republic puzzle.
Additionally, we were looking at prototype apps to create a VoIP calling client over WiFi that connected your mobile phone to your office phone system. That’s when the light-bulb moment happened: To differentiate our mobile offer, what if we could put the WiFi calling into the phone? What if we could offload voice, data and messaging, and pass those savings onto our customers? What if instead of just offering it to businesses, we could help everyone benefit from this new idea and technology? We saw an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up to help people stay better connected with one another.
Just like that – the idea for Republic was born. Through the power of our Hybrid WiFi + Cell Calling technology, we could now offer a radically low price, more coverage over the largest network the vast majority of people were already using – effectively lowering the barrier to entry for many people who could now enjoy their very first smartphones.
We hacked and hammered on the Optimus, and on November 8th, 2011, our plucky team of less than 20 people (yes, you read that right, 20 people) launched Republic Wireless in a small Beta test program. Or, that’s what we thought. We got great coverage in Techcrunch and GigaOm and hit the homepage of Yahoo (remember those days…?). We got slammed by a wave of interest in what we were doing that, at the time, we could only have dreamed of. I hope you all get to experience the crazy energy we all had on launch night just once in your lives. It really was incredible to be a part of. We wondered if anyone would actually care about what we were trying. You did.
After that, it was all hands on deck to get Optimus devices procured and shipped, and we sort of made it…. It was pretty hectic: preparing the phones; shoving them in boxes; and handing them to the FedEx guy. It became obvious quickly that people were really interested in what we were doing and we needed to get serious.
We knew immediately that in order to do this the right way, we needed to get device partners involved, and we made a pretty big bet internally and focused our teams entirely on the Republic opportunity.
We spent a year working with Motorola on the DEFY XT and launched that device almost a year later in November of 2012. Behind the scenes, we literally replaced every backend system to ensure we could scale and serve more and more customers. We also did a lot of hiring and ramped up our support team as well.
We learned a lot with the launch of the DEFY XT about what it takes to get a phone to market at scale. We made some mistakes, learned some valuable lessons – some that cost us a lot of money, but at this point we were all-in. We couldn’t stop now! We knew we were onto something big with our hunch about using WiFi for more than just Internet (clearly, the rest of the industry thinks so too now). And, every decision early on, no matter how costly, was the right thing to do for you, our members. That ideology of putting our members first continues on and shapes how Republic does business all the way to today. We learned with the DEFY XT how to take feedback, how to work with our members, and use that collaboration to chart the course forward. This is where our vibrant Community blossomed. It was a pivotal moment in our short history that has continued to make Republic and our service even better. We absolutely couldn’t have done it without you.
After the DEFY XT launch, we looked at our next device and started working with our partners at Motorola to up our game even more.
They too, were going through some interesting times. They were bought by Google, and had many thousands laid off, including a lot of the team we were working with on our Republic project, unfortunately. But, we have a great relationship with Google through our wholesale team, and were fortunate to be a part of the relaunch with Motorola’s new Moto X – a phone that was released with critical acclaim.
We spent a lot of time and effort rewriting our proprietary WiFi + Cell Calling ROM and our Republic app to give us more flexibility for releasing features and getting them to you with more speed. After a lot of work and planning, we launched the Moto X on November 13, 2013. Yes, just a year ago, we were still selling the DEFY XT – our Beta test device we weren’t even sure anyone would want or care about. Amazing how time flies.
Since then, our relationship with Motorola has flourished even more and we have launched the Moto G earlier this year and, very soon, the Moto E. We have also launched a number of different channels for buying phones as well with MotoMaker, eBay, university bookstores and other retail locations. We’ve got a bunch more surprises up our sleeves too, to continue disrupting the mobile industry along with your help and collaboration as always.
It’s been an amazing ride, and we’re really just getting started…
Stay WiFi my friends