Though, when Hunt moved to start his own company about six years ago, he decided to embrace a new idea: monetize the data people share with the company on their phone, as more of a mobile-ad platform, with the goal of eventually making it
Hunt started with the currency of the industry, so to speak – user data.
“You think about all the time that you spend on the data that you share with your cell phone provider first and foremost, and then all the apps you are using: Facebook, Google, Instagram, TikTok—These guys are taking the data that you share with them and selling them, right?” Hunt said. “It’s $300 billion a year revenue for these guys.”
The Birth of Beast Mobile
Eventually, after some trial-and-error with a team of collaborators, the concept culminated into Beast Mobile: a prepaid cell phone service with a built-in mobile application for users to engage with – including surveys, app installs, videos – to reduce their bills, potentially to zero.
“I decided to basically provide one offer and one service,” Hunt said. “You buy a phone from us; you use our phone. The service is free, but not only is it free – if you continue to utilize the service, we’re gonna pay you for it.”
While Hunt said that some people are quick to jump toward privacy concerns as part of this conversation, he argued, “When you use your cell phone, you either give your data or you don’t have a cell phone, right? It’s black and white,” referencing that any other carrier will do the same, users just won’t see the benefit.
Users can use the Beast Mobile Rewards app to earn reward credits, and completing individual offers will automatically add to their Rewards account. From there, Beast Mobile users can apply their credits to their monthly bill, and any amount exceeded is applied to the following month.
Cannabis Advertising on Mobile
The phone carrier runs on AT&T’s network, but the Beast Mobile team takes full control of every other aspect of their business. When they were piecing together the details, Hunt said it also highlighted another potential barrier to break: cannabis mobile advertising.
“Every other cell phone carrier doesn’t allow advertising in any medical cannabis, recreational cannabis, doesn’t matter,” Hunt said. “They don’t allow any type of advertising. And so that’s where we decided, you know, there’s some opportunity; we’d be the first cell phone provider that embraces and supports the kind of cannabis industry.”
Embracing cannabis advertising as a mobile carrier felt like a no-brainer to Beast Mobile, along with anything and everything a user may want advertised to their phone. Hunt called Beast Mobile “the most neutral cell phone company ever,” unbiased with no red tape, and no political agenda.
“We’re not your mom and dad’s cell phone,” he asserted. “There’s a ton of other people that will charge you and take your information and sell it, you know, not give you open access to anything that you want to be able to have on it. Okay, that’s fine, but that’s not us.”
From an advertising and marketing perspective, Hunt said that if a user is using specific search terms in their browser, Beast Mobile believes they should be able to provide that user with ads that match their interests. Cannabis is no exception.
“We are transparent,” Hunt said. “When we look at your data; we look at things on your phone; we want to provide you things that are similar. That’s what it all comes back to.”
Equitable Cost for Mobile Services
As a relatively new mobile carrier, Hunt also said Beast Mobile is afforded this flexibility in creating its own model. He recalled looking over cell phone data and finding that the U.S. has the highest monthly cell phone plan of any country in the world. Looking at the money other carriers are raking in, Hunt doesn’t believe the success of Beast Mobile will drive other carriers to refocus on more open advertising or a more equitable cost model that takes data into account.
“They’re not going to change their model, because why do they have to?” Hunt said. “That’s the difference. The other companies that come up to compete, they’re all doing it on price. It all comes down to, what is the amount of money that you’re paying on a monthly basis for what you’re getting?”
Hunt cited the government’s free cell phone services as one cost-accessible option, though he noted that taxpayers still fund those devices, which are often limited in their functions and service. Beast Mobile has the out-of-pocket cost of a phone, with all other options to lower the monthly bill at a user’s fingertips once they’ve picked a plan.
It’s more equitable, Hunt said, and mutually beneficial to both Beast Mobile and its customers.
“Over time, as we start to understand you and your user behavior and what you like, we’re going to pay you for the things that you basically share with us,” Hunt said. “Not only does it provide the phone service for free, but I’ll be able to make money from my data when I use my phone.”
The free program just launched recently, and Hunt shared that many people are still hesitant given Beast Mobile’s unique approach. Though, he also noted that a number of people try it out and realize it’s not only affordable but that the service and devices are comparable to other carriers.
In addition to opening the floodgates for cannabis advertising, and whatever else a user might like to see on their own device, Beast Mobile is looking for other ways to provide all users the essential access to a cell phone, including their
The program looks to help city officials communicate with this previously untrackable demographic. Of course, it also gave Beast Mobile a chance to give back to the community.
Before launching the program, Hunt said one of his longtime friends was buying phones from Beast Mobile, putting a few months of service on the devices and handing them out to unhoused folks in Oakland. After hearing about the gratitude from the community and the impact providing these phones had, the phone carrier took it to the next level.
Beast Mobile received 3,000 donated phones from one of their suppliers, put several months of service on each and asked for donations to cover the costs. They’ve been running the program for a couple years and found, after the credit was exhausted, unhoused folks with Beast Mobile devices still needed additional assistance.
Hunt said the carrier began working with nonprofits and hospitals to secure grants, which allowed them to extend the service time on the phones and additionally send through push notifications and offers to benefit and give back to individual users.
An Altruistic Mission
This ultimately connected back to their overarching aim to provide more accessible, and potentially free, plans to everyone and let the data individuals share with the carrier go back to the individuals users.
“Everybody’s data is valuable, right? It doesn’t matter who you are; you still buy things, you still are advertised to whether you know it or not.”
Beast Mobile is currently very Android focused, looking to generally keep the price point under $200 while still providing users with a nice device. Hunt said the carrier is also looking to offer financing at some point, especially if they end up carrying more expensive devices.
Up until now, Beast Mobile has operated on more than six years of customer feedback, and Hunt said the crew has built “something that people love.” Though, at the core of its mission, Beast Mobile plans to remain neutral, showing users what they want to see, maintaining transparency and promoting accessibility.
“We just want to be the low-cost guys, make it free and still give you a great customer experience.”