New phone firm Unshackled.com 'can benefit from Brexit'
A new mobile phone firm backed by John Caudwell, the billionaire founder of Phones4U, says that the business stands to benefit on the back of Brexit, despite facing massive competition from the likes of Vodafone and EE.
The chief executive of Unshackled.com - a new website offering unlocked phones on payment plans alongside SIM-only contracts - says the company's emphasis on savings could ultimately boost business amid economic uncertainty.
"Wherever there is change, there is opportunity," chief executive and co-founder John Whittle said.
"If you read some of the speculation where people are starting to tighten their purses slightly, then actually a proposition in the marketplace which can save customers hundreds of pounds over two years is just something that becomes more relevant," Mr Whittle explained.
The months-old company launched just weeks before the EU referendum, and operating with 30 Manchester-based staff and the backing of investors including Mr Caudwell.
Mr Whittle worked under Caudwell brands from 2000 to 2014, starting as a graduate at the Caudwell Group and working his way up to chief commercial officer at Phones4U. The company went into administration in 2014 after losing a succession of key contracts with major mobile operators including Vodafone, O2 and Three.
After the firm shuttered, Mr Whittle moved on with fellow Phones4U veterans, including former chief financial officer John Morris and the company's former legal director Steven Lloyd, to co-found Unshackled.com.
The trio subsequently secured funding from Caudwell, the total of which has not been disclosed.
The online-only shop takes a cut of the sale of every unlocked handset and SIM contract, and uses peer-to-peer lender Zopa to calculate a payment plans based on consumer credit scores.
Unshackled.com also runs a 'MobileWatch' service that notifies customers when better SIM deals go on offer, which generates further revenue if the customer decides to switch. Phones can also be traded in.
The firm offers SIM-only contracts with 15 operators including companies it considers its biggest rivals.
"We're David in a world of Goliaths, which is we're going against Vodafones, the EEs, the O2s, the Carphone Warehouses of the world. They're our competitors and they're huge competitors but what we have is a completely different proposition, a much more customer-centric proposition that ultimately we believe is our point of difference," Mr Whittle said.
The chief executive would not reveal sales or revenue numbers but stressed that Brexit hasn't had an impact on the company's trajectory.
Unshackled.com won't be up for sale anytime soon. Whittle said the company is not looking for a buy-out and w hile it's early days, expansion is on the table.
"The model that we've created definitely works in other territories," Mr Whittle said, explaining that it could eventually develop in European markets and further afield.