- Daily Zen
Pigeonly CEO, Frederick Hutson was just 24 and living in St. Petersburg, Florida, when he was condemned on a drug trafficking accusation. The Air Force veteran spent four years in prison. And during that course he was shifted to eight different correctional facilities.
Of course, the Pigeonly founder discovered that prison life was isolating. Especially at a time when a brief interstate phone call to an inmate would cost an extraordinary amount. Isolation is a constant obstacle for prisoners and their families. Research has frequently shown that keeping inmates connected with loved ones and support groups externally helps reduce relapse rates.
Hutson’s own suffering and isolation at the prison led him to a great business idea. He survived his prison days with business planning. He also attempted at preparing spreadsheets on plain paper from the law library. By the time of his release he had brainstormed a basic structure for Pigeonly. He was very clear with his idea of a venture that connects inmates with families through phone calls and photographs.
Hutson supposed that he has discovered a brilliant opportunity. An opportunity that led him to be the Pigeonly CEO. There are millions of Americans in prison and henceforth millions more with a dear one in prison. Having been through the same situation, Frederick personally knew the extreme remoteness which the inmates were experiencing. The Pigeonly owner remarks that many of his comrade inmates returned after they were set free.
According to a study, three-quarters of prisoners are in prison again within five years. But those who maintained close connections to their known ones fared better. Research also observed that inmates who stayed in contact with their families have lower relapse rates.
Pigeonly is a foremost startup in the field of Voice over IP communications. The company’s products cater to prison inmates, their family and loved ones. Telepigeon considerably cuts down the cost of prison phone calls. Fotopigeon makes it easy to send photo lab quality printed photos to inmates from a phone.
The Pigeonly CEO is definitely not a typical trendsetter. He became an unusual innovator when he chose to solve a problem. One that he faced personally and knew was unattended to. Initially he did not focus on raising money, but on building the best products for his patrons. The Pigeonly founder did not share a similar background to his rival tech entrepreneurs. This enabled him to resolve problems that nobody else was solving.
Inspite of a well-written business plan, Hutson got obvious obstacles in the course of the company’s launch. He got free from prison in 2012 to a halfway house without Internet. However, he acquired customers through mail marketing. He would attach advertisements for FotoPigeon into mail newsletters. And add relevant content such as details on new sentencing guidelines and a lot more.
Today, Pigeonly, is a $3 million tech company exclusively crafting products for underserved communities, particularly the imprisoned and their families. The company has recently joined the prestigious Y Combinator program. It has already had a great deal of success with its flagship products in a fairly short span of time. A staff of 13 people in its headquarters at Las Vegas, the company has augmented $2 million in seed money. More than thousands of customers have used Telepigeon. FotoPigeon has sent more than 90,000 photos for 11,000 customers at a price as low as $0.50 per image.
The company claims that families using Pigeonly’s products have saved more than $1.4 million as of September 2014. Hutson foresees a lot more for the future. These include related services budding out of the same platform and cater to the prison inmates for banking, job placement and post-release housing.
Since centuries, pigeons have innate homing instincts. They are in use covertly, as messengers. In the past years they were used in wars and could be relied upon to return without fail. And today we have Pigeonly that is beautifully connecting inmates to their loved ones. Could communication get any better?