Detroit startup founded by Thiel Fellowship winners is disrupting mobile data industry

By December 12, 2017

Lunar Wireless is a Detroit based startup, on a mission to shake up the traditional model for affordable 4G smartphone services. The ingenious young startup charges 25 cents a day for unlimited use of each app on a customer’s phone.

Therefore, a customer who only uses three apps, such as Facebook, e-mail and a web browser, would only be billed 75 cents in total for all three apps in one day, and App use is free if the phone stays connected to WiFi.

Moreover, incoming calls and texts on Lunar also are free. Although, outbound calls and texts are billed at 25 cents each, and customers can also use unlimited texting apps like Snapchat for 25 cents.

Rohith Varanasi

Rohith Varanasi

The company has snowballed in success recently, having rolled out its service nationwide last month following a small trial in metro Detroit that saw helped customers save hundreds of dollars on their annual cell phone bills. In addition to this, the company has accumulated $4.1M in funding led by 8VC and a partnership with BLU Products to launch their $99 flagship phone the BLU S1.

Lunar’s co-founders, Hunter Rosenblume and Rohith Varanasi, 19, also hold the title of the first Detroit winners of The Thiel Fellowship, offered by Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel, which gives $100,000 grants to entrepreneurs younger than 23 to achieve their entrepreneurial ambitions.

Hunter Rosenblume

Hunter Rosenblume

“With the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy phones costing upwards of $1,000, we have reached a tipping point and people want an alternative,” said Lunar Wireless CEO Hunter Rosenblume. “Historically, budget phones have been associated with a budget experience. This is no longer true. Powerful, feature-rich devices don’t have to cost a mortgage, and a high monthly bill from a big carrier isn’t a requirement to get quality service.”

The young company has also received support from a long list of impressive backers including Betaworks, BLU Products, Fontinalis Partners (Ford Family), 1517 Fund, WNDRCO, Detroit Venture Partners, Core Innovation Capital, Abstract Ventures, Expansion VC, Social Starts, and a few angels.

“I’ve been involved with the mobile industry for almost two decades, first as a tech journalist and now as an investor. Lunar, with its innovative new model, is one of most exciting companies I’ve ever come across,” said Peter Rojas, partner at Betaworks Ventures. “It’s one of our largest investments to date, and not hard to see why. Lunar is solving one of the biggest unsolved challenges in mobile industry: how do you cut that hefty monthly data bill while still offering high-quality phones and service?”

Other startups across the US are also striving to improve consumer experiences with our phones. Miami based NetTALK, a company with the goal of leveraging the latest advances in technology to give mobile consumers a greater freedom of choice, is a prime example of this.  Nick Kyriakides, NetTALK’s Co-founder and COO, believes what we are witnessing within the mobile industry is very similar to what we are seeing in the television industry.

Nick Kyriakides

“What I see happening in the marketplace is akin to what is happening to the cable TV industry with cord cutting. Consumers want to take back control of their services and ultimately their finances. New hungry startups launching in the space are in a position to disrupt the traditional stranglehold by providing innovative product and services. ” states Kyriakides.

These services come at a particularly heated time for the US regarding internet services, considering the recent controversy surrounding plans to scrap Net Neutrality. This has even resulted in politicians being publicly shamed on billboards for destroying net neutrality, including a Wisconsin lawmaker.

While politics might be holding internet consumers back, it looks like innovation from the Midwest and across the country might help us move forward, or at the very least save a decent chunk of money.