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Summary:

Movirtu, a company pioneering the concept of a shared phone service for poor areas where the cost of an individual handset and plan is too high, has raised $5.5 million in first round financing. The funding allows Movirtu to expand its services and into new markets.

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Movirtu — a company that’s trying to pioneer the concept of a shared phone service for poor areas, where the cost of an individual handset and plan is too high — has raised $5.5 million in a Series A round of financing. The investment was led by TLcom Capital LLP, along with existing seed investor Gray Ghost DOEN Social Ventures Coöperatief, U.A.

The funding will allow Movirtu, which operates in India and Southeast Asia, to expand its services and move into new markets. Kevin covered the company’s MX Share platform last month and explained the concept in this way:

With MX Share, subscribers purchase airtime minutes, services and their own phone number, even if they have no phone. Using either a pay phone or someone else’s handset, a subscriber can log-in to their phone account to place prepaid calls, send text messages or check voicemail. No special handset or other hardware is required.

Essentially, the model is similar to sharing a computer through multiple accounts; sign in to get your data and use the device. The key difference is that the account management enabling handset use is handled in the cloud, not on the individual device. Discovery likens the approach to using web-based email, another communications method that people can use on practically any web-connected computing device.

Kevin compared it to Google Voice, and Movirtu says the service costs a subscriber 20 cents for a phone number and additional money for access. Commenters on Kevin’s story compared it to calling cards, but calling cards only allow for someone to make calls, as opposed to tracking received messages and missed calls. For more on the service and extra features, watch Movirtu CEO and Founder Nigel Waller describe it below.

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  1. The death of Telephone Booths should have signaled you that this concept won’t work in India. Additionally, India doesn’t have the concept of Min State Wages, however NREGA wage ~ INR 120 / day has become the benchmark. All workers at this level are already carrying their own cell :-)

    KYC and other regulations will make the task tougher. Its a good move from Charity perspective but not as a Business and certainly not a scalable business.

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