Phonefinder: profiting from complexity

Start-up Phonefinder hopes to take the complexity and cost out of choosing a cellular package. By Nafisa Akabor.

Phonefinder co-founders Tom Goldgamer, Danny Aaron, Lance Krom and Devin Karpes

Phonefinder co-founders Tom Goldgamer, Danny Aaron, Lance Krom and Devin Karpes

Johannesburg-based start-up Phonefinder is hoping to profit from the complexity in South Africa’s mobile industry. The company is giving consumers the ability to compare mobile voice and data contracts from all the networks and service providers, allowing them to find the best deal online.

By using search and filter tools, consumers can find contracts to suit their budgets.

“The cellphone industry in South Africa is going through big changes and consumers have become bargain-savvy thanks to other comparative websites such as flight aggregators and the likes of Groupon,” says CEO and co-founder Lance Krom.

Krom was “fed up” when he returned from living in London two years ago and needed a cellphone contract. After visiting a number of websites and finding them “overly complicated”, he decided to speak to sales agents in-store. He gathered information from various shops and eventually signed a contract he thought was best, but it was far from being a fully informed decision.

“With over 2 000 deals on the market, I decided that there must be a better way,” Krom says.

Phonefinder went live in May 2012 as a “simple but effective” service that listed all cellphone contracts, allowing users to filter their desired criteria. It was recently relaunched.

“The initial website was built quickly and cheaply and was really just a test to see if the service would be well received,” says Krom. “After connecting a number of users to their ideal contract, we decided that it was time to re-do the website.”

The revamped site went live in August.

The company is self-funded by its four co-founders — Krom, Danny Aaron, Devin Karpes and Tom Goldgamer.

Krom, 31, worked in London for five years doing media planning, real-estate letting and online marketing before returning to South Africa. As CEO, he handles operations, marketing and accounts for the company.

The remaining three co-founders all jointly own a company called 3 Way Marketing. Aaron, 31, has worked in marketing and analysis at Hollard Insurance, while Goldgamer, 38, was GM at Hollard Insurance and a consultant in the insurance industry for a number of years. Both currently handle all new business and marketing at Phonefinder. Karpes, 30, used to own a design company called Peppermint Hippo, and currently serves as creative director for both 3 Way Marketing and Phonefinder.

The start-up generates income by selling leads to service providers, says Krom. “We list their deals and match them to consumers who are ready to buy.”

The company wants to become a “one-stop shop for everything cellular”.

“This will open doors to more revenue streams, including targeted advertising real estate, cellphone wallets, customer support, accessories, and data trends for networks.”

Phonefinder’s expansion plans include adding service offerings such as advanced search, options for discounted accessories and the ability to compare phone features and share opinions about devices.

“We would like to offer cellphone insurance at a discount, too,” says Krom.  — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media

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  • Jonathan Tee


    Oops! Google Chrome could not find

  • themba

    is it “Fone Finder” or “Phonefinder”? I spotted both on their website.

  • Richard Lipsky

    Congratulations Devin, for all your hard work and the success that comes with it.

  • Phonefinder

    Hi Jonathan: We are really brand new :) so Google is still crawling and indexing us. Hopefully soon we will appear at the top of the search.

  • Phonefinder

    Hi Themba, we actually launched a very “light” service a while back just to see if there was a need for a website like Phonefinder. At the time we called ourselves Fonefinder (because we thought it made us seem cool:) we have since changed to Phonefinder (hopefully we still seem cool:) We kept both URL’s just to be safe.

  • stevesong

    Awesome initiative! About time someone cut through all the deliberate obfuscation. Will be interesting to see now the MNOs react to this.

  • eish

    They only have Cell C and MTN on there?? What about Telkom Mobile and Vodacom- disappointed…

  • Phonefinder

    Hi Eish,
    I’m sorry to hear that you couldn’t find a deal by those providers. It’s possible that your search criteria just didn’t list deals by those Networks.

    We do in fact list both Telkom Mobile and Vodacom – however we only display results which match your search criteria.

    We are a new and free service so please don’t be disappointed :) rather tell us what you would like to improve and we will do our best to meet your expectations

  • eish

    From your rotating homepage image I selected the Samsung S4- it was the second image banner. It should have listed all the MCO’s with this popular handset. Currently it doesn’t.

  • Senorblinky

    Why not include deals from Altech Autopage or Nashua Mobile?

  • Phonefinder

    Thanks Eish,
    I understand your point. Our thinking here was to help consumers find great deals. These are deals which members of our team thought were really good. We highlighted them with quick links such as the banner you clicked.

    To see all Samsung Galaxy S4 deals you would need to do a search for S4 deals. I have taken your point and will load all deals under each banner in the future (it makes sense).

    To be honest we don’t know what works best yet which is why feedback like yours is so important. Thank you

  • Phonefinder

    Hi Senorblinky,
    Phonefinder is built on a “listings” platform which means that as long as Service Providers list their deals we will display them. Currently Nashua Mobile do list all their deals on Phonefinder and we will be listing Altech Autopage Cellular’s deals hopefully in a few days. We also list Service Providers such as Bayport who are able to service customers with low credit scores.

    How are you finding the website? any suggestions?

  • Senorblinky

    Ah, great, thanks. I was just wondering anyway. The site is cool, easy to navigate and friendly to use (never realised how many options I had, wow). However(comma) one thing that did put me off slightly is that I had to submit a ton of personal information on the final page when I was hoping that it would spit out a deal. Subsequently, that’s where my search stopped. Sorry chaps.

  • eish

    My pleasure –

    You could maybe list the deals for a given handset by price as a default for all MCO’s. Some users might opt to stay with Vodacom even though they might be R50 per month more expensive?

    Data on these top-end smartphones are also becoming more and more of an issue- so one might want to add a filter that then only shows you deals where there are >= 500mb of data?

  • Phonefinder

    Hi Eish,

    Regarding listing deals by MCO’s: we do currently allow for this. When you conduct a search you can select to see only one particular Network. We also let you filter away certain Networks after a search is made. The default listing is price, although we are working on new ways to allow you to manipulate the displayed result.

    Regarding filtering by specific data: I’m really happy you brought this up. The next stage of features will allow customers to filter by specific minutes, data or SMS. I’m glad you brought this up because we totally agree with you (it’s hard to launch a site that is 100% correct because you’ll end up never going live :)

  • Phonefinder

    Thanks for the kind words Senorblinky – we have a long way to go and many more improvements to make (including a mobile website). The form is unfortunately vital so that the Service Provider can contact you, however you can always use the information and go to your nearest cell phone store (we really don’t mind that, the point is for Phonefinder to add value to your life).

  • Phonefinder

    Love it! – we are on top of the DATA/SMS/Voice filter. Should have this ready soon. Thanks for the advice Eish

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