Welcome to the second installment of Entrepreneur Spotlight. Today’s interview is with Todd Dunphy, one of the founders of Validas, a company that specializes in saving customers money by analyzing their cell phone bills to verify correct billing information and determine whether or not there is a more appropriate plan for the user.
Todd: Validas is not another expense management company… Our mission is to change the wireless experience when it comes to billing and service. We have a patent pending technology which is focused on providing wireless bill analysis and reporting tools, billing error identification and dispute resolution, and best plan advice across all wireless users on the planet – 3 billion and growing.
Our solution has a consumer-oriented face on www.myvalidas.com but also has a white-label version that is suitable for high volume users and integration into other portals and applications. It’s the kind of tool an enterprise expense manager can use to “watchdog” the wireless expenses and costs that remote sales people, field service employees, and the like will file on a monthly basis, as well as managing corporate subscriptions.
Validas gives enterprises the ability to monitor those costs and recognize when someone isn’t on an optimal plan, and then require them to switch to that plan. On average, the tool saves at least $350 per invoice annually, but in many cases we have found that power users can cut their costs by thousands. Our software recently identified a carrier billing mistake which gave the customer a $2,000 credit. His phone bill is now paid for the next 2 years. It is the kind of functionality that you want and need today!
Thanks for the introduction to Validas, Todd!
QValidas certainly fills an important niche and provides a valuable service to individuals and corporations. How did you come up with the idea to verify customer invoices against a billing standard?
AWell, you can’t verify without a standard. We knew that features and service plans for cell phones were public information, so building the standard was easy. Verification however, is a different story. The verification algorithms are based on human intelligence gained through several hundred thousand transactions that my team has been involved in.
QTodd, I know the service Validas provides is complex in its ability to analyze data, but it has a “why didn’t I think of that?” type feel to it. What convinced you to go where no one else had gone and create the company Validas?
AMy first job out of school was in retail for Verizon Wireless. On my first day, two of my co-workers went on disability and I was thrown into the fire. I learned quickly how badly people were being tormented by their cell phone bills.
As I built my career, I learned that the carrier was not intentionally causing the consumer problems. The sales people, the complexity of systems, and several corporate layers all contributed to this issue.
The combination of consumer confusion, greed, and system complexity lead my partner, Tom Pepe, and I to think about Validas. Tom Pepe also worked for Verizon Wireless and had the same passion as me – to find a way to fix the problems people have with cell phone billing.
And yes… This is a “why didn’t I think of that” idea.
QOutside of programming the actual algorithms and code for this service, what were the biggest obstacles in bringing Validas to market? How long did everything take?
AI would say that we really haven’t brought the idea to market just yet. Our service is a work in progress as we are still unknown to the masses who have cell phone bill issues. Our product encourages people to automate their personal audits of their bills which is fundamentally opposite of what people do today. Most of us have been checking our bills manually.
How did it long take? The company launched in September 2007. It has been in development since each member of my team was born.
QWhat was Team Validas’ biggest mistake and greatest success in bringing this service to fruition?
AOur biggest mistake was buying information that was freely available on the public internet and launching a small pay per click marketing campaign. Our greatest success is that we have saved customers over $400k. Keep in mind that the masses still don’t know who we are, so $400k is minimal compared to the overall savings opportunity.
QHas Validas run into any problems gathering the invoice information from the cell phone industry?
ANo, our process does not involve the carrier at all. Cell phone plan information is publicly available from the cell phone companies and on the internet. Our process compares the plan information against the invoices provided by our customers.
Our customers go to the carrier’s website, download the bill to the computer, come to www.myvalidas.com , upload the bill, get a free savings overview, purchase a report, and then send an email to the carrier to start saving. The process is streamlined and has the potential to save individuals hundreds of dollars, and possibly much more for enterprise users such as businesses and corporations.
QIs there any other information you would like to share about Validas?
AValidas is currently running a monthly competition for the Worst Cell Phone Bill in America. Each month we compare users’ cell phone bills and how much money we can save them. The top Validas customers selected during the designated contest period will be given a chance to win prizes or enter in the money booth at one of our events.
If your readers have more questions about Validas’ services, we have an excellent Frequently Asked Questions Section.
QAre there future plans for expansion among Validas services?
AValidas is not just about cell phone bills, in the future expect your cell phone bill, your cable bill, your electric bill, your water bill, and your ez-pass bill to enjoy the Validas experience.
QSwitching directions on you now, Todd… Leaving a stable corporate environment to launch a startup is a daunting task. Do you mind sharing your experience with this and do you have any advice for someone thinking about doing the same?
Leaving Verizon Wireless was not easy. They are a solid firm that helped shaped my professional career. Validas would not be here without my journey with Verizon Wireless. With that said, I reached a point where I could not accept what was going on with customers.
As I mentioned earlier, the carriers do not intend to cause confusion but they do. My business partner and I tried many times to change this and we always got brushed aside by middle management. So we left and set sail to fix the confusion, to end the frustration, and to save people money.
My advice to others is simple: follow your heart, build your business to solve problems or meet needs, not to make money, leave you old job with a clean house, and get your family on board first before you do anything.
QIs there any other advice you would like to offer to anyone who is thinking about starting their own company?
APut your seat belt on… it’s a wild ride !!!!
Todd, I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule.
Thanks, Ryan. The pleasure was all mine.
Would you like to try Validas?
Todd and his company have agreed to allow me to give away free Validas trials to 3 readers. All you need to do is leave a comment in this article and I will randomly select the winners this weekend! Good luck, and I hope you can save some money!
Entrepreneur Spotlight is a series of articles dedicated to spotlighting emerging entrepreneurial efforts and small companies. If you would like to have yourself or your company featured in an upcoming edition of Entrepreneur Spotlight, please contact me to discuss this opportunity.
Note: Cash Money Life did not receive any compensation for this article. The intent is to spread the entrepreneurial spirit. Make things happen!