NC IDEA WINNER: Cellbreaker, a Napster for the Cell Phone Industry - 1

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NC IDEA WINNER: Cellbreaker, a Napster for the Cell Phone Industry - 1
NC IDEA announced its Spring 2014 grant winners on June 5, 2014. This piece is part of a series of stories on the six winners. Read about them all here.

Jon Colgan is that teenage phenom who raked in the dough mowing lawns and pulling weeds.

He seems to have a knack for finding an opportunity, from selling mortgages to Spanish-speaking homebuyers in the Triangle, to matching the unbanked with short-term bridge loans in Utah and then along the East Coast.

Cellbreaker came from his beef with non-negotiable cell phone contracts. After his mortgage lending days and while majoring in philosophy and global studies at UNC, he perfected a method for getting out from under them, and he thought he could create an algorithm and software platform to easily and quickly do the same for everyone else. After an initial test with more than 100 people, he has 100 percent success in breaking a contract and saving a client money. His average savings so far is $225 per phone line.

And he believes his technology will be applicable to any other service industry "plagued by adhesion contracts that 99 percent favor the service provider."

The Napster analogy can be attributed to NC IDEA reviewer John Cambier, who calls Cellbreaker "the definition of innovative."

"It's one of those things that has the potential to be very disruptive to its industry," he says.

NC IDEA WINNER: Cellbreaker, a Napster for the Cell Phone Industry - 2
In 2013, Colgan won a big-wig co-founder and investor in former Research In Motion Vice President of Software Mike Doub. Cellbreaker also completed Groundwork Labs and remains a member of CED's Venture Mentoring Service, both programs he calls 'pivotal.'

With the NC IDEA funds, he and Doub will recruit a third developer co-founder and hire additional developers and designers. The current Cellbreaker product is an MVP—there's work to be done to get it ready for market. They'll launch the platform later this year with a simple pricing model—customers only pay once Cellbreaker saves them money, and the rate is 25 percent of the early termination fee saved.

"The biggest thing going for us is people get really excited about the notion that you can beat contracts," Colgan says. "The next iteration is doing it in an easy and intuitive way."