This Bemidji startup is making landlines mobile

It’s a simple concept, really; transferring your home phone number so that it connects directly to your mobile phone. This is the basis for OurOldNumber.com, a company Jeff Swenson recently started from his home in Bemidji.

It stemmed from a question: why do we still use landlines? In a world where ninety percent of the population above 6 years old carries a cell phone, why continue to pay for a landline in the home?

The answer came when Swenson’s friend posed the question to his wife. She was adamant on keeping a landline.

“We’ve had this landline for over 25 years,” she said. The doctors have this number, the schools, the church, the neighbors, friends, family. “We’re not getting rid of it,” she said.

“People with landlines are attached to them emotionally,” Swenson realized. “They don’t use them, but they don’t give them up.”

Meanwhile, people continue to pay an average of $32.72 a month for their landline, he said. He began to work on a project that could turn the landline into a more functional tool.OurOldNumber.com

The end result, OurOldNumber.com, is not a totally revolutionary idea, so much as an underutilized one, Swenson said.

“Every carrier provider out there will forward your landline to your cell phone. That’s not new,” he said. “The differentiator was how do you send it to the correct person.”

What Swenson designed is a program that allows users to forward their home phone number to a variety of mobile phone users who live in the home. The voicemail for his home phone, for example, sounds something like this:

“You’ve reached the Swensons. Press 1 to reach Jeff, 2 to reach (wife), 3 to reach (son), 4 to reach (daughter).”

The caller can then press that number and connect directly to that cell phone, no matter where it is located (so long as it is not international.)

One unforeseen benefit to the system, Swenson said, is that this format naturally filters out robot and sales calls. At $9.99 a month, the cost is also much cheaper than paying for a landline, Swenson said.

Customers include people like Swenson’s friend and his wife, who have an emotional tie to the landline. He’s also seen elderly customers who are transitioning to new living situations, but want people to be able to reach them through their old number.

“One woman is moving her dad to a nursing home, and was scared to death he’ll lose touch with his friends, because they all call the house,” Swenson said. “Put him on OurOldNumber.com, and they can still reach him.”

Although Swenson has started a few other startup ventures in the past, this is his first time starting something entirely on his own. His past includes extensive time in the phone industry, including starting the National Network Corporation.

Swenson officially launched the company on February 15. He is targeting the 45 – 65 year old bracket, and hopes to have 15,000 in three years. Currently their customers are in the dozens. Swenson is launching a few ad campaigns, including presenting at 1 Million Cups Fargo, to spread the word.

In the world of tech startups, he’s aware that new landline technology lacks the same spice as other hot topics, he said. But on a practical level, it’s something that can truly help lower the bills, he said.

“It kind of lacks pizzazz in the world of drones and internet,” he said. “But it’s taking an old school tech and combining it with new tech to make it useful.”

Learn more about Swenson and OurOldNumber.Com this Wednesday at 1 Million Cups Fargo @ 9:15 AM located at the Stage at Island Park.

Marisa Jackels

Marisa Jackels

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