“You can just put in John Smith and our system will search all the databases that are accessible, and we’ll locate John Smith and come back with John Smith and all of John Smith’s information, his inmate number, all that,” says Hutson. “This is important because in order to send anything to an inmate, you have to have his full name, his whole inmate number, which is similar to a social security number, and the address of whatever institution, even down to the housing unit that he’s at.” Family members may start out with one or two pieces of information, but Pigeonly’s database yields the additional information needed to contact their loved one directly.
Pigeonly offers two products: Fotopigeon, which lets its 7,000 users upload photos and send the selected images via mail for $.50 per print (with free shipping and a 3-5 day arrival time), and the newly-launched Telepigeon, provides a money saving way to receive calls from inmates. Regardless of an inmate’s physical location, Telepigeon provides the inmate with a local number that forwards to the family members existing line. Whether an inmate is in the same state as their loved ones or not, every time he/she dials home it’ll act as a local call which will save the inmate a significant amount of money. The app launched in late September and already has around 2,000 users.
Lesson Learned: Fotopigeon is what got Hutson into the NewME Accelerator, but he quickly learned he needed more than a product to generate business. “Going through the accelerator taught me the difference between having a product and owning a business…a lot of people have ideas, but really those aren’t sustainable businesses, those are just product ideas.”
Next Up: The seven-member team has several things in store, but focused on perfecting both product offerings.