Leading the Social Venture Start-up: An Operational Crisis at Pigeonly

How should Pigeonly—a tech start-up providing affordable communications options to loved ones of incarcerated individuals—respond to an unexpected operational crisis?

Damon Phillips  | Spring 2022
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Tamer Center for Social Enterprise

Pigeonly was launched in 2012 as an affordable technology provider serving the incarcerated population. Growing out of his own 5-year experience as an inmate, Founder Frederick Hutson created a business model, launch plan, and corporate mission statement: to create easy, affordable mail and telephone services to better connect the 2.3 million people incarcerated in America to their loved ones. A for-profit company with a social mission, Pigeonly overcame the complexities of dealing with the US prison system and grew quickly: by 2015, its operations supported on average two million minutes of phone time and 250,000 photos sent every month. In 2016 Hutson learned that its key photo supplier was going out of business. This case provides students with data on the US prison population, the cost of available communications services, and details about Pigeonly’s own business model and asks them to consider how Hutson should respond to its operational crisis.

Case ID: 220412
Supplemental Materials: Teaching Note

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