A year after topping the Inc. 5000, telecom Ultra Mobile launched a discount wireless service called Mint Mobile. In 2019, co-founder and CEO David Glickman spun Mint Mobile off as a subsidiary company and announced actor Ryan Reynolds as its co-owner. But Reynolds is not simply a face. Here, Glickman describes how the duo’s business partnership has helped Ultra scale.
We spun off Mint Mobile only because Ryan Reynolds wanted to buy an ownership stake in it. For several years, Ryan and I were both board members of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. I watched him do his unique brand of guerrilla marketing on Deadpool, a movie he starred in and co-produced. He was given a next-tonothing budget and had to do it all on his own—and it became the highest-grossing R-rated movie at the time. Then, he did it again with Aviation American Gin, which was almost unheard of when he bought an ownership stake in 2018. Last year, alcohol giant Diageo bought it for up to $610 million; the final sale price hinges on the company’s performance over the next few years.
I said to him, “If you can do that with a wireless company, it’d be worth tens of billions of dollars. Why don’t you just come in here and do that with Mint?” I’m still the CEO of both companies, but he created all the Mint Mobile marketing you see—whether he’s in it or not. He demands that we have the highest level of customer care in the entire wireless industry. We say we have the lowest customer churn of anyone in the industry because, as Ryan likes to say, “we don’t hate you.” It’s not just a celebrity endorsement; he is the owner, and I’d partner with him on a business venture if his celebrity brought nothing to the table.
When I’m building a team, tackling a market, and putting a business plan together, it’s hypergrowth or bust— because after doing that with Ultra Mobile, I know we can do it again. Mint had 91,044 percent revenue growth from 2016 through 2020, with annual revenue over $100 million. If it had been eligible for last year’s Inc. 5000, it would have been No. 1. So we don’t say, “Let’s test this and see how it goes.” Instead, we just say, “Let’s go big.” ■