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Plug and Go

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  • | 7:49 p.m. April 15, 2010
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Kevin and Michelle Borders both had good corporate jobs in Michigan when they decided to move to Naples in 2004.

At the time, they had two children in elementary school and no job prospects in Naples. Michelle Borders recalls when her husband Kevin decided the family should move to the Gulf Coast of Florida. “It was a good job and he didn't even lose it,” she says.

Kevin Borders ran the information-technology department of Spar Marketing, a global firm. “It was a now-or-never situation,” he remembers. Detroit was in decline and Naples was still relatively affordable. “If we'd waited a year, it would have never happened because of the economy up there.”

The couple's gambit paid off. Kevin Borders established his own information-technology company called Naples Network Services. His first client was Naples Title, the company that helped the couple close on their home shortly after they moved to Naples. Since then, Michelle Borders has joined him to market the company and Naples Network Services has grown to 45 clients, mostly small- to medium-sized businesses.

Emboldened by their firm's success, the couple has launched a new entrepreneurial endeavor called Messenger.

Not much bigger than a cigarette pack, the Messenger is a small device anyone can plug into their Internet router that will detect any change in temperature and power in their home.
Kevin Borders says the device is so simple you don't need any computer expert to install it. “You just plug it in and it starts communicating with us,” he says. It costs $75 plus $10 a month to monitor it via the Internet.

It's a device borne out of necessity when their snowbird parents leave their homes for extended periods. While these kinds of devices are common in sophisticated data centers full of expensive equipment, Kevin Borders says he couldn't find a simple version for home use.

The promise of the device isn't just its application for consumers. Plumbers and air-conditioning contractors could offer them to their seasonal clients, alerting them immediately to equipment malfunctions or leaks in a customer's home. “It's a great up-sell for them,” says Karl Gibbons, president and chief executive officer of Third Eye Management, a consultant the Borders hired to develop the business.

It's taken the Borders about a year and a half to develop the Messenger and $20,000 in savings. Kevin Borders bought the parts from various manufacturers and hired Clearwater-based SDM Assembly to put the devices together.

The Web site to manage the system was developed by programmers in India with Muthu Technology Solutions, an Oregon-based firm. “It's been the biggest, time-consuming part of it,” Borders says. Still, he estimates he saved 75% of the cost of Web-site development by hiring offshore help.

Michelle Borders handles sales and marketing for both the Naples Network Services and Messenger, advertising on the radio to snowbirds who are about to leave their Florida homes for the summer. “We're going to see how this goes,” she says.

Sales of the Messenger just started and part of Gibbons' advice has been to help the Borders develop a plan in case sales boom.

“I can see Kevin very quickly having to go to China to buy a container-load of them,” says Gibbons. “We've already been approached by a leading plumbing company and they're in talks with other alliance partners that have seen the potential of this product.”

What's more, Borders could develop add-on services. While he won't disclose what those might be, one $25 add-on he already has developed is a device that detects water. “I meet lots of people who have good ideas, but you don't meet many of them that make it happen,” Gibbons says.
—Jean Gruss



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