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Local firm considers leaving Florida

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  • | 7:11 a.m. April 18, 2011
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The Jackson Labs incentives saga might partially contribute to the Gulf Coast losing a budding technology firm.

The co-founder of that firm, Naples-based Proximus Mobility, might move the company out of the Sunshine State, possibly to Atlanta or Boston. “There are not a lot of incentives to remain in Florida,” Proximus co-founder and CEO Michael Zeto tells Coffee Talk. “The state doesn't really do anything for high-tech companies.”

Zeto says the Naples-Fort Myers and Sarasota-Bradenton regions lack a sophisticated incubator program for high-tech startups found in other regions and states. Proximus Mobility sells hardware and software that allows mall landlords, big-box retailers and large venue operators to send ads and messages to customers through mobile phones when they walk through the doors. (See Business Review, June 25, 2010.)

More pointedly, Zeto says Proximus Mobility got lost in the Jackson Labs scrum. Jackson Labs, a Maine-based nonprofit genetic research facility, originally attempted to expand in Collier County, with the aid of state and county subsidies. That effort was unsuccessful and Jackson Labs has since targeted Sarasota County for expansion.

“We couldn't even get anyone to listen to us,” says Zeto, “because everyone was fighting with Jackson Labs.”

The company, however, has good listeners in investors and customers. On the client side, organizers behind the Naples Ace Golf Classic reached out to the 100,000 people who attended the February event through Proximus Mobility. Deals with hotels, casinos and retailers are also in the works, says Zeto.

On the capital side, meanwhile, the firm received funds late last year from angel investors who live part-time in Naples, says Zeto. A formal venture capital offering worth at least $2 million will likely close by July.

Zeto expects to hire 18-20 people for sales and software developer positions when the latest capital raise closes. The question of where those people will work, though, lingers.

Zeto says the chances of the firm staying in Florida are 30%. Says Zeto: “Nothing is going to move as fast as we need it to.”


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