When he was 7 years old, Hong Long emigrated to the U.S. in 1975 with his family from Laos. His father had fought in the French Foreign Legion in Vietnam and later worked for the U.S. State Department in Laos, but they arrived here penniless.
They settled with other Asian refugees in Cedar Falls, Iowa. “We were on food stamps,” says Long, whose Chinese-born parents didn't speak any English.
Meanwhile, in 1990, Felix Lluberes came to Iowa from the Dominican Republic with $50 in his pocket on a scholarship to study at Maharishi University of Management. The grant was a reward for being the top student in his high school class.
The two computer-science wizards met at a seminar Long was giving at the University of Iowa, beginning a friendship that would eventually lead to the creation of Position Logic, a Naples-based company whose growth landed them on the Inc. 500 list two years in a row.
“These guys are special and unique,” says Michael Reagen, retired president and CEO of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. Reagen has a special connection with Long because he worked for the administration that welcomed Asian refugees in the 1970s in Iowa.
“They're part of the American Dream,” says Reagen, who attributes their success to their humble roots. “They're very intellectually creative,” he says. “That's what they look for in the people around them.”
Lluberes and Long agree that their drive comes in part from their challenging upbringings. “America is the dream land,” says Lluberes.
But the duo also attributes their success to the fact that they get along at both work and at play. Long's strength is the development of software from abstract ideas, while Lluberes is the one who can sell it. “We are best friends and buddies outside of work,” says Lluberes, who loves to race his Lamborghini at the Homestead track. Long likes fast cars, too, and owns an Audi R8.
Lluberes was in Naples for a conference and responded to an employment ad from Media Brains in Naples during the tech boom in 2000. Eventually, Long joined him in Naples. “I was bugging Hong all the time,” Lluberes laughs.
Together they formed Position Logic in 2007, a company that provides GPS software to resellers of security and transportation tracking in 80 countries, including the U.S. The software is device agnostic, so it can track any GPS-enabled device anywhere in the world.
Position Logic doesn't grant anyone an exclusive territory, letting entrepreneurs resell the service at markups they choose. However, the company helps entrepreneurs get established in business by extending terms so that they can build a customer base.
Lluberes and Long have a soft spot for entrepreneurs because they built their company during the recession, when venture capital was scarce. In fact, they've funded three other ventures in town, providing help and advice to budding entrepreneurs.
The duo now has the resources to do that thanks to the fact that they sold a controlling interest in Position Logic last year to RacoWireless, a privately held firm based in Cincinnati formed by alumni from T-Mobile. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Lluberes says RacoWireless boosted Position Logic's technology spending by $1.3 million within 90 days of the deal. “The company just went to another level,” says Lluberes.
“Part of our plan was to build the business and exit,” says Lluberes. Initially, Lluberes and Long figured it would take them five years, but it took about one year longer than that. Both men are staying with the combined companies and will remain in Naples. “There comes a point when we have to provide more,” Lluberes says. “We love what we do.”
Year Revenue Growth
2011 $2.5 million
2012 $4.1 million 64%
2013 $6.8 million 66%
Source: Position Logic