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Bluefish Wireless launches unit to help firms manage wireless-phone expenses

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The owners of Indianapolis-based Bluefish Wireless, which manages wireless phones for Fortune 500 companies and their employees, have spawned a new firm to serve smaller firms, via the Web.

Mobi Wireless Management consists of barely a dozen employees tucked into a corner of Bluefish’s headquarters at Zionsville Road and West 96th Street.

Mobi is betting that the ocean of medium-size to large companies needing more control of wireless expenses and fewer internal resources dedicated to the task is teeming with potential.

It is projecting sales of $13 million and a work force of 75 by the end of 2011.

The confidence is based on wireless management assets Bluefish has developed; it now serves 20 Fortune 500 companies, including Intel, Oracle and Ford Motor Co.

“Let’s take the tool we built for IBM and shrink-wrap it,” Michael Browning II, a principal of Bluefish, said of the Mobi concept. He and his brother, Christian, sons of local real estate developer Michael Browning, formed Bluefish in 2001.

Both previously worked at Indianapolis-based wireless phone distributor Brightpoint Inc. The back offices of Bluefish are a microcosm of their old employer, with employees programming and packaging phones for clients.

It’s by no means the first operating in telecom expense management, or TEM, an increasingly crowded sector being fueled by the greater use of Web-enabled wireless devices to help employees become more productive. Countless firms gather and analyze wireless phone expense data to save employers money.

Mobi does that, too, but its Web portal also takes over a number of routine functions employers typically perform internally, such as setting up a phone for a new employee or upgrading service or replacing lost or damaged phones.

According to Mobi, 20 percent of IT managers spend up to half their time handling wireless phone issues for employees.

“Everybody just hounds them to get their problems solved,” said Brandon Hampton, a former enterprise sales manager for Sprint who is a founding director of Mobi.

Mobi is aiming at companies with 200 to 2,000 wireless phones. It charges $5 per line per month. Companies with the largest number of phones pay less.

The business model was attractive to Browning and other Mobi owners because it should generate a predictable income stream compared with the custom work Bluefish performs.

Hampton

The Mobi software includes analytics to slice and dice wireless costs to help companies optimize their wireless spending plans. A Mobi survey found only one in four employees uses most of the monthly minutes their company pays for.

The data also could help employers identify wasteful mobile spending by their workers. Some employees download games and custom ring tones on the company’s dime.

If 14 percent of a company’s 1,000 employees spent $10 a month on ring tones, that’s $1,400 a month in waste, Hampton said.

Part of the problem is that many companies don’t have a wireless management policy for employees. The software package allows companies to set parameters by clicking on a series of questions.

Hampton declined to identify customers the company has brought on board so far. He’s planning to hire three or four more salespeople by year-end.

Sister company Bluefish has 80 employees and last year had revenue of $12.6 million, up 727 percent from 2005, according to Inc. magazine’s list of 500 fastest-growing private companies.•

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