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

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.•

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: IBJ is now using a new comment system. Your Disqus account will no longer work on the IBJ site. Instead, you can leave a comment on stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Past comments are not currently showing up on stories, but they will be added in the coming weeks. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.