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Collegiate entrepreneur Jon Fischer attends his first trade show...where he'll be exhibiting and demoing his new mobile app

Posted by Scott Kirsner  March 21, 2011 08:18 AM

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jonfischer.jpgNot too shabby...

Lunenberg native Jon Fischer is in Orlando this week for his first-ever trade show, the annual International CTIA Wireless convention. But Fischer, a senior at Champlain College in Vermont, isn't there as one of the 39,000 attendees. His start-up, WirelessESP, is exhibiting on the show floor, and he'll also have the chance to give a five-minute on-stage demo of the mobile app he has developed, Speedbump.

Installed on an Android phone, Speedbump allows parents to set speed limits for their teens to obey when they get behind the wheel — or when they ride in someone else's car. Once you've established guidelines for how fast your teen can drive on a highway or a surface road, the app will fire off a text message or e-mail when those speeds are exceeded. The app also has a "check-in" feature, so that a teen can let Mom or Dad know she has arrived safely at soccer practice or a friend's house, Fischer explains. The app itself is free, but customers pay WirelessESP a $10 per month subscription.

"Since I'm so young, I come at this with a different perspective than all of the competition," Fischer says. "A lot of what's out there is about constant tracking — being able to locate your kid at all times. But what differentiates our app is that it only gives info about the user's location and speed if they're breaking a rule. I think that teens should be able to be trusted. If you don't want your parents to know where you are, you need to be driving safe." What happens, I wondered, if a devious teen simply turns the phone off for an hour of drag racing? "The app sends out a message and tells the parent where you are if the phone goes off and then gets turned on later," Fischer says.

Fischer has enlisted his father, Richard Fischer, a veteran tech exec, to help with the start-up, and the duo recruited a family friend to develop the app. Fischer says that the company hopes to create versions soon for the iPhone and Blackberry.

So far, the company has been boot-strapped, the younger Fischer says. In 2007, when he was a senior at Lunenberg High School, he won $20,000 in cash and services from a business plan competition at Mount Wachusett Community College. "That paid for our patent application, our incorporation, and some other legal fees," he says. And since he won a substantial scholarship to attend Champlain College, his parents have invested some of the money they would've ordinarily spent on tuition in their son's start-up.

Now, Fischer says, "we're starting to actively look for angel funding or venture capital of about $1 million, so we can be on all phones and platforms as soon as we can, and really give a strong marketing push. We also want to take on some salesmen for channel development." After graduation this spring, he's not yet sure if the company will set up an office in Burlington, Vermont or somewhere in Massachusetts.

As for attending his first trade show, Fischer says, "I'm really excited."

(The Globe covered Fischer in 2009, when the product was hardware-based, rather than an app that runs on a smartphone.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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