Device developed in Boca Raton offers emergency help at home or away [Sun Sentinel :: ]
(South Florida Sun Sentinel (FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 18--South Florida resident Shirley Mazursky says a Boca Raton company's device has saved her life twice.
Most recently, Mazursky thought she was having a heart attack so she pushed the button on the MobileHelp pendant device she wears around her neck. That alerted 911 as well as her loved ones. Last year, the 84-year-old fell and broke her hip. She had just bought MobileHelp two days earlier.
"Nobody thinks they're really going to need something like this," she said. But her son, who lives in New Jersey, insisted.
With the push of a button on a MobileHelp pendant or watch, a senior or disabled person can call for emergency help or seek assistance from a listed family member or neighbor. A new feature automatically sends an alert when the wearer falls.
There are many medical alert products on the market, including Lifeline and LifeAlert. MobileHelp CEO Robert Flippo said his company's product is different because it protects the user outside the home. MobileAlert's device is integrated with GPS technology to provide tracking and works anywhere there is AT&T cellular service.
Mazursky, for example, can travel to see her son Bennett in New Jersey and take MobileHelp with her.
Bennett said that when he first approached his parents about using the device, he got resistance. He was told: "I'm not that old. I'm not that weak. I don't need that." But he and his wife made the case that with family members more than a thousand miles away, the device was a matter of safety.
MobileHelp costs between $38 and $42 a month, depending on whether the customer pays annually or monthly. The company has an 'A' grade from the Better Business Bureau of the Southeast Florida, with only five complaints in three years, all of them responded to and satisfied.
Flippo said MobileHelp will soon roll out its national TV commercial, which he hopes will reverse the negative image of medical alert devices resulting from a competitor's much-maligned "I've fallen and I can't get up" ad.
"Our new TV commercial will show people out and about and just trying to be safe. We want to change the conversation," he said.
Entrepreneur Scott Adams approached Flippo about running the company in 2008. Adams founded Boca Raton-based Hiway Technologies, which was sold to Verio for $351 million in 1999. He no longer is involved with MobileHelp on a daily basis, having moved on to another startup.
MobileHelp fit perfectly with Flippo's experience. He previously worked for Motorola in product development and then for Emergin, a health care alert software firm sold to Philips in 2007.
Flippo, a three-time Ironman triathlon athlete, also likes a challenge. And he got one trying to raise funds for MobileHelp at the start of the recession. Still, the company raised $1 million from individual investors with only a balsa-wood model.
Within a year, MobileHelp had an operating system and about 30 local customers. Today, the company is approaching 100,000 customers in 50 states and in 2013 had $19 million in revenue. The company has about 100 employees and is hiring additional workers for sales.
To support its rapid growth, MobileHelp has now raised $15 million, including a recent investment from Tampa-based Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners. With the aging population more mobile than past generations, "we see a huge opportunity for MobileHelp," said Steven Lux, managing partner of Stonehenge.
Flippo said MobileHelp also can be used for medication management, to remind the user when to take certain medications, and can monitor weight, blood pressure and other vital signs.
But Anthony Russo, 71, of Boynton Beach most likes the fact he can go where he wants with the device. He wears MobileHelp's wristwatch with the mobile device on his belt.
"If I'm in New York, it works. If I go to the Hard Rock Casino, it works," Russo said.
Russo said he got the device after his wife died and his family worried more about him.
"Thank God I've never had to use it," Russo said. "But it gives me peace of mind." firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6650 ___ (c)2014 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com Distributed by MCT Information Services