What It Does: Mobile-device charging machine vendor
Founder: Paul King, 25
Web Site: www.herculesnetworks.com
Based: New York
When Paul King was a senior at Carnegie Mellon, his cell phone died while he was driving to see a friend. As he drove past ATMs outside shops, he remembers thinking, "People can get cash anywhere they want, but they can't charge their phone anywhere." So after graduating with a degree in psychology in 2005, King considered starting a business to make and sell standalone charging machines for mobile devices. At first his concept remained just a concept, because he was busy building what would become his own 40-agent real estate business in Miami. But after the real estate market tanked in 2008, King was ready to shift gears. He fleshed out the concept and partnered with a Beijing technology manufacturer, becoming its exclusive distributor for the Americas and most of Europe. The result is a machine that can charge any mobile device in about 10 minutes. It includes a TV screen positioned at eye level that plays a 10-minute loop of ads (advertisers include Bank of America (BAC), Cadillac, and AT&T (T)) and content (the content comes from a partnership with CBS (CBS)). The business makes money selling advertising and by leasing the machines to companies looking to attract crowds to their booths at conventions. (Google was the company's first convention client.) King's 12-employee business has offices in New York and Miami, has raised about $1 million from two angel rounds, and expects about $500,000 in revenue in 2009 and $1.5 million to $1.75 million in 2010.