By GREGORY ZELLER // It’s a make-or-break month for ClipFix.
Peddling a tiny invention with enormous potential, the Commack-based startup embarks this week on two critical field tests. Best case: ClipFix’s ridiculously uncomplicated DIY fix for busted modular plugs is embraced by major corporate customers, propelling the company to stratospheric success.
Considering the startup’s so-simple-it’s-brilliant pitch, this isn’t farfetched at all.
At its heart is the RJ-45 modular plug – more specifically, the miniscule, depressible tab that snaps gratifyingly into place when the plug is inserted into a port or wall jack, connecting monitors, modems, phones, printers, routers, laptops and just about every other device across the digital spectrum.
As everyone knows, the tiny tabs tend to snap off, preventing plugs from snuggling into ports and causing connection failures that render perfectly good modular cables useless.
ClipFix has created a surrogate tab that fits easily around the plug and snaps it securely into a port or jack. Not only does it work like a champ, it’s so inexpensive – a pack of 25 ClipFix tabs runs as low as $22.99 – the itty bitty plastic thingy generates an ROI of 3,100 percent.
That’s not a typo: Thirty-one-hundred percent.
According to the company, the average business spends $32 on labor and materials whenever one of those little plastic tabs breaks off, and that doesn’t include lost productivity or other downtime costs. With a fix time of about 10 seconds and no need for replacement cables, that $22.99 pack “more than pays for itself with the very first repair,” according to David Mroczka, ClipFix vice president and general manager.
The company was launched in 2010 by founder and president Michael Strahl, who came up with the clip fix after repeated frustrations with flimsy tabs. Several prototypes later, he met veteran inventor Mroczka, and the two hatched a plan to produce and market the ClipFix.
Although not yet available for mass consumption, the surrogate tabs are already proving popular. The Commack firm has a production agreement with Central Islip manufacturer Autronic Plastics – a high-volume producer known for cranking out handles for five-gallon buckets, among other overlooked everyday items – that has already produced hundreds of samples, which are being distributed by IT resellers and other tech professionals.
“Nothing like distributing free samples and letting people see for themselves how well they work,” Mroczka noted. “You can watch videos, but putting it in their hands is a much more compelling way to get them to place orders.”
While ClipFix is accepting website orders, it’s holding off on a mass-production deal until this month’s field tests are completed. The proof-of-concept gauntlet features two major corporations that will test the surrogate tabs in various devices. Mroczka didn’t want to reveal the companies, saying only that they are “two of the largest banks in America.”
ClipFix is running one of the tests itself, he added, so the results will be immediately available. The other bank is testing the clips independently and figures to get back to ClipFix by the end of August. Assuming those tests go as expected, the summer could end brilliantly for the Commack startup.
“Once they’re sure it works perfectly across all devices, their first order could be for a quarter-million parts, just to keep one pack in every bank and data center they have,” Mroczka said. “We expect first-year sales to at least break the $1 million mark. Just three banks placing (corporate-scale) orders would get us up around $750,000, and there are lots of financial institutions, data centers and other companies expressing interest.”
Mroczka understands firsthand how good ideas can take off. He holds several patents, including Pacmules – a collapsible, all-terrain wheeled cart that unfolds from backpack-sized to haul gear on outdoor adventures, or carry bagged game, or even serve as an emergency rescue stretcher. He also holds a patent for a fuel pump design found in millions of U.S. cars and another for underwater umbilical connectors used in oil operations by Japanese firm Ube Industries.
Those experiences helped Mroczka instantly recognize the global potential of ClipFix. The plan now is to turn ClipFix profits into capital to commercialize other products he and Strahl are designing.
“We have multiple patents and products we want to commercialize,” Mroczka said. “ClipFix was just the easiest one to launch first, considering startup costs and marketing.”
Mroczka also understands economies of scale, which in this case convinced him that using a Long Island manufacturer to mass-produce ClipFix made the most sense.
“It’s more efficient for us to produce them on Long Island than to import them from China,” he noted. “The development lead time of going through China would have been horrendous, and the communication issues would have been nearly impossible. Plus, because they’re so small, we have virtually no shipping costs if we ship them from Long Island. From China, we’d be shipping a lot of air.”
They plan to do lots of shipping. Not only will ClipFix’s commercialization curve be accelerated by the fact that purchasing the product actually saves customers money – “One of the bank VPs told me this is such a cost-saver, it will free up his budget for other things” – but those modular cables and flimsy tabs, Mroczka noted, are everywhere.
“Usually you develop a product that applies to one market, or at best two or three,” he said. “But where do you find these cables? Everywhere. Potentially, everybody with a computer or a phone can use this product.
“We’re obviously very excited about this.”