By GREGORY ZELLER //
Three offices, 80-odd employees and one huge corporate takeover later – not to mention bragging rights on some of the cleverest commercial products in the land – Intelligent Product Solutions has completed its first decade of innovation.
The Hauppauge-based product-design specialist with a penchant for the Internet of Things officially marks 10 years this winter, and it does so under the auspices of a new corporate parent: Florida-based global designer/distributor Forward Industries, which completed its acquisition of the Long Island maker in January.
While Intelligent Product Solutions’ solid market strategy and ingenious product development are what attracted Forward Industries, things haven’t always gone according to plan since founders Mitch Maiman, Paul Severino and Herb Feinstein launched their small but ambitious firm around Maiman’s kitchen table in Holbrook.
But if Intelligent Product Solutions has shown anything over the last 120 months, it’s the ability to remake a blueprint.
Starting with just Maiman (as president), Severino (the company’s longstanding chief operations officer) and business-development expert Feinstein, the startup rented its first professional space just weeks after its official 2008 launch – about 2,400 square feet in Ronkonkoma – and quickly made its first hires.
“Within that first month, we hired two or three really hands-on engineering people,” Maiman told Innovate LI. “That wasn’t our long-term vision for the company, exclusively, but we knew right away we could turn those individuals into billable accounts.”
The startup strategy worked and the burgeoning brand was soon solving product-design and user-interface conundrums for clients of all shapes and sizes. A second fully functional office was quickly needed, and in 2013, IPS selected Seattle for its satellite site.
That West Coast operation would be short-lived – it closed after four years – but it would clear the path for an even more successful Intelligent Product Solutions office in the heart of Minnesota’s thriving med-tech hub.
“We [closed Seattle] for a combination of reasons,” Maiman noted. “We knew we were opening in Minneapolis, and we knew we couldn’t sustain both.
“We made a strategic decision,” he added. “Not to forego a West Coast presence forever, but at that time, we saw more opportunities developing quicker in the Minneapolis market.”
Those opportunities came in two forms – the Minneapolis corridor’s thriving med-tech market and a second regional focus that’s slightly less renowned but right in Intelligent Product Solutions’ tech-savvy wheelhouse: industrials, with major-leaguers like Honeywell Industrial Controls and off-road pacesetter Polaris Industries centered in Minnesota.
“There’s not a lot of consumer stuff in that market,” Maiman noted. “But we tend to thrive in commercial and med-tech spaces, working closely with people who do controls, and there is a large number of industrials out there.”
The switch from Seattle/move to Minneapolis proved to be another wise call. Less than two years later, Intelligent Product Solutions has grown its Minnesota operation and is making inroads throughout the Midwest, with “good prospects and couple of key clients,” Maiman noted.
Meanwhile, back in Hauppauge, business-development efforts continue. The Intelligent Product Solutions purchased by Forward Industries boasts lucrative product-design partnerships and “just north” of 100 employees, according to Maiman, who tallies 60 full-timers and a bunch of contracted professionals among his ranks of engineers, designers, programmers and administrative help.
While Minneapolis is gaining steam, most of the company’s grandest achievements to date have happened right here on Long Island, where there is “very limited med-tech,” Maiman noted, but plenty to do “on the software side, on the commercial side.”
The company is always busy: Maiman, who still runs IPS operations under the Forward Industries flag, counts “about 60 active projects on any given day” and “several hundred a year,” including simultaneous projects for larger clients.
Even with all those design challenges (and solutions) flying across the whiteboards, a few stand out for the beaming cofounder and his proud crew. Maiman points first to work IPS has done for PepsiCo, including “pretty neat” translucent displays and touchscreens for vending machines and the hardware inside the Pepsi Spire, a customer-operated beverage-blending system found in fast-food restaurants.
Then there’s the BeerBox, the first mobile, IoT-enabled vending device that accepts card payments and serves up icy cold cans of beer – among Intelligent Product Solutions’ “more high-profile” efforts, according to Maiman, already popping tabs in several nationwide venues.
But in the world of technological innovation, bigger isn’t always better: The cofounder takes special pride in his company’s work on AdhereTech’s Smart Pill Bottle, which has not only fundamentally altered healthcare dynamics and won international design awards, but of all of Intelligent Product Design’s projects, may be “the most impactful to the company that hired us.”
“With the work we did in helping them create that product, we helped them get on the map,” Maiman said. “I wouldn’t call them a startup anymore. They’ve got a product and they’re successful.”
The cofounder reiterated that the Forward Industries acquisition will not lead the longtime Suffolk County firm off Long Island – “We’re staying” – and that selling off the brand was always on the drawing board.
“Paul and I always had a plan to divest the company,” Maiman said. “It just turned out the market conditions were right. There’s been a lot of M&A activity around firms like ours.
“It’s really more like a merger than just getting sucked into a big company,” he added. “We have the ability to help them transform their company, too.”
With the new order established, Intelligent Product Solutions will enjoy a global influx of Forward Industries-based projects, while continuing to develop existing operations. A return to the West Coast is likely as some point, according to Maiman, and “it could be Seattle, it could be Los Angeles, it could be Denver” – though the more immediate focus will be on maximizing Minneapolis.
And should Intelligent Product Solutions need to expand its home base, there’s plenty of room at the inn: Maiman noted “ample space to grow” in the company’s 14,000-square-foot Hauppauge HQ.
With the acquisition complete, all sides are absolutely thinking about “getting back on an accelerated growth path,” he added.
“We already feel momentum building,” Maiman said. “And we’re pretty excited about it.”