Serial entrepreneur Jim Medalia is in the process of launching his latest venture. Charter Private, for which is he now raising money, is to be New Jersey’s first private, standalone safe deposit box company. The company is now working on the licensing process with the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance.
On Wednesday, May 16, at 6 p.m. Medalia gives a presentation to potential investors at the Princeton Charter Club, 79 Prospect Avenue. He will also be talking about his new company on Tuesday, May 22, at 6 p.m. at Gillespie Advertising, 3450 Princeton Pike. Registration for both events is at www.charterprivate.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medalia is perhaps best known around Princeton for his high-profile E-commerce start-up, JustBalls, a Kingston-based company, launched in the late 1990s (U.S. 1, August 12, 1998), which sold all manner of sports balls over the Internet during the early days of the Internet. The company got lots of press and won lots of awards. Like many Internet-based stores, however, it was not able to stick around for the long haul. Before getting into online sales of six-packs of tennis balls, however, Medalia was CEO of New York City-based Digital Exchange, a printing company that saw the Internet coming, and in 1995 opened a showroom in the city’s bustling printing district to show people just what the brand new medium could do.
It turns out that the ‘Net was even more revolutionary than any of the curious folks who stopped by to check out Medalia’s showroom could have imagined. What it hasn’t been, at least so far, is a great place for standalone retailers not supported by brick and mortar locations. JustBalls, like so many other Internet shops, didn’t make it. It downsized, moved to Canal Pointe, and went through various incarnations before bouncing off the dotcom map.
Undeterred, Medalia took a day job in the mortgage department of Washington Mutual while he and his wife, E-Ping Nie, a partner in JustBalls, and also in Charter Private, went on to found NWatt (U.S. 1, January 29, 2003). That company aimed to help consumers cut their utility bills by buying energy efficient appliances. Two years later Medalia showcased a software contact management system at the Princeton Chamber Trade Fair.
Charter Private’s business plan calls for a revolution in a product that is nearly as ubiquitous as the refrigerator or the stove — or the golf ball — but that has seen far fewer upgrades over the decades. The company aims to provide individuals and companies with safe deposit space for all the usual items — birth certificates, gold coins, seldom-worn jewelry, deeds, and the like — and also for unusually large, or odd-shaped items.
As is the case in state-of-the-art safe deposit facilities elsewhere, Charter Private will offer its customers access through biometric readers. In other words, rather than reporting to a desk and asking to be escorted to a vault, customers will wave their palms in front of a biometric reader, or perhaps will have their eyeballs scanned. This system has the advantage of allowing the safe deposit facility to be open around the clock for the convenience of anyone who is due to depart for Dubai at 9 p.m., and who realizes at 7 p.m. that he has forgotten to retrieve his passport from his safety deposit box.
Charter Private may not be for the average Joe who wants to stash away a few savings bonds and the kids’ baptism certificates, however. In a press release, Medalia writes that “Charter Private will also consider implementing a proprietary messaging system that gives clients access to anonymous pre-qualifying, discussions with insurance providers, financial planners, and appraisers prior to a decision to schedule a first meeting.”
Medalia’s plans call for building many Charter Private facilities all over the country. His first location is to be in Forrestal Village, at a location he is not ready to disclose.
Among advance capabilities of the safety deposit locations will be an online system to provides clients “with secure access to information about their account and a history of their interactions with their depository box(es).” It’s a little difficult to conjure circumstances in which an individual — or a company — would need to know when a document or diamond ring was last put into or taken out of a vault, but it’s fairly easy to think of circumstances where safe deposit box holders would not want relatives or agents of the federal government accessing such records.
In any case, Medalia is convinced that there is a need for an up-to-date, 24/7, Internet-connected chain of safe deposit box centers, and is hoping that potential investors will agree.