Ira Baseman

Michael Markulec

Corrections or additions?

This article by Melinda Sherwood was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on August 18, 1999. All rights reserved.

Ready for Pre-Fab Networks?

The computer network is a business’s backbone, but

the hardware can be expensive, particularly for small operations.

A basic server and Internet connection may cost no more than $5,000

initially, but with a firewall device, software, and hiked-up monthly

charges, you could be spending close to $20,000 or more a year. If

the system goes haywire, it’s not long before you’re cursing the machinery

and spending thousands for a network doctor.

Nex-i.com, a start-up at 7 Wall Street, is offering its customers

a simpler concept in networking: the wall jack (http://www.nex-i.com). You simply plug into

a fiber optic line next to the computer and all of your networking

worries are whisked away to Nex-i.com’s site. The file server itself

is stowed away somewhere in your building where it is shared with

other tenants, but a Nex-i.com network manager configures the system

personally, and backs up data remotely. Everything — state-of-the-art

equipment, a constant T1 Internet connection, E-mail, 24-hour customer

support — is covered in your monthly bill.

Top Of Page
Ira Baseman

The invisible network, says Ira Baseman, a former real estate lawyer

and CEO of this two-person start-up, is the next big service for the

rapidly expanding market of small businesses. "Everyone we talked

to is very anxious to just leave everything behind and focus on their

business," he says. Not only do you save not having to buy the

equipment, but you save on the frustration and expense of network

error and recovery. "The biggest mythology is that once you buy

the equipment it doesn’t cost anything to run," says Baseman,

"but the fact is the biggest expense is repairs and patches. It’s

somewhere between three and seven times the cost of the hardware."

For a 10 person office, Nex-i.com plug-in costs $100 per computer

per month, plus a one-time $1,000 installation charge. That includes

everything — from Internet access to a local server network, E-Mail

to 24-hour support. You can also get services like E-mail and Internet

a la carte if you prefer. Run your own network, Baseman says, and

you could pay $85,000 in a year. With Nex-i.com the price is a predictable

$13,000 annually.

Nex-i.com has the potential of making many property managers happy,

too. Since customers eat the cost of installing the fiber lines, they

enhance the building’s value on the market. If a business is interested

in the service, Baseman will court the property managers and show

them how it works. "The whole smart building concept is also a

very important component of ours because we are benefiting the older

buildings that have not been able to compete with newer buildings,"

he say. Four different properties have signed-on for Nex-i.com plug-ins,

including two at Research Park and one at the building under construction

at 731 Alexander Road. Baseman is also talking to Palmer Square management.

Of course, if you happen to move into a building already wired by

Nex-i.com, it becomes the obvious choice for network outsourcing,

but without obligation. Baseman feels the competitive prices and state-of-the

art technology (Cisco Systems provides the hardware, and AT&T provides

the lines) will speak for itself. "The idea is to create a network

to deliver new services that are just coming on the market," he

says. Services like Voice Over IP and video teleconferencing, for

example, that need the basic framework that the lines provide. Then,

if Nex-i.com moves into the arena of Application Service Providers

(ASPs), which Baseman hints is likely, businesses could lease its

software as well.

Top Of Page
Michael Markulec

Baseman and Michael Markulec, founding members of Nex-i.com,

are both first time entrepreneurs with a wealth of experience in their

respective fields. They are still pulling together a team of salespeople

and looking for network managers and are entirely self-funded, for

the moment. Baseman is in negotiations with investors.

Knowledge of the real estate market was obviously not lost on Baseman,

who holds a BS in political science and philosophy from George Washington

University, Class of 1984, as well as a law degree. He most recently

worked for Toll Brothers in acquisitions and operations, but he spent

his youth at the knee of a tireless entrepreneur — his father

— who was in to everything from skateboard manufacturing to used

car lots.

"I always had desire on my part to branch out beyond the corporate

world and try something myself," he says. "My father is a

businessman and he’s had problems with computers, and I know from

the experience I had at Toll Brothers, the networking was always problem,"

says Baseman. "The model of distribution — that each company

has to go out and buy their hardware — it struck me as unnecessary

considering where we are with bandwidth. I don’t think it took a technical

background to realize that model may not be the right model."

Representatives of both Cisco systems and AT&T, who Baseman approached

nine months ago, liked the idea. "When I first pitched this to

AT&T they said this is something that is so obvious why didn’t we

do it," he says. Baseman met Markulec, an AT&T data networking

sales manager, while in negotiations with the communications company.

Trenton-born Markulec has a mechanical engineering degree from Norwich

University, Class of 1987, and spent five years in the military before

working in sales for a German company, Niehoff, and later in LAN and

system administration for the RE/COM Group in South Jersey.

"Because the real estate market has been slow to adopt technology,"

says Baseman, "the opportunity to go out and distribute services

to the real estate community is a brand new concept. Nobody is delivering

the bundle of services directly to the desktop. This is a model I

spent a considerable amount of time researching and putting together

and realizing that there will only a handful of vendors we wanted

to do business with. Cisco is leading network hardware supplier, and

AT&T deliver services over frame-relay/ATM backbone."

Nex-i.com may take some of the financial burden off of business owners,

but it means relinquishing control as well, putting the most vital

organs of their company in the hands of an outsider. But for the network

unsavvy, Nex-i.com offers something that you sometimes can’t put a

price tag on simplicity. "We’re demystifying the whole concept

of delivering a network," says Baseman. In other words, it’s

networking for dummies.

— Melinda Sherwood

Nex-i.com, 7 Wall Street, Princeton 08540. Ira

Baseman, president. 609-497-9400; fax, 609-497-9400. Home page:

http://www.nex-i.com.


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