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PBX to launch baggage tracking at LIT, XNA.

This month, brothers Brandon and Michael Eason will launch their airline baggage tracking system at the state's two primary airports, the culmination of four years of preparation and testing.

Passenger Baggage Xpress, their Little Rock startup that aims to reconnect airline travelers with lost luggage in a fraction of the time it usually takes, officially "goes to market" at Clinton National Airport (LIT) in Little Rock as well as Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) in Benton County, where the PBX system was beta tested earlier this year.

The brothers, Malvern natives, hatched the idea while working for an airline at Clinton National as students at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, where they each earned economics degrees. While working at the airport, they determined there had to be a better way to connect passengers with lost luggage.

"We saw passengers on a daily basis frustrated by the experience of losing their luggage," Brandon Eason, 33 and the startup's COO, said. "Lost luggage costs passengers and airlines billions of dollars every year. My brother and I decided to come up with a solution and turn it into a business. We wanted to provide a first-class service for every type of traveler."

After devising a plan and flow to their network, they pitched it to Innovate Arkansas, the joint venture from Winrock International and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission that nurtures high-tech startups, and were taken on as a client firm.

Since then, PBX has become a mainstay in the Arkansas startup scene. It was accepted into and completed the ARK Challenge startup accelerator in Fayetteville last year, has participated in and won several G60 pitch contests held around the state, and has presented at the 1 Million Cups entrepreneurial education program in Little Rock.

Michael Eason, 31 and CEO, said the PBX system is unique--a permanent luggage tag currently not available in the U.S. that can be tracked through a mobile app. The PBX product and tags will be available in airports, and PBX has worked a deal with the luggage claim service provider for 450 carriers worldwide.

"We offer fast access to a secured user-friendly, mobile Web platform that directly connects to more than 450 airlines worldwide," he said. "When luggage is mishandled, lost or misplaced, PBX members receive alerts through the mobile platform that provides them with the exact airline and employee contact information to locate their lost items. We place the power of baggage recovery back in the hands of our customers."

Brandon said there are four other supplemental luggage tags in the world that can do what PBX does, but none of them is available in the U.S.

"We've created a business model that differs from our competition, allowing us to have maximum exposure at a very minimal cost," he said. "Our competitors can't match our cost to operate, and we are able to pass the savings directly to our customers."

Thanks to what he believes will be a big first-to-market impact, the optimistic Michael thinks PBX can generate nine-figure revenue in less than two years.

"Our goal is to give every passenger access to a PBX luggage tag at any airport they may fly to or from," he said.

The brothers timed their launch well, and they appreciate that timing. Arkansas is not nearly as much of a backwater as it may have seemed 10 years ago regarding the growth of high-tech startups. A plethora of resources such as Innovate Arkansas has emerged over the past several years, and along with the growth of an angel investment ecosystem and continued state support through agencies such as the Arkansas Development Finance Authority and the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority, there's never been a better time to launch a tech-based startup in Arkansas.

Innovate Arkansas, for example, helped PBX with product development, strategy and implementation, and provided mentorship throughout the startup process.

"They also helped to build a network of people in the state that are willing and able to get us to the next level," Michael said. "IA has always been an email or phone call away to help with the things we fall short on in experience."

As PBX positions itself for success, the brothers can't help but notice how drastically the overall startup environment in Arkansas has changed since they launched.

"In past years, there were very few opportunities where people with ideas and startups could get together, share ideas and explore new opportunities," Brandon said. "Today, programs like IA and Warwick Sabin with the Innovation Hub have created those environments through various programs and events and have greatly improved upon them in recent years. Bringing together people that are involved in startups, in whatever form or fashion, is key to building a culture conducive to fostering growth for companies just starting out.

"The future is bright in central Arkansas, and I believe we will see Littlel Rock as the playground for businesses large and small in the next few years because of this."

Caption: PBX will launch at the airports in Little Rock and NWA this month. [SUBMITTED PHOTO]

A monthly look at clients of Innovate Arkansas, which sponsors this feature in partnership with Arkansas Business Publishing Group.
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Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Nov 3, 2014
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