Do Americans need another brand of personal computer?
Fred Allegrezza is betting the proceeds of his previous businesses (most recently, AnySource Media, sold to San Diego-based DivX last year; and digital-video purveyor Vertasent, sold to Motorola in 2006) the this market needs a simpler, crash-resistent, kitchen-proof, competitively-priced way for recreational computer users to share Facebook photos and Gmail and instant messaging.
The Drexel- (and Upper Dublin HS-) educated electrical engineer is rolling out Telikin-brand PCs this week at eight Clear smartphone stores and other locations. He hopes to hit 2,000/month in sales in the Philadelphia area (and online, nationally) this winter, and 1 million by 2012 (corrected). Chalfont-based Telikin employs 18, and expects to double that by the end of next year.
"We started out designing a computer for senior citizens. We've made it simpler, and easier to use. And we've found that has a wider appeal," Allegrezza told me. "Microsoft Windows 7 has become a very complex operating system, supporting everything from accounting systems, to designing jets. We developed this computer based on Linux, which runs on a majority of computers, and simplified it... We offer a touchscreen interface that keeps the buttons on the left, where they're always accessible. You can never get lost."
College students, busines owners, movie editors and engineering designers will want more sophisticated computers, but Allegrezza says his $700 system (18-inch LCD screen, 320-gigabyte drive, DVD, USB, 2-gigabyte RAM, dual-core Intel CPU at 1.8 gigahertz), with word-processing, printing and other basic functions, is competitive for tens of millions of potential users.
From Chalfont, Telikin loads its proprietary Linux-based software into PCs built by Taiwan-based Micro-Star International (laptops are on the way) and ships them nationally. "We believe in trying to keep as much as we can in the States." He'll present Telikin for a wider audience at the yearly Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.
Allegrezza and past business partners Cliff Lewis and Tim Court have paid development costs so far. Allegrezza is well-connected at Comcast, a customer of his past companies, and at Motorola, whose Horsham-based General Instruments division he served earlier in his career.
He's trying to raise a few million dollars to fund expansion. "Fred's a very methodical, can-do type of engineer," Rob Adams, cofounder of Philadelhpia's NextStage Capital and a past investor in Anysource, told me. "He's very pragmatic. He's verygood at attracting engineers and entrepreneurs to work with him. We're taking a look at his company."
Or will Telikin sell out, if it catches on? "We do see the option for a large computer manufacturer selling a version with our software and aplication system," Allegrezza told me, sounding happy, when I asked.