Ex-NutriSystem boss Hagan tries digital alarms

Michael Hagan, the ex-NutriSystem ceo who claims credit for boosting stock, sales and profits at the Horsham-based diet chain, is heading a group of local investors in launching LifeShield Security, a wireless home surveillance and alarm distributor.

Hagan's raised $10 million since December, alongside Mike Bolton's Novitas fund and David Berkman's Associated Group, and he plans a big, NutriSystem-style national ad campaign using his pal ex-NFL quarterback Dan Marino, who also pitched NutriSystem. Hagan and Marino met at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, where they have vacation homes.

Hagan says he'll refocus the six-year-old firm, formerly known as InGrid Home Security, with "online and print, direct mail, maybe radio ads, all driving toward a 1-800 number." LifeShield claims wireless systems are cheaper, less disruptive and more effective than traditional wire-based alarm systems like ADT, an arm of Tyco International, which is run by Hagan's Yardley neighbor, Ed Breen.

"You don't need to pay $1,000 so a crew can drill holes in your walls to run wires around your house," Hagan says. "You need systems you can read from your iPhone or your laptop computer," to warn of fires or intruders, and "cameras to check on your daughter when your she comes home from school, or make sure your son isn't opening the liquor cabinet." Hagan says LifeShield is the only all-wireless system on the market.

I asked Tyco about that. Spokeswoman Ann Lindstrom says the company has since 2007 marketed "the ADT Safewatch QuickConnect digital system" for $299 installed (wireless control, keypad, window sensors, motion detctor), with a current $200 Internet rebate. "Our service also offers two-way voice during an alarm event and is backed by ADT’s network of fully redundant, interconnected customer monitoring centers that are UL certified.  Monthly monitoring for this system is $42.99".

InGrid founder Lou Stilp, an electrical engineer who previously ran emergency cell-phone locator TruePosition (now part of Liberty Media), continues to run operations at the firm. He told me he'd tried to get InGrid marketed through Verizon and Comcast, but couldn't reach a deal. Since investing, Hagan has moved the headquarters to Yardley from Berwyn. Guardian Protection Services, Pittsburgh, provides monitoring for the LifeShield system. The supply and tech support facility remains in Wayne.

Hagan claims 5,000 customers for the service, but "we're planning for 10,000 by year's end." He employs 30, including ex-NutriSystem marketing boss Shanon Dominello and other past colleagues, and plans to hire 20 more this year as he builds out the call center and info tech group.