The connection

The connection

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// Photos by Christopher Barth

Meeting that demand, in 2007 Feeney helped revolutionize the taxi industry by developing routers connecting cabs in New York City to the Internet via cellular telephone networks; the system was one of the first to enable taxis to use full-service credit-card processing, digital media and advertising. Feeney’s technology also helped move the kiosk industry into the 21st century, providing real-time access to inventory and maintenance issues. The company is also deeply involved in the oil and gas industry, providing monitoring and sensing technology for meters and data collection.

Twelve years after Ralston started Feeney in a cramped 650-square-foot office space, the company is a leader in the world of machine-to-machine products, offering engineering and design capabilities, as well as a suite of customer services that include managing cellular rate plans and technical support. The company, which employs 70 people and recently relocated to the new 36,000-square-foot campus environment, grossed $16.3 million in 2011 and is on track to grow 60% this year, Ralston says. For the second year in a row, Inc. ranked Feeney as one of the fastest-growing 5,000 private companies in the country. Connected World magazine also listed Feeney as one of the top 100 companies in providing machine-to-machine services.

Of course, much of that success has to do with being in the right industry at the right time. “Obviously, no single entity can supply service to that many devices,” says Ralston, referring to the staggering number of wireless applications and devices expected to be connected over the next decade. “It will need a collection of companies.” Ralston says many of his corporate clients are household names, and that a steady stream of national and international customers makes their way through the Eugene airport en route to Feeney Wireless.

That kind of activity is validation for a tech guy who decided more than a decade ago it was time to view wireless technology through an entrepreneurial lens. “The engineering part continues to drive me today.” But, says Ralston, “I have surrounded myself with very smart and dedicated staff members who are competent in sales and helped me grow the business organization. The future is very bright.”