Startup works to return lost items

Kaitlyn Budion

Losing a phone is practically a rite of passage. Unfortunately, with technology playing such an integral role in people’s lives, losing a phone can feel crippling. JackTags, a Northeastern startup, may have a solution.

JackTags is a service currently available to Northeastern students and staff that allows them to put a small tag on important items, such as a phone or a set of keys. They then must register the tag’s serial number online. Later, if that item is found by another person, they can contact JackTags online and the item will be returned to the owner.

Terence Simpson, a fourth-year business administration student, created JackTags. He said the idea was inspired by his mother losing her phone and asking if he knew a way to find it.

“‘Outside of Find My iPhone, which didn’t work, I can’t help you,’” he said to his mother. “Then and there, we brainstormed and came up with my idea.”

Once he arrived at Northeastern, Simpson used IDEA, the campus venture accelerator, to launch the product. IDEA provides entrepreneurs with resources and coaches to help them create the best product for the market.

“When I came to Northeastern and went through IDEA, my coach and I brainstormed how we can make this the most effective product as possible,” he said. “That’s when JackTags was born. We pivoted it, made a new business model and came up with the name.”

As for the name, Simpson said it was based on slang from his home town.

“So jack, I’m from New York, it’s slang for a cell phone,” he said. “And then it’s a tag. So it’s a nice compound word. It flows, I liked how it went.”

Richard Kelleher, Simpson’s coach at IDEA, said the service works by allowing people to contact JackTags when an item is found, and the company then tells the owner where the item is.

“Think of your car keys right now, you know how you have your CVS card? It’s in the same shape as that,” Kelleher said. “It says ‘Found my keys? Contact me here.’ So if you lose your keys and someone finds it they’re able to log on and say that ‘I found this tag, the keys, they are located now at the Curry Center at the front desk.’ Then the person gets an email from us saying we found your item located here.”

JackTags is currently involved in a pilot program with the Northeastern University Police Department.

“We have a six-month pilot program that started Oct. 1. It took a lot to put that in effect,” Simpson said. “We are an on-campus safety program, so we get to table with NUPD — any events they have we are allowed to tag along. It is a really big cosign, especially early on as a startup; it gives it validity and credibility that we need going forward.”

Simpson said in the two months the program has been operating, they have had multiple successful transactions.

“We’ve had five transactions,” he said. “Two misplaced cell phones and three sets of keys that were returned. It’s going well, especially in less than two months we’ve been able to get this traction.”

Sasha Sanon, a second-year accounting and finance major, currently uses JackTags and says she thinks it is an easy way to keep track of belongings.

“We just have to grab the tag and then sign up,” she said. “It was pretty easy, you just have to remember your username and password. I think if most people know what JackTags are it will be a faster and smoother way to return belongings.”

Kelleher said going forward, he could see the program expanding in many directions.

“I could see this in higher education across Boston, to start,” he said. “In higher education, with little kids and stuff they could lose. The opportunities truly are endless.”

Kelleher said throughout his time working with Simpson, he noticed Simpson is always looking to improve.

“Terence is an entrepreneur through and through,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun getting him through IDEA and the pilot at Northeastern.”

Simpson said for now, he plans on perfecting the program at Northeastern.

“Looking forward we are entertaining the idea of expanding to other universities, but we want to make sure we do a great job here first,” he said. “We just want to spread the word to let the Northeastern community know that it is available.”