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Serial entrepreneur tackles mobile phone theft

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When Adrian Portlock left his mobile phone on the tube in 2000, he was shocked at the kerfuffle involved in getting it back. “They asked me for the IMEI number of the handset,” says Portlock. “This was back in 2000, I didn’t even know what an IMEI number was.”

He finally tracked down the code and reclaimed his phone, but not before he’d found out that Transport for London recover some 10,000 mobile phones every month, which were only returned when people had their registration numbers.

“I decided to launch a service where people could register these details so that they were easily accessible if their phone was lost or stolen,” says Portlock, “But then I realised there was an even bigger potential for the idea.”

Portlock approached major mobile insurers like Carphone Warehouse, as well as the networks, global mobile databases and even the police. “It took lots of charm, persuasion and hard work to get them on board,” says Portlock. “But now we have the most comprehensive database in the world. We’ve got 30 million stolen handsets on our books.”

In 2000, the CheckMEND service was launched. The idea is simple: for £2.99 buyers and sellers of second-hand electronics can check anything from mobile phones to iPods and Satnavs against a global database to find out whether their gadgets are kosher, or whether they’ve fallen off the back of a lorry.

No other registration service can boast the kind of high level partnership wangled by Portlock. Recipero even provides the UK Police Service with a unique interface to check recovered phones and equipment. And the relationship is reciprocal: CheckMEND is informed when handsets are handed in.

Portlock is no untried businessman, he’s a serial entrepreneur. His chain of 15 restaurants, bars and leisure centres was sold in 2000. Recipero was founded after a brief attempt at retirement: “I was only 40,” he says. “I got bored.”

Mark my words, this is going to be big. The company hasn’t even started it’s big sales drive yet and turnover stands at £1.3m, making a £700,000 profit.

Don’t forget, you heard it here first.

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