Firefly Mobile: Calling All Tweens

Its kiddie cell phone was a smash. Can a version for older children compensate for a gruelling management shakeup?

Donald L. Deubler has the guts of a high roller. In 2005, the former industrial parts salesman created a hot cell phone for kids. The award-winning device, which allowed only parent-programmed calls, soon generated $20 million in annual sales for his Firefly Mobile. In less than a year and a half, though, the owner was ushering out his chief executive officer and half his staff as the startup was nearly done in by differences of opinion over strategy. "It was that close to ending," says Deubler.

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