As Presented by Rob Merlino on The Shark Tank Blog:
Phil Reitnour and Jason D. Friedberg enter the Shark Tank seeking funding for EmergenSee, their personal security app, in episode 604. Philip Reitnour founded the company behind the app in 2012 after witnessing a road rage incident. The personal security app is being used on dozens of college campuses nationwide, but its usefulness goes beyond campus security. Users are able to alert a group of people they pre-select who’ll be notified at the touch of a button should a dangerous situation or accident occur.
EmergenSee is a free download, but the $8.99 per month subscription connects users to a 24/7 professional monitoring center that logs the event and alerts the appropriate first responders of your geo-location. Organizations (schools, corporations hospitals, municipalities) pay $25,000 per year and up, depending on the size of the group, to have EmergenSee enabled. Live audio and video of every incident is also logged. Another feature is the timer which people can use if they’re going out alone. When activated, the app starts a timer that requires the user to notify the app again when they arrive; if they don’t an alert is sent out. The app has three patents associated with it as well.
EmergenSee isn’t the only personal security app out there, but they’ve gained a lot of national attention due to the live video feature. In cases of assault, the video log can be used as evidence. Colleges have been battling sexual assault and campus safety issues for years and the personal security app is the latest weapon in that war. College students aren’t the only people who can benefit from EmergenSee: world travelers, corporations, municipalities, and individuals are all potential customers.
Think of EmergenSee as the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” app for the 21st century. The same people who rely on Life Alert and similar products can benefit from this technology. The monthly costs are less, too.
My Take on the Personal Security App
I have a friend who works at Rave Mobile Safety. They’re in the same business as EmergenSee in that they provide personal security app solutions to colleges and enterprise customers. It’s a BIG business that’s bound to get bigger and there are only a few players in the space. My friend had only nice things to say about EmergenSee, but he felt their products were similar, other than the streaming audio and video.
The personal security technology isn’t new: Life Alert, OnStar and others have been using it for years. Marrying the technology to an app is the new twist here. Virtually everyone has a smart phone these days, so it was only a matter of time before companies began offering personal security via an app. The winners in the space will be the companies that can sell into markets, like colleges, that have a real need for the service.
Personal safety on college campuses is a very real problem. In 2012, there were 66 murders and 4203 property crimes. Rape and sexual assaults occur on college campuses all over the USA every 21 seconds! One in four college women report being a victim of sexual assault or rape during their academic career. College students, with new found freedoms and liquor fueled free time, often find themselves in dangerous situations. Colleges are feeling the pressure to protect their students, and apps like EmergenSee are part of the answer.
As the parent of four college aged kids (3 young women), it’s a big concern. Whether personal security apps solve the problem or not, they’re certainly another tool to be used to solve the problem. I’m not sure whether EmergenSee gets a deal or not – apps are often too overvalued for Shark tastes – but they will certainly have a very successful business down the road.
Will Sharks Secure a Deal?
Apps are always tricky in the Shark Tank because when they are of the scale and scope of EmergenSee, there are always other investors and often there are valuation concerns. There’s no doubt the Sharks will see the benefit of the application, but will they see value?
EmergenSee is a newcomer to the personal security app market, which has sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars. EmergenSee doesn’t have revenue figures yet, but even a small chunk of that market is pretty big bucks. The other apps that are similar don’t have the audio/video feature, so it makes EmergenSee an innovator in the space. The Sharks will scoff at sales projections, they’ll want some hard numbers and Phil and Jason better have some good answers.
Barbara and Lori likely sit this one out, unless they partner with one of the other Sharks. Mr. Wonderful is a wild card here, but he’ll probably sit this one out, too. The Sharks that bring the most value to a business like this are Mark and Robert. Robert is in the internet security business, so he will see how well EmergenSee is scaling. Mark is Mark and if he thinks there’s money to be made in any tech space, he’ll bid; he also likes innovators. If EmergenSee gets a deal, it will be with Mark or Robert.