An emergency contact network might not, at first glance, seem the kind of idea you’d see from a venture capital-funded startup. But it’s the sort of concept that has the potential to grow huge.
And ePACT co-founder Christine Summers says such a network has a fairly impressive viral component.
Summers calls the company, which graduated from the GrowLab accelerator in Vancouver tonight, the “LinkedIn of emergencies,” because it’s a cloud connector of individuals’ emergency notification information that also functions as an alert system for organizations like schools, clubs, daycares, and youth sports teams.
“The vast majority of organizations put their emergency [contact] information on paper,” Summers says. “This is an opportunity to leverage networking technology for safety.”
The second co-founder, Kirsten Telford, saw that need firsthand. She was living in Japan when the massive tsunami of 2011 wreaked havoc on the coast, killing 15,000, and devastating the country’s infrastructure. And based on what she saw there, Telford recognized that we’re completely unprepared for a similar-size emergency in the US.
ePACT works by operating as a single source of emergency contact information. Everyone puts their data in, including allergies and medications, and organizations and people that need to access it request your permission. You grant permission to authorized organizations, like schools your children attend, or companies you work for, and they now know what to do and who to contact in case of emergency.
“If there’s an emergency, they can blast messages to the whole network,” Summers says. “Schools, for instance, can communicate out to families through text messages, a mobile app, email, and the web, and families can communicate with their network.”
That sounds like a prototypical good thing, but hard to monetize. But in fact, according to Summers, many types of organizations are federally mandated to maintain emergency contact lists. Schools head the list, but community organizations, sports teams, some clubs, fitness centers, and other organizations also need emergency contact information. According to ePACT, organizations in North America alone ask for emergency contact information 900 million times a year.
And it’s all on paper right now. Which means the emergency contact “industry” is ripe for disruption.
“The Toronto School Board, which we’re talking to right now, would save $1.75 million using our system,” Summers says. “Right now it costs them $10 per student to manage via a paper process.”
The co-founders had already raised $800,000 from angel investors before entering GrowLab. The company has five full-time employees, and Summers says it’s on track for 2,500,000 users within its very first year. And each user who joins, spreads the message.
“For every family that joins, we get another three families joining,” Summers told me.
So why join an accelerator?
“GrowLab held our feet to the fire,” she says. “It upped the ante for us … they made us think big and pushed the message: go hard or go home.”