Startup Showcase: A police body cam app, of sorts, for citizens
Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on November 19, 2018.
According to Governing the States and Localities, between 2013-2015, 20 of the 25 largest U.S. cities paid out a combined annual average of $1.2 billion in judgments and settlements of lawsuits stemming from real or alleged police misconduct.
Mondo Davison, the developer of new app called SafeSpace, built in partnership with Software for Good, believes he can help reduce those city costs by giving community members a tool to engage and share feedback about the police interactions they witness. With immediate access and later evaluations of these interactions, SafeSpace is hoping to curate enough data to predict negative and positive outcomes based on behavior trends. This information can then be provided to police departments in real-time to help create preventative and productive strategies to truly create a safer community for all.
Name of company: SafeSpace (built in partnership with Software for Good)
Business Start Date: January 2018|
Number of Employees: 1|
Number of Customers: 14 and growing
Name: Mondo ‘The Black Tech Guy’ Davison
City of Birth: St. Paul
City you live in: St. Paul
High school attended: Central High School
College attended: University of Tennessee and Florida A&M
Q. What led to this point?
A. My mission has been to inspire a generation of black males to pursue a career in technology. I have branded myself as “The Black Tech Guy,” to be a trailblazing figure in the tech space and lead to show a more compelling “Plan A” than rapper, trapper, or athlete. During the past eight years I have worked to birth minority-led tech startups with TEAM Studios. In partnership with Dario Otero of Youth Lens 360 and Mary Rick, TEAM Studios brings together tech, entrepreneurship, art, and media to impact the world specifically through the brilliance of youth aged 18-24. SafeSpace is one of the businesses young cohorts within TEAM Studios has been challenged to scale as an impactful solution to the fear, distrust, and insecurities between police and communities of color.
Q. What is your business?
A. SafeSpaces overall goal is to separate good cops from bad cops as well as ones unfit to serve on the force. Our solution is a two-step approach.
1) Immediate interaction — when being pulled over, a single tap of the SafeSpace automatically alerts emergency contacts and people nearby to witness and record the interaction to increase immediate accountability and transparency.
2) Post interaction — SafeSpace asks specific questions to involved community members about the interaction. Our intent is to curate quantitative and qualitative data in real-time to better understand how the community believes they are being served and how to make these interactions safer.
Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. I can point to multiple police interaction stories (personal or otherwise) that may have served as the origin for SafeSpace. Unfortunately, the common denominator is black men feel their life is potentially in jeopardy when engaging with law enforcement. Creating a technology tool to decrease the fear and anxiety in that moment makes perfect sense.
Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. When people have a conversation about police, it’s likely someone will say, “but not all cops are bad.” This statement is 100 percent accurate. When the follow up question is, “but who is bad?” Nobody seems to have the answer. SafeSpace can solve that problem over time through accurate and real feedback.
Q. Where do you go when you need help?
A. I tend to seek help from people whom I am confident will challenge me. If I’m seeking help, it’s likely because I am facing a tough decision and I consult with people that don’t allow me to take the easy way out.
Q. What big obstacle or hurdle did you have to overcome?
A. Our biggest obstacle to date has been owning the narrative. Internally we perceive ourselves as an independent company trying to make our communities safer. But over the past year our story has been hijacked as the “black people app AGAINST police.”
The past year we’ve had independent conversations with police chiefs, mayors, and community leaders to come together in a joint effort to combat this dynamic problem. But I’ve concluded the topic is too polarizing for all stakeholders to freely opt into a unifying strategy.
Q. What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business?
A. I believe my greatest strength is empathy. I love listening to perspectives that don’t match my own because I genuinely want to understand how people presented with the same information can conclude opposite opinions. With that, I believe I can help craft solutions that meet the needs of people with whom I may not agree.
Q. What are you most proud of?
A. I’ve never wavered in my journey to change the world. I believe so strongly I am on the right path that it’s not “if,” it’s “when.”
Q. What obstacles must you overcome to be wildly successful?
A. WE vs. Me is the key to success. The more I’m able to surround myself with amazing, dynamic, passionate people, the more successful WE will become.
Q. How are you funding your business?
A. To-date everything has been self-funded or in collaboration.
Q. What would be success for your business in the next 2-3 years?
A. If SafeSpace is operating on all cylinders in the top 25 populated cities, decreasing police brutality, and increasing confidence in local law enforcement, I’d feel a level of success.
Q. In your opinion, what does it take to be a great entrepreneur?
A. (Product + Marketing + Sales) is the recipe for business. But the two parentheses on each end hold it all together. Those parentheses represent TEAM & CULTURE. If a business has all the assets of this equation, success is inevitable.
Q. What haven’t we asked you that we should understand about your business?
A. We currently have a technical barrier. We are only built for iOS (iPhone) to date and seeking financial resources or development talent to build out an Android version. Any support from the community would be helpful.
Q. How did 1 Million Cups St. Paul help you?
A. Post 1MC pitch I had a great conversation with a seasoned PR expert to talk through our story and how to control the narrative. If it weren’t for 1MC I likely would have never met this person.
You can hear from startups like this every other Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. Please check the calendar at jjhill.org/calendar for up to date information. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org.