Investing in Flock Safety

Two decades into the cloud computing era of software eating the world, some corners of the economy are still far behind. Unfortunately law enforcement is one of them, which not only leaves around 800,000 law enforcement officers in the United States empty handed when it comes to modern tools to do their daily jobs, but also results in a failure to equip our first responders with the best technology that can protect lives, promote impartial law enforcement, and most importantly, solve crime and save lives. 

Today, the majority of crimes in the U.S. go unresolved. Only 46% of violent crimes are fully resolved and that number is staggeringly low (17%) for property crime. And the reality is much worse than these clearance rates would suggest since most crimes go unreported entirely. 

Over the last several decades, the technology industry has transformed nearly all occupations, but daily operations in law enforcement aren’t dissimilar from crime-fighting methods in the pre-internet era. Law enforcement spending approached $115B across state and local agencies in 2017, however the vast majority of that spending went toward labor, accounting for as high as 94% of the annual police budget in New York City, 93% in Los Angeles, and 88% in Chicago. In the field, status quo policing methods largely rely on manual labor on the ground and word-of-mouth investigation practices (e.g., “Did anyone see a vehicle at the scene of the crime?”). In the office, outdated operations in police agencies typically require officers to spend half of their time on administrative paperwork and manual processes. Compounding the problem even further, most urban police agencies are perpetually understaffed with no solution to the labor shortage in sight.

Our communities deserve better, which is exactly what motivated Flock Safety founder and CEO Garrett Langley to find technology that would actually move the needle on fighting crime. After meeting with law enforcement agencies around his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, Garrett, Matt Feury, and Paige Todd got to work at their kitchen table. Three weeks later, their first prototype was ready for action. 

Flock Safety uses computer vision to fight crime. While there is a legacy market for automated license plate detection cameras, Flock Safety far surpasses existing capabilities. Instead of only being able to search for hits on a specific license plate, Flock Safety allows law enforcement officers to query for various characteristics of a suspect vehicle, including make and model, color, paper plates, and attributes that observers may notice even if they don’t catch a license plate at the scene of the crime, like a specific bumper color. The results are not just astounding from a crime solving standpoint, but the impact is a much more objective form of crime fighting. Finding an exact vehicle instead of pulling over every “silver sedan” is safer for citizens and law enforcement alike. 

As with most new technology that leverages software and machine learning over expensive hardware optics, Flock Safety devices cost an order of magnitude less than the leading incumbents, which allows their customers to cover far more points of interest in their jurisdictions than their budgets could afford with legacy technology. What magnifies the power of Flock Safety even more is that the digital evidence can be pooled across different law enforcement agencies for a short period of time, making it more powerful as adoption scales within a community and across the U.S. more broadly. That means that a kidnapped child being driven across county or state lines can be found much more quickly, and safely.

The power of Flock Safety is in its network. The more devices deployed, the more evidence there is to solve crimes. This network effect was first catalyzed within neighborhood homeowner’s associations, which were the original focus in the go-to-market motion and still account for over 40% of the business. Success fighting crime in neighborhoods then attracted law enforcement agencies, which now represents the majority of the business. 

The results of Flock Safety in action are astounding: frequently finding stolen vehicles, substantially reducing residential burglary, and in more dangerous situations, empowering law enforcement to intervene in Amber alerts and resolve lethal crimes that would otherwise go unsolved. Beyond protecting property, Flock Safety is literally helping to save lives. One of their earliest customers in the greater Atlanta area put it best: “Flock is the single most effective tool we have ever used.” Unsurprisingly these results earn Flock Safety a level of stakeholder admiration that is rarely seen with the legacy vendors selling into law enforcement. In only four years since the company started, Flock Safety already plays a role in 1% of crimes solved in the United States, putting it well on the way to earning its place as an industry standard in every law enforcement agency. At a time of increasing pressure for law enforcement to operate efficiently and improve their results for American society, Flock Safety is the answer.

We are often in search of “n of 1” startups, companies who are effectively the only game in town going after a massive opportunity in shaping the future. Flock Safety certainly belongs in this mix of important companies. In only four years of operating, Flock Safety devices have been deployed in over 40 states around the U.S. Not only is Flock Safety off to the races building a one-in-a-generation business, but it’s also delivering tremendous value to society by making our communities safer. We’re excited to lead their Series D and join the Flock Safety team on their mission.

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this post was first published on Andreessen Horowitz

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