On September 11, 2001, Armistead Whitney was an executive in midtown Manhattan. As news of the attack on the World Trade Center broke, he was quickly inundated attempting to locate and assure the safety of his more than 200 employees. Cell towers were overwhelmed, news sources were offering conflicting information, and there was no guidance from the government. Whitney determined that a new way was needed to prepare companies to secure employees in a changing world.
In response to his experience, Whitney founded Atlanta, Georgia-based Preparis in 2007. Preparis is a business preparedness company that enables organizations around the globe to minimize business risk and potential harm to employees in the event a of crisis situation. Preparis provides expert information, training, certification, and emergency communications tools delivered through an online platform accessible anywhere, anytime and through desktops and mobile devices.
Businesses traditionally relied on consultants such as Marsh, IBM, and Booz Allen, which wrote binders of business continuity plans that customers would keep on the shelves or in their cars. Whitney felt that with the threats of the twenty-first century being unpredictable and constantly changing, Internet and mobile technologies were a perfect platform to deliver information and training and tools for businesses of all sizes and industries. Prior to Preparis, businesses did not have access to a solution like this.
Companies such as IBM still do offer managed services for business continuity. In general, the business continuity software available matches a company’s expertise rather than being a comprehensive solution. For example, VMWare and EMC have business continuity software that focuses on data protection and recovery, Tandberg has products that focus on crisis communication, and Citrix has solutions for enterprise IT. Otherwise, sites such as ready.gov for business, a FEMA campaign; and Business Contingency Preparedness offer publications, information, case studies, and links to conferences but do not offer software for sale.
Preparis is currently the only company that combines emergency preparedness expertise with an on-demand, software-as-a-service platform. The software is designed to help organizations protect their employees, revenue, and brand from a range of crisis events such as terrorism, natural disasters, pandemics, and workplace violence, and do so more quickly and easily and for significantly less cost than traditional preparedness programs. Preparis argues that with a prepared front-line staff, organizations can save millions of dollars in the event a disaster event occurs for less than the cost of one-half a single full-time employee.
Preparis uses a subscription-based pricing model in which it charges customers on a per-location basis (e.g. per office). Prices start at $500 per office. Customers get unlimited logins for any offices that are part of their subscription, and the company encourages customers to rollout Preparis to as many employees as possible in order to maximize their overall preparedness and minimize the possible impact of a crisis event. The company organizes its product around the ACTION platform: A for analytics, C for certification, T for training and tools, I for information and expertise, O for online (a preparedness portal) and N for notification.
A subscription includes tools and templates for customers to build their preparedness plans; access to preparedness experts to refine plans or keep up-to-date with the latest threats; online training and certification courses; a document management system for hosting customer-specific contacts and response plans; and an emergency notification system. Everything is accessible online or via mobile applications to help ensure that front-line staff can always access critical response recommendations to the more than 200 threats that Preparis tracks.
The legal industry was the first beachhead for Preparis, for several reasons. Law firms, such as client Alston + Bird, generally have multiple offices in large cities. They also have a good understanding of the potential impact to their businesses if they are unprepared to deal with a crisis event (in terms of loss of life, lost revenues, impacted customer relationships and brand). They also have a solid understanding of the need to minimize business risk. The financial industry has also been a good source of customers for Preparis.
The company says that medium-sized organizations have been the sweet spot thus far, as these companies can leverage Preparis to build and roll out their entire preparedness program. Fortune 500 companies tend to have large preparedness and/or business continuity teams established. Preparis can often augment and extend these programs, but the value isn’t as significant as it is for medium-sized businesses that need to build a preparedness program from scratch, quickly and easily and without spending significant budget or hiring staff. At present, more than 500,000 people in 76 countries use Preparis through their employer.
Whitney started Preparis with a personal investment of $100,000 plus multiple credit cards. The initial management team went several months without a paycheck to build the product and get its first customers. After getting customers, the company raised angel funding from several prominent angels and in September 2009 closed a $4.6 million series A led by Fulcrum Ventures. The company is in a growth stage and has no plans to raise more capital at this time. Revenues are in the mid seven figures.
The company currently has a direct B2B sales model and is exploring an indirect (channel) strategy to increase growth. It is also moving to an inbound sales model whereby it will remove as many barriers as possible, for example, the subscription model to remove upfront costs and minimal or no monthly commitments. There are no plans for an exit.
This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2010