These are the screen shots of the final version of my app that has been swirling around my head for the past two years, to the month. 911buddy will allow you to call the 24 hour administrative line to any 911 center anywhere in the country, and it will also allow you to have a third party, someone in trouble on the line with you. No one has done this before, no one has connected all the 911 centers around the U.S into one technological spot.
My business partner Jeff has been working with VezTek in Los Angeles to produce the app and next it gets sent to the people at Apple who will I hope give us authorization to put it up for sale in the iTunes Store.
VezTek has been amazing, they have stuck to the schedule and budget with tenacity and good cheer. Of all the many elements that have gone into this project they are the team that has caused me least grief. Sani their front man is always available, he listens, finds answers, explains and gets things done and makes it seem easy. Adeel the engineer is also a great listener which has made the process easy and drama free. VezTek has been outstanding, but they aren't out of the woods yet as we now have to build the Android version. Looking at these pictures while actually using the prototype I know it also will be outstanding.
The process has been exhausting and trying in ways I never imagined. Sometimes I have spent almost the entire day on the phone coordinating one detail or another, trying to figure out a way forward when I have very little idea where we have come from. When I look back over the path Layne Jeff and I took to get here I wonder we made it at all. I have heard it said that new companies go down dead ends all the time and have to retrace their steps, spend money unnecessarily and waste time to get to the finish line and we did all of that. I have spent just about every other weekend meeting with Jeffery and it has been exhausting, brainstorming in hotel rooms, writing proposals, working out pathways to a patent, visualizing how the app might work. In all that time we only had one really serious disagreement that nearly tore us apart. I think it has been an astonishing test of endurance.
And now the app is built, we have an amazing website, www.911buddy.com and all we have left is...the marketing. Thats a whole new set of skills we have to ramp up! And in twelve months I will look back again at the missteps...dead ends....wasted time...wasted money...! I think there is a pattern emerging.
The really interesting part is what a learning curve I have been on. When I started this process I wanted to do something new with my life, something more absorbing than learning to skydive or make pottery. So I embarked on this crazy idea. people sometimes ask if I had to start again knowing what I know would I do it again? Sure would. Especially if I could avoid my mistakes! But thats life isn't it? Wanting to start over and avoid the mistakes you know, which leads you to the mistakes you don't know...We might all like to be teenagers again if that were possible.
I have had some profoundly odd experiences with people along the way. Jack Riepe told me early on in the process not to believe American business operates any better than your average lemonade stand and he was right. Anyone who thinks free enterprise has created capable business models needs to have followed along beside me on this odyssey. On my bad days I'd feel like no one understands how to meet a commitment or a deadline, with the notable exception of VezTek. 561 Media who has built our brilliant website at first didn't believe me when I said I expected deadlines to be met. One Aspergers meltdown there and they have been amazing. Suddenly they believed me when I told them that whatever they needed I would get for them. I had to prove that to them after they made a point of telling me most clients fail to deliver needed materials on time for their own websites. Not us! We made believers of them with prompt delivery of all they asked for. That was another experience that led to my sweeping conclusion that being serious, meeting commitments and deadlines is beyond the grasp of a lot of free market capitalists.
I have discovered Venture Capitalists have all the sense of adventure of country vicars. I had one merchant banker tell me he was interested in investing in the company and he wanted to look over our business plan as he might have ideas to help. Then he tore me a new one saying I hadn't enough money to promote my app and I needed a million bucks etc etc.. and most start ups fail etc.. etc... My reply was basically "No shit" -which was why I was looking for someone experienced with ideas. But like most bankers he was only interested in parting with money to someone who didn't need it. Weird stories like that abound. People in business listen as badly as anyone, are as fearful as anyone and lacking in imagination as anyone. Some are good and many are useless. On the good front we seem to have got into business with one banker who loves the app and sees possibilities. I think I have kissed enough frogs to deserve meeting at least one princess! I am hopeful...but I'm not counting my chickens.
I think building the app has reaffirmed my own sense of what is possible and of what I am capable. I did not do this alone by any means but I have stuck to my vision of what this app should be and together my team and I have actually built it. Last week we started the marketing with all the grit and imagination we have deployed to get this thing built. Marketing is another opportunity for me to grow and I intend to embrace the growth for me and my company. With banker Ami in our camp I think we may be able to move ahead with fewer false starts and dead ends. They say you need grit to make it in this start up business and I can assert we have grit by the shovel-full amongst us all.
My idea is brilliant, it fills a need and I have identified my market. If you have a web page or a podcast and you would like to promote 911buddy to your readers and listeners we are ready to share our product with you and for a decent return for you. I am totally into profit sharing and doing as well as one decently can by doing good, and this app does a whole lot of good. When people understand this app and accept the fatal shortcomings of the current (and most likely future) fragmented 911 system they all want this app on their phones. I find it amazingly reassuring to be able to use even my Mark 1 prototype currently on my iPhone to call 911 centers anywhere in the country. I can't do that even from my 911 desk. Weird but true. If you think the 911 system should be modernized, integrated and federalized I can tell you 21st century America is looking for private sector solutions like mine, not a TSA-style Federal take over of 6300+ independent 911 centers around the country.
I have a lot to do in the coming months and I am still working as hard as I can to be a dispatcher, keep up my blog and manage my start up. I thought Key West Diary was going to take a bigger blow than it has when demands on my time ramped up but I am pleased that I have managed for the most part to keep posting fresh content. Some days I just have to dig in the archives as I have nothing left to write and no new photos to post...That's just the way it is some days. I spend hours on the phone and Skype is my friend. I'd rather go for a walk with my camera but now I am an entrepreneur and there' sworn to be done all the live long day.
This is my 911 center in Key West and I have to say a big thank you to Kristi, Shannon, Nick and JW who have followed my progress, been my sounding board and my test guinea pigs and my supporters all along. Chief Lee thinks it's cool as does my own boss Captain Brandenburg and they have all been great about this idea now at last on the cusp of becoming reality. I want 911buddy to be a Key West start up, born in the tropics and nurtured at my small inconsequential police station. It's not Charlotte, Boston or San Jose that dreamed and designed, patented and built the first national 911 system. It was Key West.
One idea we have had is to market 911buddy to schools, to have schools sell my app instead of candy bars and cakes, and make real money off each sale, and sell something useful and reassuring to parents who have kids with phones and have themselves parents with phones all of whom depend on the harassed "sandwich generation" for help and support. If your school district, or non profit, could use a fundraiser to raise real money and do good for the community at the same time you can reach me or our indefatigable sales manager Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org If you belong to an organization whose members would benefit from the app, and you could promote it to them by all means let us know. The hardest thing about 911buddy is explaining to people one by one that 911isnt what they think it is. Once they know, they like the app.
Get the word out. This app will save lives
President, John Avery Company. ( My other hat).