Ethan Smith sat down for a chat with Scott Boots, the co- founder and CEO of i-1-1, an app helping 911 be more effective, to learn a little more about what keeps the innovative entrepreneur motivated.
Can you give me a quick pitch of what i-1-1 is, Scott? Explain it as if I’ve never heard a single thing about it.
“i-1-1 is the ‘personal crisis app.’ It allows users to contact 911 in ten seconds, for any emergency you would normally need to call 911 for. If your life is at risk, be it a heart attack, car accident, mass violence, fire, or any other situation that calls for emergency response crews, i-1-1 provides rapid GPS location to the call-center operator. Using location-based services in the app delivers a more accurate location than a standard call, and helps save more lives.”
How is the app more accurate than a phone call? Do operators not already have my location?
“80% of the calls to 911 use triangulation – bouncing signals from different cell towers to get a rough estimate of where you are. Triangulation isn’t very accurate – that’s why you’re always asked to provide your exact location when you call 911.”
Can’t you text 911 now? Surely they can track you pretty easily with that…
“Actually, only about 10%-14% of 911 call-centers accept texts. It’s been imposed that all call centers have to accept texts by the year 2021, but only about 20% of texts have any use of location services. You would think that in 2017, we would have something better or more accurate than the same system we’ve been using since 1971. There are a lot of barriers that stand between callers and operators, but determining location should not be one of them. Every 53 minutes, someone dies because 911 can’t find them. If we can implement the technology that already exists, we could help save actual lives. ”
That’s around 10,000 lives every year. Is reducing that number what keeps you motivated?
“What keeps me going is that I know i-1-1 will improve emergency response. If a bomb threat is called into a school, that school immediately goes on lockdown and the teachers scramble to keep their students safe. Most of the time, the teachers and students have no clue what’s going on, sometimes for hours, and hide until rescue comes to tell them it’s safe. i-1-1 can provide real-time information and break down communication barriers to keep emergency crews and users within a 3-mile radius safe and informed.”
Since you have such a passionate project, is there any advice you could give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
“I would tell future entrepreneurs that you have to be ready to make sacrifices and give a large piece of yourself in order to complete your project. Your journey will add stress to your relationships, money, time, and your sanity. Sometimes it feels like a rollercoaster between genius and insane, and while there were many moments I was ready to give up, I knew I had to persevere to get the job done.
I would also say that having the right team can take you a long way – or that ‘different ingredients make the soup better.’ You won’t be able to do it alone, so finding the right collaborators to help you get where you need to be is huge. Without a team to support you and add new perspectives, you’re prone to making errors, and that will make progress take infinitely longer.”