For Scott Crouch, building his startup included several hours in a police car.
The Harvard graduate first began working on his software company, Mark43, in 2012 when he was given a class project to work with the Massachusetts state police department. During the project, he had to figure out how to use data and software to help the Massachusetts state police fight gang-related crime.
"We really fell in love with the idea of helping police, of helping out our communities by helping our first responders," Crouch told Business Insider. "We saw how terrible their systems were and decided to really turn it on its head."
Crouch comes from a family of police officers, so spinning the project out into a full-fledged company was a "mission-driven project." As he began making progress on the idea, he was approached by one of the largest police forces in the country: the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
Mark43 didn't have a full product at that point, so the company committed to building it in tandem with the D.C. police.
"A lot of it had to do with their chief [at the time]," Crouch said. "She was a really bold thinker when she was police chief in D.C. and she kind of pioneered the idea. Her attitude to it was, 'What do we have to lose?'"
Despite coming from a family of police officers, however, Crouch didn't know the ins and outs of an officer's job. So the company's founders — Crouch, Florian Mayr, and Matthew Polega — spent hours on ridealongs in Southeast D.C.
"The only way to figure out how they do their job, what an arrest was like, was to actually sit in the cars with them and go on patrol," Crouch said. "We had to literally do everything with them and figure out how it’s working on the street."
Mark43's software is aimed at addressing two main problems with the system most police forces currently use: poor usability and slow speeds. Mark43 offers a cloud-based system that police officers can access on a tablet and use to do everything from arrest reports to investigations to data sharing and analysis.
The software that most police currently use was designed in the 90s and hasn't been overhauled since, Crouch says.
"They were taking an hour to do things that really should have taken 30-45 minutes," Crouch said. "They couldn’t share data because these systems were on-premise, in basements, in servers, rather than actually having free-flowing access of information between departments."
Now, Mark43's system has been deployed in police forces around the country, including six in Los Angeles County and several in the Pacific Northwest.
The company has raised $41 million from venture capital firms like Spark Capital and General Catalyst, as well as from more diverse investors like Ashton Kutcher, David Patraeus, and actress Sophia Bush, who stars in NBC police drama "Chicago P.D."
Mark43 has offices in New York, Toronto, and D.C., and plans to open up a West Coast office early in 2017. Next, the company is setting its sights on becoming the operating system for all local and state governments, and plans to build a new 911 system for police and fire departments.
"This whole industry is ripe for an overhaul," Crouch said.
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