RapidSOS gets $14M to continue bringing 911 into the 21st century

By Jonah Comstock
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RapidSOS, a 4-year-old startup with roots at Harvard and MIT, has raised $14 million to, at long last, bring 9-1-1 and other first responder networks into the smartphone age. The roster of backers for the round includes three former FCC Chairmen and the investment arms of Motorola and Triple A, in addition to a number of other investors.

Highland Capital Partners led the round with participation from A3 Ventures, The Westly Group, Two Sigma Ventures, Motorola Solutions Venture Capital and Responder Ventures. Former FCC Chairs Tom Wheeler, Julius Genachowski, and Dennis Patrick also contributed along with other undisclosed individuals.

"For the last 50 years – we've relied on a voice-only connection when our lives were on the line – whether from us or through a home security, medical alert, or roadside assistance call center," Dan Nova, a Partner at Highland Capital Partners and RapidSOS board member, said in a statement. "RapidSOS' technology eliminates the need for clunky third-party call centers – providing a transformative platform for safety, security, and wellness."

RapidSOS's technology was originally developed by CEO Michael Martin, CTO Nick Horelik and a team of engineers out of MIT and Harvard. We reported on RapidSOS back in 2014 when it won the audience choice award at the MIT$100K entrepreneurship competition.

The company has spent the last four years partnering with local, state, and national goverments, as well as technology companies, to create a pathway to transmit rich data directly from mobile devices, wearables, and smart cars and homes to 9-1-1 dispatch centers. The result is a major improvement on the status quo, where responders have to rely on just a voice call for information and often can't pinpoint precisely the location of an emergency. RapidSOS offers an app called Haven which organizations can deploy and whitelabel, as well as an API.

"I spent much of my career as Chairman of the FCC working to strengthen public safety and make improvements to our nation's 911 system," Wheeler said in a statement. "I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work directly with RapidSOS as they deploy their emergency platform to enhance the data available to 911 and first responder systems nationwide."

Wheeler, the most recent FCC chairman, has been a staunch advocate of NextGen 911, an FCC initiative to move 911 from just phone calls to include texting and rich data, but that project has stalled over the last four years. In 2016, shortly before leaving office, Wheeler blamed a lack of Congressional support for the delay.