A Mount Pleasant technology company has been quietly yet diligently raising capital on the premise of safeguarding workers from the threat of violence and other on-the-job hazards.
Now, it's looking to step out of shadows.
Whereable Technologies has forged a new partnership with a publicly traded New England company after having amassed $20 million in financing over the past few years, making it one of the best-funded local startups.
In building the business, Jim Van Law said he has taken a conservative approach. The bulk of the money he's raised has come from individual investors, most of whom live in the Charleston area, according to the 57-year-old former banker.
He's also kept the business under the radar, for the most part, but that could be set to change. An agreement with Massachusetts-based Everbridge Inc. that was announced last week puts Whereable on "a whole different playing field," Van Law said.
His company, founded in 2015, initially made a safety bracelet called RiskBand that was equipped with a panic button, speaker, microphone, camera and global positioning technology. The name and capabilities haven't changed but the end product sure has. The updated version resembles a smartphone, weighs less than 4 ounces and is no larger than a business card.
Workers can attach RiskBand to their waistbands or wear them on a lanyard around their necks. Once activated, the camera captures photo after photo and delivers the time-stamped images to a specified emergency response center. The device is sold on a subscription basis, costing employer clients around $1 per day, per worker.
Everbridge is a Massachusetts-based publicly traded company that the stock market values at $2.5 billion. Its technology platform is designed to help government agencies and businesses manage disasters and other emergencies. The software platform allows its customers to communicate with secure notifications.
Everbridge said in a disclosure to investors that it plans to integrate the RiskBand technology into its software platform.
CEO David Meredith added that the partnership "advances our existing connected safety ecosystem, offering employees without immediate access to a mobile phone with a direct line for emergency communication that they can utilize anywhere.”
In a call with investors in early August, Everbridge chairman Jaime Ellertson said there has been a surge in production of wearable safety devices. The growth is being driven by new requirements mandating that some industries provide workers with panic buttons, especially if they need to go offsite, he said.
Van Law said the fact that Everbridge turned to Whereable "is an incredible validation of our product and platform."
The company now employs about 30 workers, with about half working in Charleston. Most came aboard in 2018, Van Law said.
Whereable began with the idea of protecting real estate agents, who often meet with complete strangers when showing properties, Van Law said.
But the applications have grown far beyond that industry, Van Law said, especially as workplace shootings and other instances of violence have put employers on edge.
Even so, incidents of injury in the workplace have decreased almost every year between 2003 and 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the most recent estimates from the agency show a 1 percent decrease in fatal occupational injuries year over year.
Some industries are riskier than others. Agriculture remains the most dangerous, based on the rate of illness and injury. Meanwhile, more health care workers are injured every year than any other profession.