By Allan Maurer
When jets plowed into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, Armistead Whitney, now CEO and founder of Preparis, was president of a New York City-based media firm.
Along with many other company executives based in the city on that fateful day, Whitney was faced with questions about how he and his 200 employees should react to the terrorist attacks.
“I was immediately faced with some critical issues,” he says. “What should I do to ensure my employees will be safe? How will my operations, revenue, shareholder value, and brand reputation make it through? I simply had no clue.”
He and his staff made it out of the city safely, but Whitney writes that he made it his mission to find out what he would do differently if faced with such a situation again. He met with leaders form emergency preparedness and response organizations, then with CEOs of companies of various sizes. Whitney wrote about how it all on the Preparis website.
Guidance on what to do
After considerable research, he started the Atlanta-based company Preparis Inc., a startup selling an SaaS-based platform that delivers expert information, response protocols, communications and training to help businesses meet unpredictable threats from terrorism, pandemics, and natural disasters.
Preparis is one of 60 innovative showcase firms that will present business plans to venture capitalists and angel investors representing billions in capital at the 6th Annual Southeast Venture Conference in Tysons Corner, VA, Feb. 29-March 1.
Companies face 21st century threats
In today’s world, terrorist attacks are only one threat among many that can disrupt global businesses, Whitney tells us. “Threats of the 21st century have become more complex, especially as companies outsource more. They have operations globally, in third world countries, and clients in places impacted by local troubles.”
Nowadays, then, a business has to face pandemics, cyber terrorism, nuclear meltdowns, natural disasters from hurricanes and floods to earthquakes and wild fires. Floods in Asia can hamper production of electronics parts made there from hard drives to tablets.
Yet, Whitney points out, the only preparations for meeting such disasterous business interruptions is “A plan that sits on s shelf. It can be challenging for that to be effective.”
While most larger Fortune 1000 firms do have plans in place – policies, procedures and teams, they want tech to automate it all, Whitney notes.
They need a way to automate plans
“They need a way for tech to automate it, bring it all together so that it can be accessed from any place on any device, how to protect the workforce from threats, response instructions if you receive a bomb threat, an anthrax letter.”
Technology can take those stale plans on a shelf and make living breathing programs, he says.
Downstream at smaller organizations such as a law firm, “We become their entire ecosystem with everything they need, even an emergency notification system (such as Virginia Tech installed following deadly shootings on its campus).
The Preparis system knows who do what with the product at each level and everyone from the CEO to employees can use it.
“We’ve sold to about every industry, Fortune 1000 companies, banks, attorneys. Every industry at every size has an appetite for it,” says Whitney.
In the past, most such disaster preparedness was done through consultants Preparis does it through its SaaS product that a company can download from the web and being using immediately. “We’re creating a new category,” Whitney says.
Dealing with cyber threats
Looking ahead, the company is getting into how to deal with cyber threat issues. “As new threats evolve – the pandemic fears of a few years ago for instance – we quickly add guidance for our clients.”
In the recent “Trifecta” of an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown in Japan, for instance, the Japanese government was telling its citizens it was ok to eat the food grown in Japan. But the Preparis product told its clients, “No, it is not ok to eat the food from Japan at this time.” Later tests showed that much food was contaminated with radioactivity.
“We also had a lot of our clients use the emergency messaging system when trying to find their employees.”
It must be doing something right. It has a 100 percent client renewal rate. How many software firms can say that?
The 20 employee company has raised $5 million in Series A funding. Whitney says the company is looking at a B round for growth.
“We signed a strategic alliance with Wells Fargo, which is bundling it with their products for their insurance customers. It’s a huge opportunity. Its the fourth largest insurance broker. We don’t need money for the product, but we need to hire more people to facilitate meeting increased demand for the product. That’s the main reason we would raise a B round.”
The company’s growth plan also includes mobile and social integration. Already clients can log in to the product with Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn names and passwords.
- Preparis tallies $4.61 million raise for threat response platform
- Atlanta’s Preparis confirms $4.6M raise led by Fulcrum
- Half of companies globally, more in US, unaware of cyber threats
- Florida’s CompuPay closes on Advanced Payroll Systems buy
- Malicious Facebook scam promises Whitney Houston “secret”
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Tags: 11/11/2001, Armistead Whitney, Atlanta, business continuity, disaster preparation, emergency response software, Preparis, SaaS, SEVC, Southeast Venture Conference, threat preparation, Tysons Corner, VA