Local entrepreneurs make a business of saving lives

Celebrating the official ribbon cutting for their office opening in Austin, Texas in January are RapidDeploy co-founder and CEO Steve Raucher, SA Ambassador to the US Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and RapidDeploy co-founder and CTO Brett Meyerowitz

In an emergency, every second counts. Born out of the emergency first responder community in Cape Town, local technology company RapidDeploy has captured the world’s attention with its vision to reduce response times in an emergency and improve responder safety and situational awareness.

In 2012 Cape Town native Brett Meyerowitz, co-Founder and RapidDeploy CTO, returned from building his career in the UK, where he was the CTO for one of the world’s largest online casinos, to build Africa’s first cloud-native retail bank. In 2013 Brett became a volunteer paramedic for the Community Security Organisation (CSO) in Cape Town. Brett became increasingly frustrated with the poor emergency response times due to either antiquated or nonexistent dispatch systems. Brett developed the RapidDeploy platform to serve the local emergency service community.

At the same time that Brett was building his career in the UK, fellow Capetonian Steve Raucher followed a similar path by moving to the UK in 1995, spending the next 20 years of his career in the banking sector; he began in technology, then to the trading floors of UBS in New York and Credit Suisse and ICAP in London. Steve suffered a personal tragedy in 2006 when his older brother, Robert ‘Bobby’ Raucher, drowned off the shores of the Cape Town Peninsula. Upon returning to Cape Town in 2015 for a sabbatical, Steve decided to ‘pay it forward’ and started volunteering at the National Sea Rescue Institute’s (NSRI) Station 2 in Bakoven that had recovered his brother’s body almost nine years prior.

Brett and Steve were introduced in 2016. Steve immediately identified the significance of what Brett had built and joined RapidDeploy to help commercialise the platform. He invested to fund the initial growth of research and development, joining forces as CEO to complement Brett as CTO.

Six months later, Steve attended a conference in Budapest, Hungary, and met Dr. Brian Fontes, President of the North American Emergency Number Association (NENA). Dr. Fontes was astounded that RapidDeploy had built what he considered to be lacking from the US Public Safety Industry. Dr. Fontes then invited Steve to present the platform at the NENA Conference in San Antonio, Texas, in June 2017. The rest, as they say, is history.

Says Brett, “At RapidDeploy, we take our responsibility of making a difference in public safety seriously. We don’t stop when we’re tired; we stop when it’s done. I want everyone at RapidDeploy to be part of building a legacy, to be speaking to their friends, their family, to look them in the eye, and to say, ‘I am making a difference.’ For me, the proudest moment was when I received a call from Steve in San Antonio saying that we were on the right track. The validation that the thousands of hours that we spent building our platform was exactly what the world was after. There have been a lot of times where we felt like we are trailblazing, where we have been on the bleeding edge of technology, where we have had to work things out on our own, but it’s so rewarding when, after those hours spent trying to solve a problem, we are actually able to really see the fruits of our labour.”

In 2018 RapidDeploy achieved a key milestone when they teamed up with US telecoms giant AT&T to provide 9-1-1 technology services with its platform. The United States was at that stage generating 95% of RapidDeploy’s sales, prompting the decision for Steve to move his family and set up headquarters in the United States to service the US Public Safety market.

2019 was a remarkable year for RapidDeploy.

They opened their office in Austin, Texas in January and also raised the highest series-A investment out of any South African tech firm in 2019, making RapidDeploy one of the best-funded start-ups ever to come out of Africa, having raised over R250m in investment as well as solidified their partnership with Microsoft and AT&T.
The company started gaining respect and recognition within the industry, being named Microsoft US Partner of the Year for Government Industry 2019. They also signed state-wide contracts for California and Kansas 9-1-1 agencies and are about to announce several more.

RapidDeploy’s journey does not stop here. In a short space of time, this booming start-up has grown from two staff members to 110 employees globally, seventy of which work from the Cape Town headquarters in Century City. They have deployed the RapidDeploy Platform to over 35 agencies around the world, with the solution deployed as far afield as Fiji, and to date have processed millions of emergency calls, reducing emergency response times and saving lives in the process.

They continue to attract South Africa’s brightest talent in software engineering and development, hiring senior developers from Online Gaming and FinTech. Brett and Steve are committed to helping improve the quality of Emergency Services for all the citizens of the world.

RapidDeploy wants to democratise Public Safety, ensuring the imperative that their tech is both affordable and deployable to any dispatch centre anywhere in the world whether they have one dispatcher and one vehicle or one hundred dispatchers and one thousand vehicles.

Says Steve, “RapidDeploy is a company that was started out of necessity by my business partner and friend Brett, who being on the road as a volunteer paramedic in 2013 scratched his head and asked ‘how is it possible that in South Africa ambulance services don’t know where their vehicles or responders are?’. Brett being a man of extreme technical ability decided to solve that problem by himself over weekends and evenings. When I met Brett in 2016, we were immediately aligned and agreed to join forces and we now have a company spanning three continents. Without sounding like too much of a romantic, life is about pursuing your dreams. I believe the most powerful message in life and in business is that if your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough.”

For more information, visit www.rapiddeploy.com

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