Lessons learned, The Crime Stopper restarts

By GREGORY ZELLER //

It’s a fresh start for The Crime Stopper, with lessons learned from a failed Kickstarter campaign.

Actually, the campaign didn’t fail, according to Apptec Corp. founder Andy Braverman, a veteran electrical engineer with a flair for digital dictation. Although the $35,000 Kickstarter was a virtual nonstarter – it attracted only one backer – it taught Braverman invaluable lessons about managing a crowdfunding campaign.

Andy Braverman: New verticals, new approach.

Andy Braverman: New verticals, new approach.

And that one backer is “very close” to becoming a paying customer, the entrepreneur added, with a deal likely to close within weeks.

Especially exciting for Braverman: The potential client represents a new market outside The Crime Stopper’s target audience. The digital recording system is designed to facilitate real-time, anonymous tips to local law enforcement agencies through calls, text messages and emails – a 21st century hotline for the “see something, say something” crowd – but that one Kickstarter backer is a Connecticut-based employment agency that performs new-hire background checks for third-party employers.

Braverman acknowledged that the “spinoff application” diverts from The Crime Stopper’s law-enforcement pedigree, but said he’s happy to open a new vertical.

“They’ve been using an online service that doesn’t provide the functionality they were hoping for,” he told Innovate LI. “So we’ve been talking about how we can help them, and we’ll probably know in a couple of weeks.”

Spinning into parallel, sometimes unanticipated markets is old hat for Braverman, who launched Port Jefferson-based Apptec Corp. in 1997 to design, manufacture and market “voice-processing products,” which had been his specialty during a 10-year run as an engineer for a Woodbury-based subsidiary of Amsterdam innovator Royal Philips.

Apptec Corp.’s DigiTel Police Reporting System, a digital-dictation system designed to reduce paperwork and keep law enforcers out in the field, has done well amongst law-enforcement and security clients – and is now making headway among healthcare providers, by “providing them an opportunity to streamline their documentation process,” Braverman noted.

Many doctors are “dissatisfied” with increasingly elaborate and time-consuming electronic medical record requirements set by insurers and government-reimbursement programs, he said, primarily because it limits facetime with patients.

“Basically, a doctor is either typing in his or her own work, or falling back on the efficiencies of dictation and then paying a transcriptionist or secretary to turn it into a medical record,” Braverman said. “So we provide the cost-efficient functionality for the doctor to simply pick up the phone and dictate, so what would otherwise take 10 minutes takes just two.

“Doctors are on extremely tight budgets,” he added. “If they have to type for eight minutes longer with every case, they’re going to see fewer patients in a day and make even less money.”

The benefits of flexibility is one of several lessons the entrepreneur has learned while marketing DigiTel and The Crime Stopper – including the chief lesson of crowdsourcing, which according to Braverman is that most campaigns need a marketing boost.

“Just launching a crowdfunding campaign doesn’t put the campaign in front of perspective backers,” he noted. “There are people who are curious and will check out new products to see if it’s an idea they’re interested in backing, but to get to a larger crowd, it’s absolutely necessary to promote the idea. A key lesson learned.”

To that end, Braverman is trying to crowdfund The Crime Stopper once more – a 30-day Indiegogo campaign, still shooting for that same $35,000 – but this time, in conjunction with Monday’s campaign kickoff, he issued press releases to “20 different law-enforcement magazine and websites, to try to get the word out more widely.”

One highlight of the new campaign is The Crime Stopper’s added functionality: The system can now relay tips to field officers via a secure email attachment, meaning officers don’t even have to call or log in to receive real-time information.

Braverman also chose to switch to Indiegogo, which is “almost a clone of Kickstarter in terms of rewards for backers and the whole general approach” but offers one critical difference: While Kickstarter contributions only kick in when a funding plateau is reached, Indiegogo offers – for a slightly higher fee – a flexible funding option, which Braverman selected.

“Fixed funding suggests you require that exact amount,” the entrepreneur noted. “It’s an all-or-nothing situation. But with flexible funding, you can have any number of backers and even if you don’t meet your goal, you still get the funding, and that’s perfect for our application.

“We need the funding for things like marketing, but the device will be available regardless, even to a single backer,” Braverman added. “I’m absolutely confident that this will be a better campaign.”