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Karl Gibbs: We Have Created a Life-saving Personal Alarm Wristband

We have created a life-saving personal alarm wristband which offers uninterrupted protection to the wearer and incorporates proprietary ‘I’m OK’ checks when the wearer confirms a couple of times a day that they are OK.

Tell us about yourself?

My background is ‘eclectic’.

After school I studied building design and management but decided that was not for me so auditioned and went to Drama School and worked as an actor for about a decade – you may recall my ‘Man in Woods’ in Coronation Street, but probably not.

I was then looking for a change and qualified as a Neuro Linguistic Programming practitioner but then went to work for Quakers in Britain at the Central Offices in Euston, London where I arranged national gatherings.

While the work was great I did feel after a decade or so that it was time to move on and reskilled by studying for an MBA with the Open University.

The idea for the Assure (our life-saving wristband) was born during this period and the work of forming a company, getting investment and creating something of value to our customers (and investors) has been continuing since then.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

The big learning curve for me is that making a great product is only half of the story. You need to know how you are going to get the product off the shelf once you have made it.

The marketing and sales side takes more design and far more budget that a novice expects.

In my naivety I thought once you’ve made something great, Google would find us and let the world know we are here, who would then become our customers.

So if you have a great idea but no marketing experience get someone who has and be careful, most marketers are expert at selling themselves and may oversell their experience.

Once you’ve found someone you trust, be realistic about the budget. Your initial funding will almost certainly be significantly overspent on technical development, and you need to make sure that you have enough juice left in the tank that once you ‘have built the plane you can get it to take off’.

What problem does your business solve?

The personal alarm market took a giant leap forward on the early 80s, the era of the fax machine, but in many ways has not really moved on since then.

Our life-saving wristband has three alert triggers:

  • > SOS – call for help where the wearer is able to squeeze the wristband
  • > Fall monitoring for severe falls
  • > I’m OK checks where the wristband vibrates and the wearer confirms they are OK by pressing a button. Many people choose 8.30 in the morning and 8.30 at night so it is the modern equivalent of neighbours checking the curtains have been opened in the morning and closed again at night. But the user can choose whenever time they want, or not to have it at all via their online dashboard.

Additionally there is a massive problem of traditional alarm users not having their trigger button when they need it, either because they don’t like it, it is impractical to wear (in the shower/bed) or it needs recharging.

The Assure looks like a Fitbit, is waterproof and has a one year battery life and so offers uninterrupted protection.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

My mother. We were chatting one day and she asked if there was a service that could phone up once a day and check she was OK as she was worried about her pets.

We talked it through and although there were services that did that, as she was active and kept irregular times there would almost certainly be false alarms as they wouldn’t know if a non-answer was Mum out walking the dogs or needing help.

We realised technology could help, and I was amazed that there was nothing like the Assure already existing.

What is your magic sauce?

We have more comprehensive alerts than anyone else, offer uninterrupted protection and can cover anywhere with our base station covering home and garden and then linking to a smartphone app for out and about.

We connect direct to family & friends through (automated) phone calls and have a optional failsafe call response centre.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

Having had great feedback from our users, with really high review rates and lots of annual subscription renewals. We now want to move into the B2B market and offer the system to providers.

As well as all the advantages to the user we are very quick to set up through the online dashboard which means that the system is then ‘plug and play’ at home so supports rapid discharge from hospitals.

ou can also monitor peoples activity levels to see how they are sleeping and if they are keeping active which can give helpful context if someone is recuperating.

So we want to expand into different verticals; care providers, housing associations, insurers (the ‘vitality life’ model) ISPs and as we have multi-language capability there is geographic expansion too.
Once we are established, and as I am not getting any younger, to probably sell in 3-5 years time.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Running out of marketing money before we had really started the marketing and realising that the B2B market is likely to be far more valuable as though a single sale is more difficult to get it leads to hundreds of units.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

We are a creative company and I hope I have whetted your appetite. If you have ideas for how you could introduce the Assure into new sectors, we’d love to chat.

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