Last week NJTechWeekly.com interviewed Mark Luckasavage, executive director of Manalapan-based PoliceSoftware.com LLC, a public-safety software as a service (SaaS) company founded in 2002. This pre-funding, five-person startup works with security organizations to build public-safety systems.
PoliceSoftware.com came to our attention when the company won the Smart City Mobile Application category award in the New Jersey Technology Council (NJTC) Mobile Application Forum recently sponsored by Research in Motion Ltd. (Waterloo, Ontario). Mr. Luckasavage tells us he is planning to pitch the company to angel investors in the near future in an effort to expand nationally.
Let’s talk about how you got started.
In 1997 I owned a consulting company that developed and licensed a public-safety accounting program, called Cop TRAC, to the city of Linden, N.J. In 2002 I decided to focus completely on public safety, so I started a new company using Cop TRAC as my first product. I was trying to think of a simple name for my new company and was lucky to secure PoliceSoftware.com. Since then I have developed other public-safety products, and in January 2010 I integrated and rewrote all of those applications to be offered as SaaS. Most recently I have become a reseller for Genetec license plate technology and Fujitsu tablet PCs.
What is your background?
My background is computer applications design. I graduated from the Chubb Institute, in Short Hills, N.J., in 1981 and since then have worn many hats, such as programmer, teacher, published author, database administrator, senior programmer and director of IT.
So your background is not in law enforcement? Is this a disadvantage?
Actually, I consider it an advantage to have a computer science background as opposed to a law enforcement background when designing enterprise computer systems. Most of my competition’s systems have been designed by law enforcement people, and the end result is usually a system that is not too user-friendly, scalable or robust.
Tell us about your services.
PoliceSoftware.com offers a multilingual, multijurisdictional public-safety SaaS application that provides law-enforcement and other security agencies the capability to run 911 computer-aided dispatching (CAD), report-management system (RMS), jail management system (JMS), mobile data terminals (MDTs), emergency notification and scheduling and accounting functions from their desktop and mobile devices. These services are integrated into a product suite called POLICE Anywhere that includes access to a Microsoft SQL server 2008 database farm I designed.
What exactly is SaaS?
SaaS stands for software as a service. SaaS is important because local and county governments are facing tough economic times. Purchasing a quality public-safety system requires a large initial investment ($20,000 and up), setup costs, network costs, licensing fees, yearly maintenance contracts (typically 20 percent) and, very often, deployment headaches. Multisector security organizations can now subscribe to that identical type of system on a monthly basis as a software as a service for a fraction of the purchase price. For the SaaS vendor, hosting SaaS applications provides a 75 to 95 percent profit margin, making it highly profitable.
How did you build your business?
After I set up my website, I received an email from an officer in Lavallette, N.J., asking if I had a CAD dispatching system. I didn’t, but being entrepreneurially oriented, I agreed to meet with him, and his department was willing to work with me. I did a lot of research and designed my own CAD system and RMS, which they then purchased from me. I then went to a lot of conferences, including the Police Security Expo in Atlantic City, where I met officials from another town who were interested in the software. They also purchased the software, and that kept the business going. Mostly I go to conventions and conferences to meet customers. I spend a lot of time on the road going to conventions across the country. I have been to seven conventions in the past year, most recently the National Sheriff’s Association convention in St. Louis and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference in Philadelphia.
Who are your customers, and why don’t you have more of them in N.J.?
There are towns in New Jersey that have purchased the standalone system; however I am now offering the SaaS version of the system and, according to that model, the data must be stored off-site. That prevents me from doing the majority of my business in N.J., because the state mandates that data be stored locally. That’s different from the Midwest, whose standards allow us to store data on my servers. For this reason, most of my customers are sheriff and police departments in the Midwest running the SaaS version. A division of the Department of Homeland Security runs my browser-based emergency notification program for fusion alerting in 14 states and has over 2,000 users.
I plan to stay in N.J. and grow the business here. I was born in N.J. and I’ve spent most of my life here. I have friends and family here, and I’m in an 80s cover band. It’s a great place to live, although I’ve been concentrating on sales outside N.J.