Crowdfunding goal ambitious

There’s nothing uncommon about a crowdfunding campaign to raise a few thousand dollars for a good cause, but RTV Group of Saint John is raising the bar with its charitable crowdfunding campaign.

The company, which is trying to battle drunk driving with an innovative data analytics system, has set a target of $230,000 for its Indiegogo campaign.

I can’t say for sure that it’s the biggest crowdfunding campaign in the region, but it’s the biggest I’ve heard of.

The fundraising campaign offers no equity in the company (online equity raises have yet to be approved by regulators) nor any special prizes.

What it offers is an opportunity to help with the first real technological development in the fight against drunk driving since the breathalyzer was invented 40 years ago.

“Part of this whole thing is getting the message out,” said Stephen Goddard, one of the co-founders of RTV Group. “It gets communities involved and gets youth back in the whole discussion.”

RTV, which stands for Repeat Target Vehicles, is developing predictive analytics software that can identify for police departments people who are likely to drink and drive, so the cops can warn them and dissuade them from doing so.

Current data indicates that about three per cent of drunk drivers are hard-core repeat offenders, and that they drive impaired between 80 and 2,000 times before they are caught. One main reason they do so is they believe they won’t get caught.

RTV, the brainchild of James Stewart, a former crime analyst now completing a PhD in information technology at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, analyzes police data banks to look for markers that identify repeat drunk drivers.

When someone reports a suspected drunk driver to 911, the RTV system can identify within seconds whether the owner of the car is a likely repeat offender. If so, the police can follow up by warning him that they are watching him, thereby en-couraging him not to drink and drive.

The company was recently a finalist in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition, but did not win any of the prize money.

So it has launched the Indiegogo campaign to cover the development costs of its product. If the company raises the full amount or more, RTV will be able to accelerate the development of the software and increase the number of communities it can work with in the first year.

Goddard said RTV will work to deploy the system early in communities that raise the most money in the crowdfunding campaign.

The founders hope to engage with people that believe in the technology’s potential to fight drunk driving, and are willing to work with groups that want to help roll it out.

And they understand that it is unusual for a startup company for ask for donations, but add this is not a usual startup.

There is no guarantee it will make money, and they believe the social benefits are as profound as a donation to any charity.

“This product is one of those rare things that comes along with the potential to benefit society,” said Joel Levesque, a veteran public relations consultant who’s helping the company with its communications.

“It takes money to do it,” Levesque said.
Source: Herald Business – PETER MOREIRA

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