Every innovative app needs a prominent poster child, so when LifeSaver was thinking about who to nominate, they chose none other than Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Why? Because he was caught texting and driving last month. So, it seems like a perfect fit for LifeSaver, which provides drivers with an effective tool to break their distracted driving addiction by disabling certain parts of their phone while on the move.
At the recent Apps World North America, there was no shortage of apps and startups showcasing their products to a sea of 8,000 attendees, but LifeSaver stood out to me. I had the chance to talk to LifeSaver co-founder Ted Chen about the app and where he sees its biggest impact.
1) Tell me about yourself, how you came up with the idea, and explain what pain point for the consumer it addresses?
Living in Silicon Valley, we are seduced daily by the allure of entrepreneurialism. As my co-founder (Mike Demele) and I were both looking to scratch this entrepreneurial itch, we wanted to work together on something that could make a huge difference and that would solve a problem experienced by many. Having teens coming of driving age, we realized distracted driving has become an epidemic due to our society's addiction to smartphones. It was a good motivator that hits close to home.
Out of this motivation, we created a mobile app solution called LifeSaver, which provides drivers with an effective tool to break their distracted driving addiction. Once installed, LifeSaver runs in the background, activating quickly and automatically to lock the phone when the car starts driving and unlocking the phone when the car comes to a stop. LifeSaver also provides for driver monitoring and rewards to accelerate the driver's behavior change away from distracted driving. LifeSaver provides drivers with a monthly opportunity to earn rewards for their safe driving and other activities.
Our addiction to smartphones has resulted in a phenomenon that we call "distracted life," and our first goal is to solve this addiction for people while they're operating a 2-ton vehicle. As smartphones become ubiquitous, this problem will only continue to get worse. The good news is that there is unprecedented awareness from all sectors that this is a problem that needs a solution sooner rather than later. Just last week, led by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the Senate Commerce Committee held a distracted driving summit, where the senator was strongly urging the auto and communications industries to work together to create solutions that solve this problem.
2) What went into your strategy to disrupt this space?
We see expensive hardware solutions in the space currently - things that most people would never purchase. Our primary strategy is to provide an inexpensive solution on the device that goes largely "unnoticed" until driving. The solution needs to help combat the distraction of the mobile device at the source. It also needs to help the device "get out of the way," and it also needs to be fun and rewarding for teen/adult adoption.
3) What would you say is your biggest challenge so far?
There are two:
1) Most people don't like the concept of something "stopping you," especially with mobile. It's a perception we have to work with. Our goal is to be an app that offers perks, stays out of your way, and oh yeah, also helps you stay safe in the process.
2) iPhone. Many of the basic functions that we used to create an effective solution for Android devices are unfortunately not available or not acceptable in the iPhone app store. Obviously, the world needs an iPhone solution for distracted driving, so that just means we need to be even more creative with our iPhone solution to conquer this problem.
4) After you have been through building, strategizing and launching LifeSaver, do you think you would do this again?
Our standard LifeSaver response ... "in a heart beat." We feel like every person who uses our product has that much less of a chance of looking down and reading and responding to that fatal "last text."
5) What do you think the future of LifeSaver is? How do you define success?
Our goal is adoption. We will continue to work hard with our insurance and non-profit partners to get the word out that this epidemic can be solved with some elegance and not a lot of hardware, gadgets, or software embedded in the vehicle. Our success will be defined by our user base as it grows, and testimonials of those using the product.