Life on earth relies on migrations, the cycle of feeding, reproduction, and death. I have been privileged to witness this in the wild: during summers, I travel to Bristol Bay, Alaska, for the Chinook (King), Sockeye (Red), and Coho (Silver) salmon migrating from the ocean back to the local rivers. Standing at the Nushagak and Togiak banks, I probably watched a million salmon swim upstream to spawn over the past decade.
Animal migrations in large numbers depend on safety, even the shared knowledge that the herd or school provides. Humans have migrations, too, whether local movements to schools, entertainment, work, or longer trips like vacations or even emigrations to new lands. Our migrations rely on safety and community, too.
Recently, human movements were frustrated by the continuing rise of violence in public venues — especially shootings — and the COVID19 pandemic, both of which limited mobility and created anxiety and sorrow in communities. Now, as people want to return to ordinary life as quickly as possible, we must demand solutions that make vulnerable populations feel safe in public spaces, which support changing expectations for more frictionless movements and fewer physical interactions with strangers.
For over a century, the best physical security technologies restricted the movement of people at a massive scale. As a result, most people’s experience entering public venues is odd; we walk through a technology initially developed for prisons, the metal detector, where we must frequently stop, empty our pockets and go through again. Metal detectors aren’t a terrible technology, but they falsely identify so many harmless objects that security guards must root through bags and pockets in slow, error-prone manual searches.
The Evolv moment
Mike Ellenbogen and Anil Chitkara founded Evolv Technology after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. They were deeply committed to addressing gun and weapon violence, a scourge that interrupts the natural flow of how we work, live, learn, play, and worship. Evolv delivers a contrasting experience: it allows people to travel normally, naturally into a building or an amusement park, and its technology finds more weapons than metal detectors, guns, and knives because many are missed through traditional bag checks, which are not screened. Evolv exists for the free flow of human migration into venues.
Evolv is a paragon of the DCVC’s Deep Tech investment thesis: the company uses science (including sensors and radio frequencies) and AI (machine learning) to deliver a faster, safer, and more free-flowing experience. And it is cheaper than its predecessor: when accounting for the highest cost of physical security — guards — Evolv is less expensive on a total cost of ownership basis than metal detectors when used at scale.
Under the leadership of CEO Peter George, a cybersecurity veteran, the company has seen explosive growth and a rapidly expanding market in the past 18 months, including a quickly growing customer base, a deeper product line, and, in my opinion, the best management team in the physical security industry.
Covid bolstered the case for Evolv as security teams scrambled to find new techniques to deliver safety with less hand-screening and physical contact. Indeed, for over a century, the best technologies and approaches restricted rather than enabled the safe movement of people into places they want to go. For example, today’s metal detectors, the magnetometer (colloquially known as “mags”), were built initially for prisons. Evolv delivers the opposite experience and more effectively scans people and bags for threats.
Safety in Motion
Evolv is the emerging leader in allowing large groups of people to rapidly and safely enter non-regulated venues (i.e., not airports or courthouses): the Evolv Express accurately screens up to 3600 people per hour — more than ten times faster than a metal detector. And back to the natural world, humans desire, like migrating animals of the same species, to move anonymously and safely together in groups to school, work, and play. We do not expect our fellow fans or co-workers to threaten us: they are us.
Evolv’s position in free-flow AI-powered weapons detection and adjacent markets puts them on the path to build a massive public company with a total addressable market of over $20B. Indeed, as the virus recedes and we get back to human interaction, we are ready to reclaim our migrations and group settings. As the psychologist Adam Grant noted recently:
“Collective effervescence happens when joie de vivre spreads through a group. Before Covid, research showed that more than three-quarters of people found collective effervescence at least once a week, and almost a third experienced it at least once a day. They felt it when they sang in choruses and ran in races, and quieter moments of connection at coffee shops and in yoga classes.”
With Evolv’s public listing today, the invisible hand of the market is at work. Some of the most iconic venues and forward-looking companies in America have already deployed Evolv, including Lincoln Center, L.L. Bean, Six Flags, Four Winds Casino, and the Columbus Crew.
I could not be prouder of being part of the journey with the Evolv team and look forward to the future as the world discovers how Deep Tech can defeat violence.