133: Garrett Langley - Flock Safety

133: Garrett Langley - Flock Safety

In this episode, we're joined by Garrett Langley of Flock Safety to discuss the nature of crime in our society. How to decrease crime, and how to build a hyper-growth startup outside of the major hubs. 


William Jarvis 0:05

Hey folks, welcome to narratives. narratives is a podcast exploring the ways in which the world is better than in the past, the ways it is worse in the past, where it's a better, more definite vision of the future. I'm your host, William Jarvis. And I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to this episode. I hope you enjoy it. You can find show notes, transcripts and videos at narratives Garrett, how are you doing this afternoon?

Garrett 0:40

I'm doing wonderful. It's a beautiful day in Atlanta. How about yourself? Doing well,

Unknown Speaker 0:45

thanks so much for taking the time today. Do you mind giving a brief bio and some of the big ideas you're interested in?

Garrett 0:51

Yeah, definitely. So Garrett Langley, born and raised in Atlanta, founder and CEO of a company called flock safety. And our kind of big point of view is that crime is something that can be eradicated. There are societies and places in the world where crime doesn't largely exist. And although we have a crime problem in America, it's something that we think combination of technology, great people, great policy, those three combined can lead to, you know, our mission, which is to eliminate crime. Well,

Will Jarvis 1:26

Gary, can you talk about just like some of the social costs of crime? I think it's something we've kind of glossed over in society, but crime can have all these kind of negative consequences for just everyday people going and trying to go about their daily lives. You talked about that?

Garrett 1:40

A little bit. Yeah, I mean, I think what's what's interesting, and look, I'm not, I'm not an academic, I don't have a PhD in research. But what's interesting is that there have been study after study that show that there is a kind of direct correlation between crime or inverse correlation between crime and economic mobility, social conditions, health. So if you're looking at health perspective, like, the more crime there is, like, there's actually more cardiovascular deaths. If you look at from a social mobility perspective, like every homicide in a place I can, Minneapolis was shown to reduce jobs by 80 per year. So like the point being, innocence, logical, right? If I don't feel safe, I've removed almost one of the lowest high Marlowe's hierarchy of what I need to do to have a fulfilled life. And so you see, people leave, you see, you see less job creation, you see businesses shut down. And so there's kind of this systemic issue that if you don't solve crime, and if you don't allow people to live their lives, everything else starts to fall apart. And I think, you know, I was, I was talking to an individual who's been a customer for a few years now. And this is a lower income community in the state of Tennessee. And his point was, for a lot of people, you know, if you have a desk job behind a laptop, you live in a crime infested city, you just move, but you have that kind of ability, because you make enough money. But the people who are actually at the most risk of the people who can't afford to move, so then they get stuck in the cycle where they are stuck in a town that has a lot of crime or community, they can't get out. And they're the ones who want a crime reduction more than anyone, and so to us, so we do view that as kind of our opportunity to help those communities. And that's when I think when technology at large is it's doing its best, it's when it's taking, you know, what might have historically been only available to the 1%, or the 10%. And if I look at flock and our business model, there isn't a neighborhood or city and apartment complex in the country that can't afford our products. That's

Will Jarvis 3:54

great. That's great. And you talk about for the audience's what the product is and how it helps communities.

Garrett 3:59

Yeah, so we have a portfolio of products that are all focused on either devices. So hardware that detects evidence, we have a number of AI and ML models that decode that evidence. And then we have software that delivers the evidence. So what does that mean? Let's talk about a really simple case. Let's say a stolen cars driving around the city of San Jose, California. We have cameras throughout the city, when our camera sees that car, immediately using that computer vision says oh, that's a white Honda. It's got a roof rack. It's got a bumper sticker, and it has a California license plate that says ABC 123. And according to the FBI, that car is marked as stolen. We don't know who's inside, but we care who's inside. But then our software delivers that information to the nearest officer so they can go dispatch and apprehend that individual. That's very much on the proactive side, right? We're tracking about a quarter of a million cars that have an active warrant or status of being stolen. endure an Amber Alert or a Silver Alert. And then on the on the reactive side, you know, when a crime does happen, that same type of computer vision of make model color, about a couple of dozen unique characteristics. In addition to that, we have a gunshot product called Raven. And then we also have a piece of software cognitive software that can consume third party cameras and create what's considered a real time crime center.

Will Jarvis 5:30

Very cool. Very cool. And can you talk about just the current state of a crime in America? How about you know, how many are solved at this point? And how many unsolved? And and how much better? Can you Can we get with kind of the technology flag has developed?

Garrett 5:45

Yeah, it's, it's an alarming statistic that only about 13% of non violent crime leads to an arrest. So if you took statistics in school, assume that the average criminal falls on a bell curve, it's obviously like, if your upper quartile criminal like you'll never get caught. And like, yeah, bottom quartile has like a one in four chance of getting caught. But medium pack is one in 10. Those are pretty good odds. Like, it's pretty easy to get away with crime. And if you go to the violent side, it's about 5050. Which is good, right? That's, that's promising. But that also means that one in 10, violent acts in America go with no justice being delivered. And I think that's pretty wrong. Like I genuinely I grew up in a household where your decisions have consequences. And so if you believe that, you know, our point of view is that until clearance rates are at 100%. For violent and non violent. We have a problem. And I think that's, as we were talking about earlier, this is this isn't really about a lack of effort. These people work really hard. It's a resourcing problem, and it's an evidence problem. And that's where I think we can help.

Will Jarvis 7:00

Got it. Is it your sense? We've gotten worse at solving crimes every time? Are we just kind of as equilibrium? Do other places do it better? Like, like, what's your sense that you're in the United States?

Garrett 7:11

Yeah, I would say. So. There's an interesting fact. Right. So two things are happening in America that are hard to correlate. One is the amount of transparency and the news is through the roof, right, like whether you use Twitter or Facebook, tick tock and pick your social media. We know everything that's happening in our communities now. And so while crime as as a total is on a slight decline, our visibility to it is dramatically changed in the last 20 years. And so that creates a a deeper sense of concern. Now, that being said, though, our clearance rates are declining, so So that's not good, right. So if you go back to the 1980s, that was kind of the peak of our clearance rates on violence. We were at about 70%. We're now down to 50%. And in my opinion, and I think most of my colleagues agree with this, the number one issue is staffing, you know, find a city in America that is properly staffed. And I would be shocked you see some of these big cities like Chicago, or Atlanta where I live, and they're 10 to 20%. understaffed. Wow. Like what is a math problem? Yeah.

Will Jarvis 8:29

Yeah. Is that physicians that can't fill or is that just, you know,

Garrett 8:33

a budget problems? It's not budget, there's plenty of budget, they just they can't fill roles. I mean, you think about when when you know, a generation ago, going into law enforcement, you think about the ideal American image and officer was looked upon with a lot of admiration. I think that image has eroded. And what it's led to is a lack of applicants. And it's led to higher attrition in retirement. And so people are coming in, you're getting out sooner. You've got all types of mental health issues in the job. It's a pretty it's a grueling job, right? It's probably very much in line with a an ER nurse where you just deal with a part of life that most people never have to see. And you see it every day.

Will Jarvis 9:23

Yeah, yes. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Can you talk about like the original, like the origin story of flock? Like how did you have to first have the idea for the camera and, and how did things get started for you?

Garrett 9:34

Yeah, so I have no background in public safety. I'm an engineer. I'm an entrepreneur. And about five years ago, my neighborhood was the victim of large organized crime car break ins. And the representative from the Atlanta Police Department came by and just said, Look, I'm really sorry, this isn't okay. But we can't do anything. We have no evidence It's in myself that a lot of my community members felt like the real problem was apathy. Like, did he really care? Right? And we were wrong. Like, we were really wrong, because I kept poking this guy. Right? I kept asking more and more questions, right? The, the engineering mindset of like, tell me why tell me why. Tell me why. And you get down to it. And he was like, I just need a license plate. I was like, Come on, we need just need a license plate. That doesn't make sense to me, was that look, without actionable evidence. So a grainy picture of someone's face isn't going to help me go solve the crime, I need to know who was in the area with hard actual evidence. And so I called two friends of mine that we had worked together and said, Hey, let's, let's build some of these license plate reading cameras. And I mentioned I was an electrical engineer, I'm not an electrician, so I wasn't comfortable running any power. So we did solar powered cameras, because that seemed easier. We didn't know that much about electronics. So we grabbed a bunch of old Android devices off of Amazon, you know, tore them apart. My buddy Matt wrote all the software, we got them up and running. And it was really a project, right? This was not a company, it was never meant to be a company at first. And then about two months later, we solved the crime. like legit, someone's home got broken into. They stole a bunch of stuff. There was only one car in the neighborhood that didn't live there. When the crime happened. The Police Department put out a bolo on that car, the guy gets pulled over the next day, all stolen stuff, sold his car. And I remember very distinctively calling Matt and page and being like, this is real, like every product we've ever bought. I have a dog, I have a security system. I have a doorbell camera, I have all these devices, right? Yeah. But they don't actually lead to an arrest. And what I what I want is that justice, and if you look at the primary research is really fascinating. I had also falsely assumed that crime rates were directly or linearly correlated to the punishment levels, right. So we should be really hard on crime. That's like a thing, right? At least in America, there's no direct correlation. Interesting. And the only variable that people have been able to see any correlation to is the likelihood of getting arrested. If you think you're gonna get away with it, you just do it. But if you believe you're gonna get caught, it doesn't matter whether you're looking at six months, one year or 10 years in jail, you're just not going to do it. And so what we're really focused on on flog is driving that clearance rate up, right? Like, how do we make it known that if you commit a crime in America, in XYZ city, you're gonna get caught? And what we believe and what the primary research shows is that crime will go down if you do that.

Will Jarvis 12:42

So community back consists consistency of punishment, not severity. A lot of people get it wrong. They all think it's severity. But it wouldn't make sense. Like you'd be, you know, time preference. And you have this huge like, what's the difference between 10 and 20? year sentence? I'm not sitting there calculating down on the spreadsheet. It's just whether or not we get caught?

Garrett 12:58

Oh, no, look, if you look at the data, your average criminals and 18 and 24 year old male, that is an undeveloped brain, right? It's reason why you can't rent a car until you're 25. It's not because you're a bad driver. It's because you make bad decisions when you're young. You don't actually calculate consequence. And so it's about changing this Boolean math, there's no it's not. There's no algebra here. There's no, there's no like deep calculus. It's Boolean math, like true or false. And so we're gonna flip it to true, I will get caught in crime will go down.

Will Jarvis 13:31

That's great. That's great. I really liked that approach. And I think it's, it's one where you can have a real impact on improving people's lives in a way that, you know, most people are not thinking about, which is, which is quite cool.

Garrett 13:43

It's a double bottom line business. Like we get to build really cool technology. We get to live in the technology ecosystem, right? The venture backed high growth companies, and we get to help people in the worst day of their life. It's pretty awesome.

Will Jarvis 14:00

It's really cool. When did you know you have like you had found this $20 bill on the sidewalk that this was going to be quite a big business was that, you know, I know, you found a large effect size, when you saw like, Okay, we solved the crime. That's a huge signal, like I'm on to something. But when did you know that this is going to be like a really big business and venture scalable, etc?

Garrett 14:18

Yeah, I mean, I think the thing for me was, I guess there was no one aha moment, right? There's these these these linear progressions, there's just linear milestones. So solving our first crime, the most important milestone, right, we had this brand promise this brand idea of like, could we build technology that solves crime. We also had a belief that everyone wanted that or like no one wants crime in their community. Everyone wants to be safe. So that was definitely the biggest I would say. When we started to see the network effects and the momentum, right where we we have a great marketing team. Don't get me wrong. We have I have, we'd like a four person marketing team. Yeah, and we've got 500 employees. Like because the product sells itself, right like that has such an outsized impact. And so I guess for me, there's, there's, I always feel like we have a lot to learn a lot to figure out. But, you know, the only other milestone I'll give you that, for any parents who are listening, when we clear or solved our first Amber Alert, that's when it was like goosebumps city, the whole company kind of was like, Whoa, it's one thing to help someone get their stolen car back, you know, that's tough, but like, you can go buy a new car, you know, it's just a material item. When you help a parent who's lost their child, that's, that's next level. And that, for me was like, Okay, we're clear. This is working, right? Like this is really working.

Will Jarvis 15:50

That's great. That's great. Yeah, you know, you can't can't please replace your kid. And then you're really on to something that is quite valuable for the world.

Garrett 15:56

Know, for sure. I mean, we have this customer in Ohio, is this small town, this might be a 7000 person town, and they're spending, you know, a couple $100,000 a year with us, which is a lot of money for a town that size. And not not too many weeks after installing the products, we cleared an Amber Alert, there's a 13 year old girl that got kidnapped by a secretary, this was not a this was not good. led to a high speed chase on the highway by Ohio State Patrol, like this was the worst situation possible. And the chief went on record afterward and was like, this things really paid for itself. And I probably would have spent millions of dollars if I had known this was going to happen in our town. And I think that a lot of our a lot of our towns and cities feel that way, which is this is just something that we have to do we have to protect the community.

Will Jarvis 16:44

That's great. That's great. I really like it. Well, Gary, I'm going to shift a little bit and talk about the more macro building a startup. So you, you build a startup outside of Silicon Valley, I've just started on this this journey of you know, flying to Silicon Valley to get capital, because there seems to be no good capital in the southeast that I've experienced. And then flying back to build in North Carolina, you know what I mean? Can you do think there are advantages to building outside the bubble in Silicon Valley where, especially in what you're building, you know, it's focused on an area that, you know, that part of the world is able to think about as much doesn't want to talk about, it's also hardware focused, and everybody's like software. So you think there's something good to build outside of the bubble, and that you can have unique ideas, and you're not as influenced by whatever the height trend is, whether it's web three or something like that?

Garrett 17:32

Yeah. And I think if you go back to, was it, Peter Thiel, who made the comment, like we wanted flying cars, and we got 140 characters? I think the I think the challenge with the traditional Silicon Valley bubble is everyone's focused on building b2b software, Mar tech companies that help other companies make money. And if you go to the roots of Silicon Valley, that's not what we were trying to do. Right, the original incubation of Silicon Valley in the name was about making America a better country. And so you know, there's this this movement through Andreessen Horowitz, his notion of American dynamism. I'm a deep believer in that we're obviously kind of a part of their thesis. And if you look at that, the best ideas are coming from America at large. And so I think that if you get in that bubble, you you only think about the problems you see. And the reality is San Francisco is a very unique place. And it does not represent represent the average American life. And I think about, you know, our mandate. Now, one of the things the biggest shrinks we have is, our goal is not to eliminate crime in urban cities. It's not eliminate crime in New York City. Just kill it's to eliminate crime. And I think to effectively do that, we have to have a representation of the company, right. And so we have employees across 45 states, though. And I think that's actually better for us, because I don't know what it's like to live in Ohio. But I got a team of people that do live in Ohio, and their their opinion is different than their friends in Illinois, Indiana, Georgia, where I live Florida, California, and all of that equally matters at flock because it equally matters to the country. So I think that, to your point early on, it's tough, right? There's less capital available outside of the valley. That is like very risk averse, like, I'm sure there's money in North Carolina, where you are, there's money where I am in Georgia, it's really risk adverse. So I'm in same boat as you. I raised all of my my seed capital in San Francisco, great firms like big believers in what we were trying to do. And that was really clear to them was like, I have to build this company in Georgia. Because that's where my customers are. Like that. That's that's who we were going to be. That's where I live and it would feel disingenuous to start a company trying to make the world better, but then leave my own hometown behind. So for us like I think at the beginning, it was a disadvantage. But as the company has scaled, it's become this huge unlock. Because we we deeply can build empathy for our customers, because they're our employees are everywhere, too.

Will Jarvis 20:13

I love that. I love that. With the last couple of minutes, I want to talk about building a startup serving local governments in particular, what is that? What is important to understand when you're building a start up to serve local governments? You know, one of the things we've run into is, you know, dealing with the go to market motion is interesting, you know, managing discretionary limits, RFPs, etc. What can what's the if you could give me like one piece of advice out starting out on this journey? What would it be in serving kind of local governments?

Garrett 20:42

So, I think that there's an analogy that we've stuck to with with local government, which is, if you think about the local government as a business, most businesses buy products that do one or two things, save them money, or make them money. Right, right. But if you're running the government, you're not you're not running a profitable entity. But if you keep that analogy through, then it's like, okay, what is what is the relative top line bottom line for the person you're trying to serve? And so at flock, right, we serve Police Department's top line revenue, is crime, right? That's their Northstar is like, can we catch criminals. And so we build products really focused on that. If I think about, you know, I have a friend who, who runs a company called Open Gov, it's very focused on helping companies or in this case, cities, save money, right, be more efficient. And so when you when you remove the oh, its government, and really focus on what they need to do to be successful, I think you can actually drive a shorter sales cycle, you can kind of like, pinpoint where your product is going to fit into it. I think in that case, you know, it is it is a way to do it. I would say on the downside, you know, one of the challenges we've faced in you will face as well as you start to scale is there's a lot of technology talent that is nervous about going into a gov tech company, due to the due the risk of being quote, unquote, you know, tagged as a gov tech person versus a technology person. And so we relied on our, you know, investors to say look, like, go ask them, you know, I think I think you're wrong thinking that like you're gonna get tagged, the question is, is FLOK going to be very successful? If it is, no one's going to care, whether it's FinTech Govtech, Martex, like, you are part of a really, really successful company. And that's what matters for your career.

Will Jarvis 22:31

That's great. That's great. I love that. I think that I think that framing is quite important. For Yeah, it's really, really cool. One kind of last question here. What's next for Flog? What are the next 10 years look like for you guys? Yeah.

Garrett 22:51

So right now, you know, like I said, we're at about 6% of all crimes in America, that number will continue to go up. We've got two kind of really important milestones are tracking towards. One is, we believe in the next five years, we can reduce crime in America by 25%. That will be incredible. Right? That that is, that is we will take the current curve, and we will bend the curve down and we'll see less crime. The kind of intermediate milestone that I want to see is, when can we have our first city that has a crime free year? And not like, you know, oh, we have 1000 People like everyone's friendly, and that's the neighborhood. I mean, you know, it's called a quarter of a million overheard, that was like a real town to small city. When can we build the right mix of technology? When can we help train the police department? When can we work with policymakers to establish better policy, so that, you know, town in Indiana town in Illinois town in Ohio and Florida, can say we have a year with no crime because of our partners of flock? And that to me will be the coolest moment we have achieved.

Will Jarvis 24:01

I love that. I love that. I love that. Well, you know if people found this conversation interesting, say their software engineer or you know, they're really good account executive. Where can they find you? Where should we send people

Garrett 24:16

flock We are hiring in every department, from accounting to sales, to marketing to engineering, to technicians. If you want to be in the field and help dig holes and install cameras, we need everyone. So check us And we'd love to talk

Will Jarvis 24:33

awesome thanks so much.

Unknown Speaker 24:39

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