Caught in the act: Why Facewatch has turned to crowdfunding
I have always wanted to raise investment through crowdfunding, because so much of what my company Facewatch does is based around empowering individuals to help themselves and others to reduce crime. That’s why we want to encourage lots of ordinary people to share in what we believe is going to be a great British success story with a positive social impact.
The idea for Facewatch came from the need to stop thefts from customers at my family-owned wine bar, Gordon’s in London. I decided that I needed to find a solution that helped me understand how, when, where, and by whom the crimes we faced were being committed.
More importantly, we also needed to find a way of sharing that information with the police to save them and the victims the enormous amount of time and wasted effort involved in reporting and solving low level crimes, such as the theft of handbags, laptops or mobile phones. In 2010, the first version of Facewatch’s online crime reporting platform was launched, and we have since been able to reduce crime at Gordon’s to almost nothing.
Since its launch, the platform has grown in scale and sophistication, providing around 10,000 business premises – from large retailers and banks, to pubs, clubs and shops – with an essential tool to prevent crime. Facewatch is a secure, cloud-based platform that doesn’t require any hardware or software to be bought or installed, and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act. Businesses or their monitoring stations simply upload the CCTV evidence to the system and add basic details. This in turn creates a digital crime report fully recognised by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.
In 2012, we launched our crowdsourcing identification app, Facewatch ID. The app has gone on to be a huge success, with police forces across the UK gaining many successful identifications and making many arrests as a result. The public response has been incredible – they have really embraced it and we’ve had over 100,000 downloads since the app’s launch. I believe that we all need to play our part in helping to prevent and reduce crime. It makes financial sense too – as an example, many retailers are losing on average around 25 per cent of their profits to theft and we as consumers are paying for this.
By using our system, businesses can create and share watch lists of known offenders with their own employees and with other businesses, helping to create a safer and more secure environment for staff and the public. And with the recent integration of facial recognition technology into the platform, those watch lists can now be used to trigger alerts using businesses’ CCTV cameras.
Our business model is very simple. A company wishing to report a crime to the police can do so for free. But if a business wants to exploit the information sharing and analytical tools available on the platform, then they pay a small monthly subscription fee. In the future, we will generate further incremental revenue by offering a wider range of applications and functionality.
The system is free for police, who provide a valuable service to users by catching prolific offenders – importantly, it saves them time and money and increases conviction rates at a time when they are facing increased political pressure but diminishing manpower and financial resources.
THE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY
With around 10,000 businesses now using the platform and an ever-increasing number of police forces using Facewatch – including the Metropolitan Police – we are looking to raise £1.5m of new funding, of which £500,000 will be crowdfunded on Crowdcube (for 8.1 per cent of equity), in order to accelerate growth and develop further apps.
The decision to raise money through a crowdfunding platform was easy. So many people have been the victims of crime, and so what Facewatch is now achieving will certainly resonate with many members of the public.
After all, who wouldn’t want to help make their communities safer and more secure?
City A.M. has partnered with Crowdnetic for the launch of its suite of UK crowd finance data. It features real-time information on private, UK-based companies publicly raising capital online through securities-based crowdfunding portals. Visit the site for more.